2009 Acura MDX Review
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE ACURA MDX VEHICLE
The MDX's claim to fame is being the first crossover to offer third-row seating, but I would say this feature takes a backseat (no pun intended) to everything else the MDX has to offer in the mid-size luxury SUV category. It's my top-rated luxury SUV/CUV.
I drove a 2009 Acura MDX Sport with a 3.7-liter, 300-horsepower VTEC V6 engine and all-wheel drive (AWD). It came with all the wonderful standard bells and whistles an Acura usually does: voice-activated 12.7-gigabit hard drive navigation system with backup camera; leather seating; 10-speaker surround-sound system; 10-way power seating drive and 8-way passenger; heated seats; Bluetooth; steering wheel controls; and a moonroof. Total vehicle cost is $48,890.
Acura calls its all-wheel drive system the SH-AWD, which stands for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. You get "enhanced high-performance cornering" which means it balances and distributes power better than rear or conventional all-wheel drive systems. Basically, you are to feel like a better driver during hairball driving moments. And you do.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: The comforts and style of the MDX are right up there with its main competitors like the Lexus RX or VW Touareg. Leather seating is a dream. Mastered by one dial, you are able to scroll through commands on the navigation screen by turning and pushing inward. Also, sliding this knob to the sides or up and down showcase not just the myriad of choices from traffic updates, map sizes, route choices and music, but really how Acura's communication system is so layered and sensible.
Reliability & Safety Factor: Acura, built by Honda, has tested reliability and swarms of consumer confidence. Safety features include 4-wheel independent suspension and disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist; Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction control (Electronic Stability Control); and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Also, dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags; dual-chamber front-seat side airbags; and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system in the rear seat.
Cost Issues: Let's compare the MDX's $49,650 price tag with two main competitors. The Lexus RX 400h, whose navigation system and center console design I don't care for, costs $49,615 (but the hybrid engine nets you an average of 23-mpg with lower emissions). The VW Touareg, which does have a very impressive 4.2-liter V8 engine with a 4XMOTION permanent 4WD that makes you feel like you're entering an off-road race, costs $59,200 and gets 12-mpg city and 17-mpg highway driving.
Activity & Performance Ability: It has a wonderfully responsive engine and braking system, but the MDX is a heavy car – it's a lot of steel to speed up and slow down. I will say its handling, specifically the SH-AWD, is magnificent and brings the driver ultimate confidence in road stability. I've been extremely impressed with the performance on all Acuras, as has Consumer Reports: The MDX rates excellent on safety, very good on consumer reliability, and huge praise for sporty handling. In CR's opinion, the MDX sits right below the Lexus RX and Toyota Highlander. (I might agree about the Highlander's hierarchy, due to better mgp and price, but I don't think the Highlander is a luxury SUV and I certainly don't agree about the RX's placement).
The Green Concern: Gas mileage is nothing to crow about. A 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine with AWD gets you 15-mpg city and 20-mpg highway driving – this sort of setup yields such results, but lands the MDX slightly less than average gas mileage estimates for this class.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
While I wasn't as comfortable in Acura's mid-size crossover as I was inside sedans like the TL or TSX, the MDX is the most solid choice for its class segment. The more I drive Acura's, the more they remain my luxury car of choice.
©2008 Katrina Ramser