January 5, 2008
Surrey, British Columbia – The intermediate luxury sport utility vehicle, with an emphasis on sport, has been a hot commodity in recent years. The competition has certainly grown – even Porsche got in on the action in recent years – but the Acura MDX remains a standout in this class.
The original MDX came out in 2001 and received a complete redesign for the 2007 model year. Acura benchmarked the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne and tested and tuned the MDX at the famous Nürburgring race-track in Germany.
Two cutting-edge technology systems that really improve the performance of the second-generation MDX are its Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and Active Damper System (the latter available in the Elite edition).
The SH-AWD system “actively” varies torque distribution between front and rear axles and between the left and right rear wheels. A unique feature of this system is that it can overdrive, or speed up, an outside rear wheel (up to 1.7 per cent faster than the front wheels) to help the vehicle “rotate” around a corner.
Acura calls this action “direct yaw control” as it alters the yaw action of the vehicle to allow it to track as the driver intended. It’s a completely automated system that requires no driver interaction and works “in co-operation” with the MDX’s stability-control system to improve cornering traction and steering precision, even on dry pavement.
The Active Damper System is actually an electronically controlled “semi active” system that uses fast acting dampers, or shock absorbers, filled with a Magneto-Rheological fluid. The viscosity of this fluid can be changed in as little as five milliseconds (0.005 sec.) using electromagnetic induction. Computer algorithms keep the dampers a step ahead of body movements and allow a more “flat” cornering feel with reduced body roll. Each damper has a wiring coil that can generate an electromagnetic field when current is passed through it and the driver can select a Sport or Comfort setting for the vehicle.
Pricing and equipment
Designed in California and built in Canada, the 2009 MDX is offered in Base trim ($52,500) with optional Technology Package ($57,200) or Elite Package ($62,200) and offers seven-passenger seating.
The Technology upgrade brings a voice-recognition navigation system, a backup camera, Acura’s 10-speaker DVD-audio sound system, a power tailgate and a premium leather interior. A further upgrade to Elite adds a DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones, a 115-volt power outlet, silver wheels and auto levelling headlights, as well as the Active Damping System.
Inside, comfort is optimal in the front seats and the outboard second-row positions. These seating positions are generous in size, with substantial side bolsters and a similar design style. The second-row centre and the two third-row positions are considered occasional use seats and are a more basic design.
The twin-cockpit dash is beautifully crafted and an elegant design. Its centre stack, however, has a complex array of buttons plus one of those “big knob” multi-use MMI controllers. Yes, it’s “Honey, can you pass me the manual” time.
In my test vehicle, a very comfortable driver’s seat came with 10-way power adjustments and included a power adjustable lumbar support. It also had a two-driver memory system and the front passenger seat was eight-way power adjustable.
A unique central storage box sits between the front seats. Its clamshell lid offers individual armrests for driver and passenger. All four doors offer large storage pockets, and there was overhead console storage for sunglasses etc.
Premium luxury touches include a three-zone automatic climate control that allows the driver, front passenger and rear passengers to set different temperatures. And in addition to heated front seats, the second-row outboard seats are also heated.
There are six possible cargo/passenger configurations for the three rows of seating. With the third-row seats up, there’s 424 litres of storage behind them and when folded flat, cargo capacity jumps to 1,214 litres. Cargo volume can increase to a whopping 2,364 litres if the 60/40 split-folding second row seats are also folded.
A heavy snowfall during my time with the MDX drove home the importance of ground clearance in a Canadian winter. While all-wheel-drive is a great feature, that extra under-body clearance, which you get with a truck or an SUV, makes ploughing through deep snow an easier task.
The Acura MDX is high on my list of best road-trip vehicles. Comfort, power, safety and performance, it’s got them all. The driving position is excellent and it has good sight lines aided by a big rear window and decently sized side mirrors.
Its power tilt and telescopic steering wheel comes with an “easy entry” feature that temporarily tilts the wheel up (out of the way) as you slide into the seat. The perforated leather seating, used in the Elite and Technology trims, is softer and better padded than the base-trim upholstery.
The 300-horsepower, 3.7-litre V6 engine is a smooth, quiet and powerful performer, and it’s the same engine Acura also uses in its new RL luxury car. The MDX can accelerate to 100 km/hour in under eight seconds and fuel economy isn’t bad: NRCan’s city/highway rating is 13.8/10.0 L/100 km – but it does like premium fuel.
The MDX’s standard all-season tires don’t show-off the SH-AWD system to its full potential during cold temperatures and super slick conditions. Although I did not have any difficulty getting around, I’m sure there would have been less wheel slip had my MDX been shod with winter tires.
The MDX has a 2,268-kilogram tow rating and comes with standard trailer pre-wiring, a high-capacity radiator with twin cooling fans, a transmission cooler and Trailer Stability Assist system. All you need is a hitch … and a trailer.
The second generation MDX is longer, wider and lower (plus a longer wheelbase) than the original MDX. It is, however, the same weight as the first generation MDX in spite of its extra size and content.
Increased use of high-strength steel, aluminum and even magnesium contributed to this achievement. The MDX is a unit body structure, similar to a car, and it incorporates what Acura calls Advanced Compatibility Engineering. In a frontal accident, collision forces are distributed through the structure better, to protect the passenger compartment.
The MDX was rated a “best pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on its front, side and rear crash tests. Its list of standard safety features includes side-curtain airbags for all three rows of seating and front seat active head restraints.
The MDX’s sophisticated AWD system assists traction in poor weather, and the MDX is very comfortable and luxurious – but only four of its seven seats are comfortable.
Pricing: 2009 Acura MDX Elite
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