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New Car Review


by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price        $ 39,500 (est)
Price As Tested                              $ 40,830 (est)
Engine Type                DOHC 4-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 213 cid/3494 cc
Horsepower                                   215 @ 5400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               230 @ 3000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.7"/72.2"/183.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4635 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  22.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P245/70R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
    city/highway/average                            15/19/17
 0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
 Payload capacity                                 895 pounds
 Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Sport/utility vehicles are still hot market items and Bob Hagin is grudgingly accepting their place in the automotive scheme of things. His son Matt says it's only taken his dad 20 years to come around.)

BOB - Maybe it's just because I'm getting older, Matt, but I have to admit that the latest crop of upscale sport/utility vehicles is changing my mind about the genre. I used to think that four-wheel drive machines should be limited to rock-grinders like the ones I had to drive in Korea, but after spending a few days behind the wheel of Acura's SLX, I think I'm getting spoiled. The interior is as luxurious as Acura's 3.5RL luxo sedan, but it can easily reach more places.

MATT - The new engine is a four-cam V6 that puts out 215 horses, which is 25 more than last year. And the torque has been raised by 42 pound/feet to 230, and at 1000 RPM less. That means it has lots more pulling power than last year, but the power comes down low where it's really important for a rig this size. The engine uses some pretty slick "hot-rod" technology to get that increase, too. The intake manifold uses one set of runners below 3600 RPM for good low end power and a smooth idle, but over 3600 RPM, a shorter, more direct path opens up and really adds some impressive power.

BOB - The drive train is pretty high-tech for 1998, Matt. The driver can switch from rear-wheel-drive to all-wheel-drive by punching a button on the dash. Once engaged, the system automatically modulates the amount of power going to the front wheels through an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch. This makes driving on snow and ice much easier since the driver can concentrate on the road and not on when to switch to 4WD. When the going really gets tough, the system can be thrown into low range which transfers power at an even 50/50 split. The new engine allowed the engineers to raise the final-drive axle ratios a couple of points, which in effect raises the top speed.

MATT - Dad, I don't think that owners of high-class SUV's are very much concerned about flat-out speed, but the new-found extra power comes in handy when getting into highway traffic from an on-ramp, or when passing on a two-lane road. And it's no lightweight at 4600 pounds, but I suspect that one of the reasons the SLX is so hefty is that it uses a ladder-type truck chassis. The only transmission available is a four-speed automatic, which has a couple of drive modes so the driver can either go for more "sporting" acceleration and longer shift patterns, or start off in third gear to limit wheelspin when getting underway in ice and snow. The SLX is a real all-weather friend.

BOB - The SLX front end "skin" has been redesigned for '98 to soften the squareness of last year, but what impressed most other members of our family is that its interior is as comfortable and fancy as the rest of the Acura line. It's leather-trimmed seats are heated up front, and it has a power moon roof. The windows, mirrors, door locks and seats are all power and you sit up high enough to see over the top of city traffic. SLX seats five, but things are crowded with three in back - unless they're all slender or very chummy.

MATT - In the long run, Dad, the SLX is still an off-roader and just in case the going gets rough, the side mirrors can be electrically folded against the doors to keep them from getting knocked off. There's also three separate skid pans under the chassis to protect the driveline from rocks, boulders and other hazards, and the thing is rated to pull a loaded 5000-pound trailer - as long as the hitch is up to Acura standards. In order to get the necessary ground clearance and still not stow the full-sized spare tire and wheel in the passenger's compartment, Acura mounted it on the rear door on a swing-away bracket.

BOB - Sport/utility vehicles have come a long way since the days when surplus military 4X4's were used strictly as gone-fishin' weekend machines, Matt. The Acura SLX is as much at home transporting a family to a ski vacation at Aspen as it is in the Baja deserts of Mexico.

MATT - Dad, if you're hinting that you want me to go with you to race in the Baja 500 again, the answer is no.