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DOCTOR CROSSOVER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Nov 19, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE DOCTOR IS IN By John Grafman

At un-godly early hours in the morning I do some of my best thinking. Well, technically I guess the so-called experts call it dreaming, but what do they know. Acura decides to pick this less-than-convenient time to hold a breakfast briefing on the new MDX. The hour is not of my choosing, and neither is the duration. This briefing is actually a rather lengthy presentation enduring until roughly around 10:00. I don't really think Acura can have nearly so many worthy points to speak on, but I am wrong. The reps at Acura have charts and figures to both vindicate their decisions on the MDX and enlighten us on some of the aspects that us bleary-eyed media types might not encounter in our tour of the Hollywood hills. Nothing slips past the team that gave birth to this new CUV. No stone is left unturned by Acura; they delve into all the aspects of the genesis, from the demographics of the MDX buyer to the role of Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).

One thought comes to my mind as the presentation continues (aside from how nice and warm my bed would be about now), isn't a picture worth a thousand words? Bring on the MDX. In the flesh, the MDX is, as we were led to believe, well thought out. Many companies get so mired in the bureaucratic mess of marketing that they forget that the one thing that matters most is the product. The MDX is a mid-sized luxury crossover, which is not to be confused with a SUV, tall wagon, of any of the other numerous labels that get applied in order to explain the obvious. This new vehicle is just the right size. In spite of having a semi-functional third row, the outwardly dimensions allow for ease of driving - be it on the crowded streets of Hollywood, or the twists and turns of Mullholland Drive above the San Fernando Valley. The look is both familiar and new. A few elements and the angle of the rear pillar do take on the overtones of some other brands. Yet, the Acura is distinctive, with a front-end that is unique and appears more geared to a luxury crossover vehicle. The overall fit and finish of the body is miles ahead of what many will expect from a descendent of the SUV. Only a bit of orange peel on the rear bumper on this early production model alludes to this having a sub-sixty thousand-dollar price tag.

If the style on the exterior doesn't do the trick, the interior certainly will. From the leather seats that are nicely styled, to the multi-contoured dashboard and center console, the cabin is decked out convincingly. Extensive use of simulated wood garners mixed reactions. A cubic zirconium is no diamond, even if to the naked eye it looks identical. MDX's simulated wood trim is attractive, but just like the CZ, it's just not the real thing. We originate our tour of Hollywood and the Valley from the Mondrian hotel. The Mondrian is ideally located in an area central to the entertainment industry. Movie studios, record studios, actors and countless musicians call this home. The hotel also offers a remarkable view overlooking the city all the way out to the Pacific, not to mention it's very own SkyBar. On a short hop around the Santa Monica Mountains we initially proceed west on Sunset Boulevard. For those who aren't familiar with this couple-mile stretch that passes alongside UCLA on to the 405, this is a tight and curve-laden road better built for Mini Coopers than big crossovers. Fortunately for us, and the oncoming traffic, the MDX is one-part SUV, and one-part sports sedan.

MDX provides the V6 power of 300 horses to conquer the hills and squirt into the open patches of street with ease and confidence. And it still manages reasonable gas mileage. As mentioned earlier, the size is not overwhelming and the proportions keep the four-door from becoming too top-heavy as well. The optional upgraded sport suspension provides exceptional street performance in keeping body roll to a minimum and still provide compliance to assure passengers that this is a luxury vehicle. Using an active damper, the Electronic Control Ride Comfort can increase ride isolation and comfort while increasing stability. Rounding out the attributes is a SH-AWD that provides more juice to the outside corner around turns allowing for a much better execution and improved road holding feel. Acura does a good job at producing a great driving car, but the MDX is more. The vehicle provides passengers a level of comfort that is as enticing as the driver's. The packaging premise is 4+3 seating. This emphasizes the comfort of four primary occupants while allowing for three additional if need be. Here is one concept that definitely didn't get lost in translation to reality.

The beauty of the MDX is engrained throughout its design and engineering. Our short demo was sufficient to sample the more obvious aspects while driving. However, the early morning presentation did enlighten us on some of the attributes of the new MDX that most will never see (but provide a superior driving experience). This is a textbook case of transparent technology. One such example is Trailer Stability Assist - the ability to stabilize a trailing load by braking the MDX out of sync to the wobbling load that follows it. In other words, the tail does not wag the dog. That may mean little to me personally, but to the family pulling a 5,000-pound boat it can mean all the difference in the world. A few good hours with the new Acura is enough to believe this is one of the more all-encompassing vehicles in some time. Moreover, it is relatively affordable, starting at about 40K and maxing out in the high 40s. The competition is going to have to awaken pretty early in order to keep up with the early risers over at Acura.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The term "crossover" is evidently no longer confined to SUVs - this one also feels like a sport sedan. The bar is once again raised.

For more information about Acura products, go to www.acura.com. For LA Car's review of the new Acura/ELS Surround Premium Sound System, click here.

SPECIFICATIONS Vehicle: 2007 Acura MDX Price: $39,995 (base) $47,795 (with Sport, Technology & Entertainment Packages) Engine Type: 3.7-liter 24-valve aluminum-alloy SOHC VTEC® V6 Horsepower: 300hp at 6000 rpm (SAE net) Torque: 275 lbs-ft at 5000 rpm (SAE net) Transmission: 5-speed automatic with Sequential SportShift and Grade Logic Control Front Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar Rear Suspension: Independent Multi-link with trailing arm with stabilizer bar Braking System: 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist Front Discs - 13.0 inch (330 mm) diameter ventilated (w/ dual piston caliper) Rear Discs - 13.2 inch (334 mm) diameter drum in disc Wheels: 18 X 8 J cast alloy wheels Tires: P255/55R18 104H All-season Wheelbase: 108.3 in. (2750 mm) Overall Length: 190.7 in. (4844 mm) Overall Width: 78.5 in. (1994.2 mm) Overall Height: 65.9 in. (1679.3 mm) Curb Weight: 4539 lbs (2063 kg) MDX Sport - 4554 lbs (2070 kg) with Technology Package - 4550 lbs (2068 kg) with Technology & Entertainment Packages - 4578 lbs (2081 kg) with Sport & Entertainment Packages - 4587 lbs (2085 kg) EPA Fuel Mileage - City/Highway: 17/22 mpg

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