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2006 Acura MDX review

December 20, 2005 04:53 PM EST | Acura , Luxury Brands , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageAlthough bland alongside athletic competitors like the BMW X5 and Infiniti FX, Acura's highly functional MDX will appeal to families seeking a premium SUV with three rows of seating.

Room for seven passengers or serious amounts of cargo, gutsy V6 engine, well-balanced suspension, top-rated crash test scores.

Ho-hum interior design and materials, modest tow rating.

What's New for 2006
Other than some minor interior trim changes for the Touring package - ebony-colored Zebra wood-patterned trim replaces last year's Burl wood, and satin chrome interior accents instead of bright chrome - the Acura MDX is unchanged for 2006. New SAE testing procedures drop the MDX's horsepower rating from 265 to 253. See 2005 model

How many different luxury SUVs should a luxury brand sell to satiate Americans' desire for a primo ride? Lexus, Land Rover and Cadillac offer three. Mercedes has two and is busily planning a third. So should we pity Acura, then? It has but one SUV. That SUV happens to be the MDX. And no, you shouldn't pity Acura. The company has been able to stay focused on its one offering and make sure it's as good as it can be.

The MDX is meticulously engineered to serve a specific purpose, much like a good set of Craftsman tools. It can seat up to seven people and it offers plenty of luxury accouterments. And since it's a crossover SUV, meaning that it's more of a car than a truck, its unibody construction pays dividends in handling and safety, though like most competitors it has little appetite for serious off-road pursuits. Even in the sixth year of its model cycle, the MDX remains one of the best premium-brand crossover SUVs on the market. But Acura's SUV is not given to whimsy or flair. It isn't a vehicle you aspire to own. This is the one you buy because you need it. The MDX gives you plenty of room for the family, a ride they can all live with, an engine that will move them swiftly and more than enough features to keep them comfortable and safe. The MDX's cabin ambience is more upscale than that of its workaday Honda Pilot sibling, but there's less of the opulence found in other luxury SUVs -- and that's why the MDX costs less. If this is your idea of the perfect premium crossover SUV, the Acura MDX is your vehicle.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The MDX is offered as a four-door only in either base or Touring trim. Base models come well equipped with 17-inch wheels, XM Satellite Radio, heated mirrors, keyless entry, leather seating (heated in front), a power driver seat, front and rear automatic climate control, a CD player and a moonroof. Touring models add a roof rack, a rear wiper, a power front-passenger seat, a driver-seat memory feature, a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone interface and an upgraded audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer. Ordering the Touring model also allows you to specify the optional DVD-based navigation system (with voice recognition and a rearview video camera), the DVD entertainment system for rear passengers, or both.

Powertrains and Performance:
While most luxury SUVs offer a V8 as the top-line engine, the MDX comes only with a 253-hp, 3.5-liter V6. Nevertheless, acceleration is competitive with bigger-engined SUVs and fuel mileage is superior. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it helps the MDX earn an EPA mileage estimate of 17 city/23 highway. Power travels to all four wheels through Acura's Variable Torque Management (VTM) full-time four-wheel-drive system. Tow capacity is 3,500 pounds.

The MDX comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants, head-protecting side curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, stability control and three-point seatbelts in every position. Should an accident prove unavoidable, MDX counters with high crash test scores; it scored five stars (out of five) in the government front- and side-impact tests. The IIHS gave the MDX a "Good" rating (the highest possible) for its performance in the 40-mph frontal-offset crash test.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Perhaps because of its minivan roots, the MDX's interior does little to inspire or awe, but it is quite functional. The second-row rear seats offer ample room, and the third-row seat is fine for children. The spacious cabin also makes the MDX a very practical cargo carrier. The second-row seats are split 60/40, folding nearly flat with one simple latch. The third-row seat is all one unit that folds flat, as well. With both the second- and third-row seats folded down, there's 82 cubic feet of usable space.

Driving Impressions:
Comfortable on rough city streets, yet firm enough to feel agile in the corners, the MDX offers a pleasing compromise between ride comfort and handling ability. On mild off-road jaunts, the MDX is well up to the task of soaking up big hits as well as smoothing out long, winding stretches of bumpy dirt road. Eight inches of ground clearance allows the MDX to clear small obstacles with ease.

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