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New Car Review: 2004 Acura MDX

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)



ENGINE: 3.5-liter SOHC V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 265 hp @ 5,800 rpm/253 lb-ft @ 3,500-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 106.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 188.7 x 77.0 x 68.7 in.

The Acura MDX was one of the first of the luxury sport utilities on the market. As such, it had a slight advantage over the competition, but it was not an advantage that would last for long. Pretty soon, Lexus and Infiniti would enter the market with their own versions of luxury SUVs, and then, it seems, every manufacturer in the world had a luxury SUV to offer. But still, the MDX has soldiered along, offering luxury, decent performance, and good styling.

Lexus and Infiniti have decided to push the styling envelopes with their RX and FX models. Both of these entries are sleek, with dramatic lines. By contrast, the MDX seems conservative. Honda/Acura has chosen not to go to extremes with their styling and it serves them well. While I like the more radical styling of the other two makes, Acura's more conservative approach also has a lot to go for it.

All three come with engines of approximately 3.5 liters capacity. The MDX 3.5-liter V6 is rated at a solid 265 horsepower and 235 lbs.-ft. of torque. Working through a 5-speed automatic transmission, there's plenty of power to get the MDX to do anything you want and get you in trouble doing it.

We drove the MDX over a succession of Interstates, two-lanes, urban streets and suburban development roads, and it handled them all well. I especially liked the MDX on the Interstate, in this case the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My ride to and from my destination was accomplished in a minimal amount of time (legally), and in great comfort. I plopped a couple of CDs in the in-dash 6 CD changer, set cruise control to a decent speed, and sat back and relaxed for an hour.

Our long trips took us much further north than I prefer in the winter. I had confidence that the MDX's VTM 4-wheel drive system would protect me if the weather got nasty. In fact, there were snow flurries on the outbound and inbound legs of the trip, but there was no accumulation.

The MDX's navigation system was also a big help. The system has voice recognition, but we didn't use it. What we did use, though, was the street finder. In two cases, we knew which street we wanted and had a pretty good idea of where that street was, but the navigation system was accurate to the point in finding these streets. One of them was pretty small, so I was impressed with the detail of what's included in the system.

One objection I have to voice recognition is that the system also talks back to you. So if you don't take the specific turn designated by the navigation system, the voice inside "yells" at you until you get back on the route it has suggested. I have a wife, so I don't need a navigation system to nag at me.

Part of the navigation system is a rear-view television that advises you as to what's behind the MDX when you shift into reverse. The nav system screen switches to TV mode as soon as you shift into reverse. I've mentioned a few times how valuable I believe this addition to automotive technology is, because it saves garage doors in many cases, as well as saving lives.

This is an Acura, and it is a luxury SUV, so it had all the goodies - 7-passenger seating with split folding second and third rows, leather-trimmed seating surfaces, driver's 8-way power seat, heated front seats, a trip computer, synchronized climate control system with air filtration and a Homelink system.

The Touring Package included a passenger power seat, BOSE sound system, 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a roof rack, and a driver's electronic lumbar support.

Carrying capacity is excellent, as one would expect from a mid-size SUV. With the third row seats up, the cargo capacity is 14.8 cubic feet, about the same as a mid-size car. With the third row seats down it increases to 49.6 cubic feet, and with the second and third row seats folded, cargo capacity increases to 81.5 cubic feet. Unless you're in the cargo carrying business, you really don't need more room than that.

The sticker on the Acura MDX Touring was $42,700, plus $545 destination and handling for a bottom line of $43,245. This is about normal for vehicle sin this class. You don't get ultra-modern styling, but you do get a solid vehicle that's ready to do what you ask of it.

2004 The Auto Page Syndicate