2008 Acura MDX: High-Tech Luxury in an SUV package
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Monday, June 09, 2008
Billed as “The driver’s SUV,” Acura’ s flagship sports-ute, the MDX, blends functionality, technology and luxury in a package that is fun behind the wheel.
While driving the 2008 MDX for a week of testing, I heard more than a dozen positive comments about the car’s design, look and abilities and not a single negative retort, and I found that the crossover is a vehicle that begs to be driven.
Acura, Honda’s high-tech, luxury division, has succeeded in putting the group’s DNA into the MDX, as it has created a high-tech luxury ride and put it in a mid-size SUV package.
First introduced in 2001, the MDX has gained in muscle, luxury and stature in the ensuing seven years. The 2008 version is powered by a 3.7-liter SOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V-6 transversely mounted front-engine. The plant is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with sequential sport shift and GradeLogic control. This system rumbles out 300hp and 275 lbs.-ft. of torque, which is sufficient brawn to move that 4578-lb. sports-ute with confidence and aggressiveness. With a front-to-rear weight distribution of 56/44, I was pleasantly surprised by the comfortable ride and smooth acceleration during track-test runs of zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and a 16.1-second journey down a quarter-mile.
The 300 horses in this year’s incarnation represents 47 more horsepower and 25 more lbs.-ft. of torque than were present in the first-generation MDX. Additionally, the present engine is lighter and runs cleaner than Gen-1. With an electronic direct ignition system, all-wheel-drive drive train and 21-gallon tank, the MDX is EPA rated at 15mpg in city driving and 20mpg on the highway using premium unleaded fuel. My seven days of testing yielded better results, as I averaged 15.7 in town and 22.5 on the interstate for an average of 20.1mpg during my examination.
With exterior dimensions of 190.7 inches in length, 78.5 inches wide, 68.2 inches high and 8.15 inches of ground clearance, the MDX is a true mid-size sports-ute. The dimensions produced a solidly central center of gravity and the vehicle’s stability and safety embellishments were rewarded in NHTSA testing.
Government safety ratings awarded the MDX the maximum 5 stars in driver and passenger front crash tests, 5 stars in side crashes for front and rear seats and 4 out of 5 in rollover tests.
Independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link independent rear with stabilizer bars front and back help produce a refined ride. Torque-sensing variable power-assist rack-and-pinion steering, 4-wheel ABS braking system with electronic brake distribution and brake assist help maintain Acura’s “Safety Through Innovation” initiative. The MDX also employs Acura’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ body structure, and the chassis was created with side impact door beams.
The ACE™ body employs a network of interconnected front frame structures that work to absorb and redirect collision forces away from the passenger cabin while improving crash compatibility with vehicles of different sizes in a frontal collision. A special frame member located below the MDX’s front bumper is designed to engage the front bumper of a lower vehicle, allowing the bumper systems of both vehicles to attenuate crash energy more efficiently.
Inside the luxury-appointed cabin are such safety enhancements as the latest generation of dual-stage, dual-threshold airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags for the driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor for all outboard occupants and front active head restraints help reduce the chance of neck injury. LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) mounting systems in the second row of seating allow quick and secure installation of child seats.
The cab is roomy with seating for seven in a two-two-three arrangement, with head room of 39.2 inches front, 38.6 in row two and 35.7 in row three; leg room of 41.2 up front and 38.7 29.1 behind; and shoulder room of 61.6, 61.5 and 57.1.
Interior features included Acura Navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera; DVD rear entertainment system with 9-inch display; AcuraLink™ satellite communication system with real-time traffic; 410-watt, 10-speaker Acura/ELS Surround™ premium sound system with multi-format 6-disc in-dash CD/DVD-audio changer and 8-inch subwoofer; AM/FM tuner, XM® Satellite Radio; GPS-linked, solar-sensing, tri-zone, automatic climate control system with humidity control and filtration and Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® wireless telephone interface.
The MDX is driver-intuitive and also comes with a power tailgate, power moonroof, leather throughout the cabin, lumbar-support heated power seats, electronic tilt and telescoping steering column and adaptive and flexible cargo space with six configurations.
My MDX was priced as tested at $48,710, and that included all that was mentioned above and more.
The MDX initials are simply a marketing device, and have been said to be alphanumerically derived from "Multi-Dimensional luXury". Regardless of its origination, the model name MDX sounds cool and marketable, but as ‘X” usually depicts “crossover” in today’s marketing scheme, I would expect that Acura hopes the public sees the intialese standing for the “Most Dependable Crossover.” After testing it for a week – not enough time to warranty its dependability – I can certainly say that the MDX could well stand for “Mighty Decent Crossover”.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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