Acura MDX — How to build a modern mid-sized luxury crossover

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Of all the new driving aids now available, and it seems the MDX has all of them, we came to the conclusion while hurdling down a congested section of Interstate 95 in South Carolina in a 2010 Acura MDX that adaptive cruise control is the most useful.

As with most new technology it quickly evolves. In its first iteration more than a decade ago, we disliked the long distance between cars adaptive cruise forced on the driver.

What we considered shortcomings have been corrected and adaptive cruise now has the ability to seamlessly take much of the stress out of long-distance driving. Set it and it automatically slows you down and then speeds you back up in very acceptable fashion making the constant speed changes on a crowded super highway a very minor annoyance.

Our latest involvement with the technology in the MDX was on an 800-mile round-trip journey mostly on interstate highways. We found Acura’s cruise worked as well as one we experienced on a $100,000 top-line premium luxury car a few months ago. But the MDX is much more than cruise control.

MDX is a good example of how to build a modern mid-sized luxury crossover vehicle that appeals to a wide range of buyers. We would be hard pressed to name a superior SUV in the $50,000 range.

This is the fourth model year for the current iteration of the MDX and it is holding up well against the considerable competition as Acura installs continual upgrades and improvements.

The obvious change for 2010 is the adoption of the Acura big blade grille. We could have done without that “upgrade,” but as much as we abhor the front-end look, the vehicle’s overall style and presence is striking. Its broad shoulders, wide stance and bulging wheelwells give it an athletic demeanor.

Worthwhile upgrades include the addition of a six-speed automatic with manual shift control — replacing the long-used five-speed — with power directed at all four wheels through Acura’s SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) system. It supplies varying amounts of power to individual wheels to maximize cornering grip and traction on slippery road surfaces.

Also featured for 2010 is a reworked V-6 engine. The 3.7-liter is still rated at 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, but Acura says it now has beefier internal components and is more efficient. Measuring its performance on an extended ride through the mountain passes along the Pacific Coast substantiated Acura’s claim; it displayed more traits of a sports sedan than a big SUV.
For comparison purposes, the MDX will polish off a 0-to-60 run in a solid 7.1 seconds. And if stopping quickly is demanded, it will come to rest in just 123 feet from 60 mph.
The MDX, while perhaps not as agile as the BMW X5 or as powerful as the Porsche Cayenne, exhibits a high level of all-around performance and handling. Although the engine is tasked to pull a rather beefy vehicle, weighing in at 4,627 pounds, we found it up to the task. We never encountered a situation that the MDX could not handle in a satisfying manner.

Inside, the MDX gets a reworked cabin with new gauges and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Some new high-tech features include a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage that includes traffic rerouting and weather reporting, and a multi-angle backup camera that was an example of what a good backup camera should do.

Although the dashboard is busy with a lot of look-alike buttons, most of the controls and switchgear are intuitive, and it doesn’t take too much time behind the wheel to become comfortable with all the functions. The driver’s position is excellent and we found the seats comfortable for long distances.

Like all Acura products, the MDX comes in packages — in this case five — with the options you most prefer bundled into the trim levels. There are no stand alone features.
The base trim sells for $43,040 including destination charge, and prices increase through the levels to Advance Entertainment for $54,565.

But have no fear. If your budget simply won’t allow for more than a 43 grand outlay, the base MDX comes with a load of standard features including 18-inch wheels, xenon HID headlights, power liftgate, sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror with rearview camera, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system with six-disc changer and satellite radio.

The other packages bring a gaggle of electronics, appearance enhancements including 19-inch wheels, and creature comforts such as heated rear seats.

Standard safety, in addition to the all-wheel drive system, includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control with trailer towing stabilization, and a Collision Mitigating System that alerts the driver through auditory warnings if a collision seems imminent and at last resort applies hard braking and cinches up the front seatbelts.

One of the downsides to the MDX for people looking for maximum cargo and passenger hauling is its tight third-row seats and its rather ordinary luggage capacity of 15 cubic feet behind the rear-most seats. If cargo is your goal, then the truck opens up very adequately with 84 cubic feet of storage with all seats folded.

Towing capacity is average for the segment at 5,000 pounds and should satisfy most people who pull small boats and other weekend toys.

We weren’t overwhelmed by its 16 city, 21 highway gas mileages. We averaged just less than 20 mpg during our test drives.

We enjoyed many of the goodies on our top trim level test vehicle priced at $54,565, but what we liked best was the unobtrusive technology, the entertainment system and for hours-on-end the adaptive cruise.

Base price: $43,040; as driven, $54,565
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
Horsepower: 300 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 270 pound-feet @ 4,500 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2/2
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Length: 191.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,627 pounds
Turning circle: 37.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 15 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 84 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 21 mpg highway, 16 mpg city
0-60: 7.1 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: BMW X5, Lexus RX 350, Audi Q5

The Good:
• Excellent performance and confident handling
• Loaded with technology (for a price)
• Impressive safety features

The Bad:
• Dashboard cluttered with buttons

The Ugly:
• Small luggage space with all seats in use