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Acura MDX (2001)

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 36,970
     Price As Tested                                    $ 37,450
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 212 cid/3471 cc
     Horsepower                                   240 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               245 @ 5000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.3"/76.3"/188.5"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4562 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  19.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                        235/65R17 cross-terrain
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 75 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/23/20
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     Maximum cargo capacity                        82 cubic feet
     Maximum towing capacity                         3500 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Acura has been missing a critical piece of what every vehicle manufacturer wants: an entry in every market segment.

And while you probably won't see an Acura pickup anytime soon, the public is enjoying the company's first stab at the still-hot SUV market. The MDX is garnering plenty of acclaim by the automotive press amidst a sea of extremely advanced competitors.

OUTSIDE - Like many of Acura's products (the CL is the exception), the MDX's look is somewhat plain. It's elegant, but save for the five-point grille and wraparound headlights, provokes few visual double-takes while out on the road. The clean, angular lines down the sides and across the hood are the only styling cues keeping it from being completely slab-sided. And while it's no wind-cheater with a 0.36 coefficient of drag, it's still the slipperiest design in its class. Large, vertically-placed taillights are the focal point of the rear end, which features a swing-up tailgate that opens a sizable amount of cargo space. Acura focused on stiffness when designing the MDX's body structure. Job-specific body trusses and longitudinal rails are fortified by eight box-section crossmembers placed at critical areas along the platform. The integrated roof rack, standard on Touring models and optional on others, is designed to hold up to 150 pounds of gear.

INSIDE - Like many upscale vehicles of today, the focal point of MDX's interior is a large multi-display screen that houses the ventilation controls, a trip computer and an optional DVD-based navigation system. A unique aspect of its inside is the clever use of packaging space that allows it to offer a third-row bench seat. It's a two-across chair that is best suited for children. When not in use, however, either side of the 50/50 split seat, or all of it, can be folded flat so it is flush with the floor. Anyone who's had to wrestle with flipping a third-row set of SUV seats knows what this usually entails. A convenient walk-in feature operates by lifting a lever at the center-seat base, which slides the seat forward and tilts the backrest so access to the rearmost seat is made easier. The front seats are wide, comfortable and covered in leather as standard equipment. The usual power everything and a booming stereo system come at no extra charge.

ON THE ROAD - Underhood is a 3.5-liter V6 engine, a corporate motor shared with many of the other Honda/Acura products. It uses dual overhead camshafts that operate with variable valve timing, a dual-path intake system and free-flowing exhaust to produce 240 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. Its all-aluminum design keeps it lightweight, and its deep-skirt configuration and forged steel crankshaft work well to limit noise, vibration and harshness, and to increase durability. An advanced five-speed automatic transmission is standard, while the MDX's standard 4-wheel drive system is one of the most advanced in the industry. It is designed to switch between 2WD and all-wheel drive as needed. While cruising in normal even-throttle mode, MDX operates as a fuel-efficient front-drive vehicle. But step on the gas and power is automatically routed rearward at a rate of up to 55 percent.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The MDX has lots of ground clearance although it's clearly more of a car than a truck. The front suspension, engine, transfer case and steering gear are all supported by a subframe assembly. All this is isolated from the cabin by thick rubber mounts and dynamic dampers, so the ride is smooth and quiet, yet stiff and durable. MacPherson struts make up the front unit, with a rear multi-link layout. There is over seven inches of wheel travel up front and nearly five inches in back, which is enough to give it moderate off-road capabilities. The wide track keeps it flat and stable on the road, while its speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system gives quick response and lots of road feel. The four-wheel disc bakes are enhanced with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard equipment.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side impact airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - None on this vehicle.