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CROSSOVER MEDICINE

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 Mon, Dec 8, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

CROSSOVER MEDICINE By John Grafman

Nary a day goes by when some celebrity isn't caught doing something or other behind the wheel of their ever-so-posh Range Rover. The British by birth and Indian by purchase Range Rover is by most measures an impressive SUV and seems to be getting more than its fair share of airtime. However, those who don't have the disposable income like they used to, or simply have an eye towards a budget will have something else in mind. One would think the Acura MDX would be a suitable substitute with the bonus of being a product from Honda. The seven-seater is easy enough to get accustomed to. It has virtually all of the favorite goodies wrapped inside a pleasing interior. Did the Japanese manufacturer create a comparable alternative to the highly touted Land Rover product?

You never actually have to get into the MDX to appreciate what it has to offer. Just a glance at the window sticker and that tells the tale. Tens of thousands less, coming in at just under 50K fitted with everything from rearview camera, navigation, and voice activation, plus a 9" display rear DVD player. These are tip-offs that this is not just another SUV. Power is adequate with 300 horses under the hood in the form of a 3.7-liter V-6. This isn't as torquey as others in the genre, but it gets the job done without straining too much. It is a compromise of sorts, blending the need for power with the desire to have decent fuel economy. Unfortunately, this doesn't really offer enthusiasts that sit on either side of the fence much reason to cheer loudly. With 15 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway this is hardly the gas sipper that Hondas are known to be. The MDX is no slouch in the handling department, as the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive distributes the available power to the wheels that require it the most. What this does in effect is aid in turning by applying additional force to the outer wheels helping it to carve corners, as much as one could expect for such a sizeable vehicle. Adding to the cool factor is the little digital readout in the center of the instrument cluster showing how much force is applied. The flip side to the catchy display is that looking at the readout while navigating around a corner probably isn't the safest endeavor.

The interior is finished to a high standard with both fit and material. There isn't much to gripe about, yet the layout of the center stack is nearly as muddled as the plot in the latest James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. The 10 rows of buttons and knobs in a relatively small space make it hard to decipher without looking downward. To be fair, this is much easier than many tricky display-driven systems from other heavyweight contenders with European badging. The tasteful interior is trimmed in material that fits the pricing. The plastic is far better than average. Upon inspection, the fit of panels and the gaps between parts is pleasing, especially when so many don't really take the time to look closely. The only knock on the interior is that the plastic wood was askew. It does look like the real McCoy, but it isn't. The unexpected surprise is that this plus size hauler is amazingly quiet. Normally anything using the name utility does not imply a higher level of comfort, yet the MDX defies that convention. The solidness that is conveyed by the absence of noise, vibration or hum is what separates premium product from a want-to-be in a big hurry. The MDX eats up irregular road surfaces. Sound deadening in areas like in the front fender panel, which can be seen when the door is opened, is extremely effective.

The MDX does pack a lot in a relatively small size that fits without trouble into a standard garage. In exchange for a more manageable size the third row is really not truly accommodating like one might like. It should be hospitable for kids. Perhaps a bit more room in the middle row in exchange for eliminating the third row would be preferential. The second row seats nearest the doors are contoured for comfort. The center seat on the other hand is a different story. The bucket-like seats adjacent to the doors create a raised back portion in the center, which is just not comfortable. The Milano premium perforated sport seats in front with 10-way adjustability are comfortable for long durations stuck in traffic or actually pushing it a bit harder. And if the seats don't make the drive easier, the Acura ELS Surround Sound System is enough to smooth out the bumps. The combination of the ELS with this near soundproof chamber is key to providing plenty of on-road enjoyment. The MDX does look attractive, but it does come off just a little cuter than tough. Of course, it could be worse than that. There are other SUVs that are boring, ungainly, or simply ridiculous. It is nice to see some truth in advertising through design. This doesn't look overly macho as this is destined primarily for the highway, not the hills. So will this be enough to pry anyone out of some pricier means of transportation? I don't even think that is the right question anymore, given the times we are in. The real question is will those that are downsizing to a people hauler in the 50K price tag range be happy? Well, I can't speak for those in that situation, but cutting back has probably never been this much fun before.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT An excellent substitute for a high-end station wagon or minivan. More on the MDX can be found at www.acura.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $48,690, as tested $49,450 Engine type: Aluminum alloy, 3.7-litre V6, SOHC, 4 valves/cylinder, VTEC EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 15/20 Horsepower: 300 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 275 lb.-ft @ 5,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed Automatic with sequential sportshift, Grade Logic Control Suspension: Front: Independent MacPherson Strut, stabilizer bar Rear: Independent Multi-link, stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 18 x 8 aluminum-alloy, 255/55 R18 104H all-season Rear: 18 x 8 aluminum-alloy, 255/55 R18 104H all-season Brakes: Front: Discs, 0 mm diameter Rear: Discs, 0 mm diameter Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist Overall length: 190.7" Overall width: 78.5" Overall height: 68.2" Curb weight (lbs): 4,548 - 4,597

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