Acura, Road Test Reviews

2007 Acura MDX – Road Test

The Acura MDX is obviously a very close relative to the smaller RDX, but the added dimensions make it look so much better.

Like the RDX, Acura are breaking away from the traditional SUV look, adding sharp lines and angles. I liked – but didn’t love – the first generation MDX, but the new second-generation is so much better in every way – it’s impossible not to love it. While the RDX looks a little awkward from certain angles, the MDX looks all grown up and has no ungainly sightlines. One thing that really stands out is the V theme of the MDX, it starts at the nose of the grill and continues inside and throughout the vehicle.

First Impressions
Opening the door reveals a very sporty interior with large bolstered seats much like the TL sport sedan. Getting in and out is relatively easy considering the large 18” wheels, so the seat is just a bit higher than a regular car. After the first couple times getting in and out, you don’t even notice the step-up. The leather heated seats are very easy to adjust and have plenty of adjustment options to get yourself into a very comfortable position. Front passengers get the royal treatment with 8-way power adjustments plus power lumbar for both the driver AND front passenger! Add in the 2-stage heated seats and dual-zone climate control and it makes this one sweet ride! But wait, there’s more – the rear seats are heated too!!

The thick steering wheel of the MDX tilts and telescopes electrically, plus it’s incorporated in the programmable seat/audio system/mirror memory that two drivers can program individually. The V-shaped spokes of the steering wheel incorporate the telephone, info centre, audio and cruise control buttons. Directly in front of the driver is the information centre (outside temperature, mpg, odometer and trip meter etc) and gear selection indicator, with a large speedometer to the right and the tachometer on the left. Flanking both of those dials are the temperature and fuel gauges. The dials all glow an ice-blue color, while the end of the needles are permanently lit a bright red. At night it looks like the red tips of the needles aren’t connected – they just float – very cool! The instrumentation panel on the MDX is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen.

In the center of the dashboard is a large screen that houses the SatNav, and living up to their reputation, Acura delivers one of the most logical and legible SatNav systems available. As with most SatNav systems, the audio controls are included on the screen making it relatively easy to find your way through the various menus to set the system to your own preferences. Below the SatNav screen is the climate control which is very easy to operate once you’ve taken the time to review the buttons. Further down is the comprehensive audio system that is quite confusing at times because there are so many buttons and so many options available. Below the audio controls are the buttons and a control dial for the SatNav system. More and more luxury vehicles are utilizing a one-dial controller, much like the much-derided BMW iDrive. The MDX has a similar setup, but is completely logical and intuitive without the need to even look at the owner’s manual to see how to do something as simple as change a radio station. Also incorporated into the SatNav screen is the rearview camera – whenever you put the shifter into reverse, the camera comes on and gives you a very clear view of what’s behind you. I was very impressed because even on the darkest of nights the camera was clear and bright.

The center console of the MDX is shaped in a soft V, starting from below the SatNav controls it blends into the dividing console between the front seats, flowing back into the rear compartment. I like the look – very modern and functional. Finished in a polished, deep wood grain pattern the console stands out in quality and doesn’t look cheap and fake, like so many other faux-wood accents. The shifter is perfectly placed in conjunction to the armrest, making it natural and flawless for the driver who wants to quickly shift into and out of the superb Sequential SportShift automatic transmission – the way it was intended to be. Too often a SportShift transmission is wasted in a vehicle because of poor shifter placement. Included in the test vehicle was the adaptable suspension that worked very well. Some may consider the Sport mode a little on the firm side, but it certainly improved cornering when in use – you could feel the whole vehicle change when you switched from one mode to the other. Unfortunately, due to the location of this button, it was a little too easy to switch accidentally to the softer setting without knowing it – in my opinion, the dashboard would have been a better location, but with all those other buttons it would probably get lost. The two-stage bum warmers are good in that they stay on until you actually switch them off. Some vehicles switch them off automatically as soon as you take the key out of the ignition – I hate that. The bad side of the equation is that they aren’t very warm – even on the highest setting it was barely warm.

The arm rest/centre storage area between the front seats is large and very useful. It splits in the middle and slides into the compartment instead of the usual flip up towards the rear. This is much definitely the better option when compared to the one Acura chose for the RDX, where it hinges to the right and alienates the front passenger. Inside the storage area is a 110-volt power outlet.

The Acura MDX uses a 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift, and unlike other vehicles that employ this set- up, I used it quite a bit – probably because it was so natural to use, no advanced planning required. When left in the automatic mode, transmission shifts were barely noticeable and the MDX always appeared to be in the right gear. I always prefer a manual transmission over an automatic (if there’s a choice), but this transmission is so intuitive it completely negates any thought of wondering how it would react if it had a manual. It’s so good, that I went from the MDX into a manual transmission car and almost groaned at the thought of having to row my own gears!

Steering input is absolutely perfect – nice and heavy, while offering plenty of feed-back – something I didn’t expect, but was immediately aware of from the first few seconds of driving. The go pedal on the other hand gives you the impression that it’s just not necessary to rush. Despite the fact that there’s 300 hp available, it never felt like it at any time. Acceleration onto the freeway was brisk and uneventful, but there was never a rush of speed up-to and well over the speed limit. When up to speed, wind and road noise were extremely good, especially during a particularly blustery drive over a high bridge, not only was the sound level outstanding, but the MDX was very stable while vehicles around us were swaying and changing lanes involuntarily. The MDX is definitely built as a sports car, with the looks and usefulness of a utility vehicle. I loved the very taut suspension that’s tuned for very aggressive driving and never once felt like it was an SUV – I drove it like a sports car the entire time.

The rear doors open wide, making getting in and out a breeze as long as you have plenty of room beside you. In a traditional parking lot arrangement where vehicles park quite close together, the entry and exit can be very awkward. Case in point: the MDX with its 7-passenger seating is obviously geared and marketed to families as an alternative to the dreaded mini van – however, because of the very design that makes three rows of seating possible, the second row of seats sit much farther forward than usual, thereby making if extremely difficult if you were to put a child in a car seat. Getting the child in and out while making sure the door isn’t taking chunks of paint off of the neighboring vehicle, is all but impossible. Even having the luxury of getting the door all the way open, doesn’t make the job anywhere near as pleasant as it could be – if only you’d bought that mini van.

From an adult point of view, once inside the rear seat of the MDX, the accommodations are superb. The third-row seat was actually easier to get in and out of from the driver’s side, as opposed to the passenger side where the second-row seat moves to accommodate entry and exit. Once back there it was deemed very comfortable and not as cramped as one would expect, but head room is definitely at a premium and cargo space is all but non-existent when the third-row seats are being used. In the second-row seats there’s an abundance of hip, head and shoulder room, with leg and knee room well above average compared to any vehicle I’ve tested. The rear passengers certainly won’t complain about spending any amount of time back there. The fold-down centre armrest includes two cup holders, while the seat backs themselves have the added feature of being tilt adjustable for comfort. The rear passengers get their own climate controls, seat warmers and audio controls for the DVD system. There’s a small bump on the floor of the rear passenger compartment, but it doesn’t interfere in any way that would affect a third person sitting in the middle of rear seat. The 60/40 seatback folds perfectly flat, making the cargo area much larger than you’d imagine when looking from the outside. The rear cargo area is a surprisingly large 15 cu/ft with the second-row seats up and 42.9 cu/ft. with them folded flat.

On the audio front, the Acura/ELS Surround® Premium 10-speaker Sound System with AM/FM, 6-disc in-dash CD, DVD-Audio, MP3, WMA and DTS® changer with Dolby® Pro Logic® II was superb in its clarity. There were too many buttons for my liking and that led to a bit of confusion when the rear speakers suddenly stopped working when we thought we’d try out the XM satellite radio. We took a good five minutes to figure out that one of the buttons we had pushed accidentally caused the problem (the button was labeled “rear speaker” instead of a more logical “OFF”). The rear DVD has its own controls and head unit located in the rear section of the center console. We didn’t have the opportunity to test it out, but it comes with two cordless headphones and a remote control.

The Acura MDX is available in five versions in the USA and three in Canada, with the Canadian versions straddle the U.S. models. For example, The Technology Package is a combination of the U.S. Technology and Sports Packages, while the Elite Package combines the Technology, Entertainment as well as the Sport and Entertainment Packages. For a better understanding of your options and prices go to http://www.Acura.com or http://www.Acura.ca

Safety
As is the norm with today’s luxury vehicles, the MDX is full of safety features that come standard, and some of them are: Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights; automatic door locks; VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) with Traction Control; BA (Brake Assist); front side airbags; three-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensor; 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution); active front-seat head restraints; front 3-point seatbelts with load limiters and pre-tensioners; theft-deterrent system with electronic immobilizer; TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System); Trailer Stability Assist; headlight washers; side-impact door beams; LED taillights and brake lights.

Warranty
USA: 4-years/50,000-miles limited warranty / Powertrain – 6-years/70,000-miles
Canada: Bumper to bumper – 5 years/100,000 kms / Powertrain – 5-years/100,000 kms. Road side assistance is 4-years/50,000-miles [4-years/unlimited kms in Canada]
The MDX is pre-wired for trailer connection and trailer brakes, and has a maximum towing capacity is 5,000 lbs.

The Conclusion
I loved the MDX. If I thought $62,000 was an acceptable amount of money to pay for ANY vehicle, it would definitely be on the “consider” list. However, if I needed 3 rows of seating I’d buy a minivan. Why manufacturers are thinking it’s acceptable to make so many compromises in an SUV, just to add two dinky-little seats to the rear of the vehicle just boggles my mind. We don’t have any kids, but we are the targeted purchaser of this vehicle. My wife found out in 30 seconds or less, that the MDX was not a good vehicle to have if you have kids in child seats when she took her nephew out for a spin. For someone that just HAS to have an expensive vehicle for the family, do this: purchase a Honda Odyssey. Pull off all the “H” badges. Go to your local Acura dealership and buy enough chrome ‘Acura’ badges to replace those Honda badges. Stick them on your newly-acquired Honda Odyssey. You now have an Acura Odyssey. There’s a market for over-priced luxury minivans out there – the manufacturers have to start building them for the status-conscious people. If you really, really, really need to have an SUV and seating for more than 5, then purchase His ‘N’ Her Dodge Nitro’s – it’ll cost you less to buy them, and the gas mileage for two of them will be better than one MDX. Just think of the room you’ll have too!

Pricing for the 2007 Acura MDX Elite Package:
Canadian Prices – As tested: $61,900. Base price starts at $52,300 with the Technology Package starting at $56,900

USA Prices – 2007 MDX Starts at $39,995. The Technology Package starts at $43,495 and the Sport Package starts at $45,595.
If you want the Technology and Entertainment Packages it starts at $45,695, or if you want the Sport and Entertainment Packages it starts at $47,795

Fuel Consumption: [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The V-6 MDX is listed at 19 mpg City [13.8L/100 km] and 24 mpg Highway [10.0 L/100 km]
I averaged 15 mpg [15.7 L/100km] in mostly highway driving, while the on-board computer remained at 17.4 mpg / 13.5L/100kms the entire week.

+ PLUSES: 
The ultimate luxury/sports car with the benefits and ground clearance of an SUV
Outstanding fit, finish and build quality
Phenomenal audio system
Fantastic engine/transmission/suspension combination
Extremely comfortable seats

– MINUSES:
Extremely poor fuel economy
If you need to carry more than five people – BUY A MINIVAN!!!!

Would I Spend My Money On It?
Absolutely, positively maybe. Why would you waste your money buying a Mercedes SUV, many thou$ands of dollars more?

Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
It is reasonably easy to get in and out, but it is a bit of a step up. Once inside it is extremely comfortable with plenty of headroom, and the adjustable seat back was perfect for getting comfortable.

Immediate Competition:

Audi Q7, BMW X5, Chrysler Aspen, Mazda CX-9 Mercedes GL & R series, Volvo XC90

By The Numbers:
Driveline: 3.7-litre, 24-valve, V-6 engine (VTEC); 5-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission & Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD)
Horsepower: 300 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 275 @ 5,000 rpm
0 – 60 mph: 7.0 seconds

Interior
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (Climate Control/Moonroof/SatNav, etc)

Ergonomics
8 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

Exterior
8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

Performance
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
8 – Bang for the $$
6 – Fuel Economy

140 Total / 150


Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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Also Published on PaddockTalk.com

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