With the introduction of the edgy new MDX, things are definitely heating up in the showrooms of Honda's conservative upscale manufacturer. Acura has tossed out its Isuzu-derived, truck-based SLX and stepped up with what is one of the most attractive, best performing sport utility vehicles available.
Press down hard on the accelerator and the quick revving 240-hp, 3.5-L VTEC V6 springs to life, hurling you from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 9 seconds. Although besting most 6-cylinder rivals, straight-line performance is hardly its forte, as the MDX truly shines when the road begins to curve. The Acura steals its platform from the Honda Odyssey Minivan, which is no bad thing. The Odyssey underpinnings give the MDX the widest track in its class, allowing it to out handle the majority of SUV competitors. Low roll centers combine with stiff anti-roll bars, adding stability when pushed to the limit of grip. The 5-speed automatic is well suited to the engine, shifting effortlessly. That said, I would like to see the gated shifter give way to Acura's wonderful sequential shifting manual-mode automatic found in the CL Type-S.
Acura has taken a different approach to 4-wheel drive, endowing the MDX with what it calls the VTM-4 electronic 4-wheel drive system. Its purpose isn't to climb the tallest mountain or traverse the deepest gulch, but to 'defeat winter' and deliver best-in-class performance in rain and snow. With this purpose in mind, a unique electromagnetic system puts power to the rear wheels according to data received from acceleration, engine speed, and variations in wheel rotation. Just the same, the Acura's eight inches of ground clearance should easily walk over and through the majority of mud and gravel back roads.