Brace yourself gentle readers. The sophomore model Acura MDX is neither appreciably larger nor significantly heavier than the outgoing 2006 model. Yes, it’s true. In this era of automotive bloat, when the vast majority of major manufacturers cater to fashion and safety requirements with steadily-increasing automotive obesity, Acura’s engineers have attained the near impossible: improvement without additional mass. So is it a small step sideways for Acura, or a giant leap forwards for the MDX?
The rivet counters amongst you will maintain that the redesigned MDX is 2” longer and .5” wider than the outgoing model. True; but it’s also nearly 3” shorter (without sacrificing ground clearance) and only 46 pounds portlier (a 1% increase). My unscientific conclusion on this weighty matter: the MDX’ mass has been reapportioned but not materially increased. Anyway, standing pat makes perfect sense.
Unlike other midsized SUV’s, the MDX never pretended to be anything other than a tall street rod. In 2007 garb, Acura’s puddle plugger takes another stylistic step away from its [theoretical] off-road roots. The designers ditched the wheel wells’ Jeepish trapezoids for something more rounded and refined. Following this fall’s trend in CUV couture, Acura blackened the C-pillars and widened the D-pillars at the top, creating an aerodynamic downward sweeping arc of sidelights.
The MDX’ new streetwise face closes the outgoing model’s gaping open-mouth bumper, and pushes the fog lights lower and wider. Two dimpled metal chevrons frame the Acura logo. Up close, they appear surprisingly like ornamental cheese graters. From a distance, they make the MDX front end look like the head of a giant Remington MicroScreen electric shaver – ready to trim unsightly hair from America’s highways.
In typical Acura fashion, the MDX’ dashboard is infested with gizmology; from a 10-speaker Dolby music system that plays every post-tape audio source extant, to a sat nav system that tells you how to avoid traffic to get to your Bluetoothed reservation at a Zagat-approved restaurant. Unfortunately, swoopy swaths of pseudo wood flank the center dash’s geewhizzery. At least, I think it’s simulated wood grain; the dark, grayish, black-banded pattern that looks like the floor of a garage after brake cleaner has been sprayed on dirty disks.
The MDX’ eight-way power adjustable heated memory front seats and reclining rear chairs are elegant, comfortable and at least as supportive as an AA meeting. The Acura’s middle row is equally accommodating, offering plenty of knee room for two. The MDX’ two-plus-two arrangement relegates spare brats and unlucky (reviled?) adults to the way back. Accessing this kiddie-only cavern requires all the flexibility of youth, and most of the contortion skills of a Cirque de Soleil performer. Any buyer depending on the MDX’ third row note: when your third child hits eight, it’s time to move on.
Pistonheads will no doubt be tantalized by the MDX’ 3.7-liter V6’ three hundred horses (enough equines to feed a French village for six months). Needless to say, Honda (for it is they) have fettled the Hell out the MDX’ mill, tweaking it with VTEC, a dual stage intake manifold and high flow exhaust system, magnesium cylinder head covers, drive-by-wire throttle, etc. The result is a smooth spinning powerplant whose peak power and 275 ft-lbs. of torque arrive at 6000 and 5000 rpm respectively.
But the normally aspirated engine’s impressive output and refinement are hamstrung by the SUV’s bulk. Despite the aforementioned weight control measures, the MDX tips the scales at more than 2.5 tons. Both performance and efficiency suffer. The SUV fails to plant you in your seat when you put the hammer down; zizzing from rest to 60mph in 7.5 seconds. The EPA’s ever-optimistic prognosticators foretell 17/22mpg.
The MDX’ handling almost makes up for its pusillanimous ponderousness. To that end, Acura honed the new MDX’ handling on the Nürburgring. It was worth the trip. The MDX offers both exceptional poise on surfaced roads and velvety smoothness over life’s bumpy imperfections. When push comes to shove, the MDX’ really rather Super Handling All-Wheel Drive pushes the weighty beast through corners by rotating the outside rear wheel faster than the other three. An optional Sport Package enhances control with stiffer front and rear sway bars and an Active Damper System that battens down or softens the ride according to driving conditions.
Bottom line: the MDX takes corners astoundingly well for a hulking SUV. Leaving us with a relatively slow, relatively graceful luxury car on stilts. While Acura is to be commended for adding more of everything to the MDX– luxury, performance, handling and safety– without bulking-up, someone needs to remind me again why extra ride height and SUV style is worth sacrificing a good 25% in average fuel economy over say, an Acura TL. Oh right, the third row. Perhaps Acura isn’t the only one who should try not to add weight to its existing family, or accept the Odyssey ahead.