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2007 Acura MDX Elite Road Test

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Raising The Bar- Again

The MDX is more voluminous than the RDX.
As it pertains to SUVs, 2007 is proving to be a significant year for Acura. They not only launched the RDX, a new model in the compact SUV segment, they extensively reworked the mid-size MDX. As fate and serendipitous scheduling would have it, I recently road test the two vehicles one-after-the-other.

The opportunity to consecutively sample both units sharply contrasted the distinctions in their design, operation and demeanor. Each buggy exhibited very different driving dynamics and personality. The RDX is the jackrabbit of the pair while the MDX fulfills the role of graceful heavyweight.

Although both of Acura's SUVs are premium-level offerings, the RDX emphasizes performance and sport over comfort and refinement. As expected, the larger and more expensive MDX seeks to spoil with lavish surroundings and limousine-like characteristics. Obviously the two renditions are targeted at completely different markets- count me in the latter.

Since its introduction as a 2001 model, the MDX has served as Acura's flagship SUV. The vehicle has always been well respected for its build quality and superior driving dynamics.

Apart from some minor tweaking, the MDX changed little throughout its run to 2006; consider the 2007 model to be all new and completely redesigned. It's now longer and wider with a lower step-in height. It also has a new, more powerful engine and new interior architecture along with a new chassis and suspension arrangement track-tuned at Nurburging, Germany.

The "Comfort Ride" button is located behind the shift lever.
My tester was equipped with Acura's Elite Package, which includes the electronic festivities that accompany the Tech package but add specially designed alloy wheels and an adaptive suspension system.

The adaptive setup continuously optimizes damper settings to match road conditions and driving demands. The basic premise of such technology is the ability of the suspension to vacillate between firm and soft settings depending on whether the vehicle is engaged in spirited cornering or relaxed cruising on relatively smooth roads at moderate speeds. Acura has added a "Comfort Ride" setting to the MDX's adaptive arrangement; a button on the centre console activates this program.

Admittedly, my technical explanation of Acura's adaptive Sport Suspension is shallow to say the least. More important to readers is my evaluation of its effectiveness. With Comfort Ride engaged, the MDX finds the elusive sweet spot in the ride-versus-handling paradox. Comfort Ride programming removes the edge, or sharpness, in the suspension's articulation while adding a little more float between oscillations. The result - consisting of reduced jarring and improved absorbency - is tremendously pleasing.

Is handling significantly compromised? In a word, no. Sure, I can provoke slightly more body lean in hard cornering, and rapid weight transitions aren't as effectively constrained as they are with the regular program yet the contrast is subtle at best.

The Super Handling logo located on the rear-end of the vehicle.
The Comfort Ride program most closely matched my driving preference; at no point did I see a need to deactivate it. Perhaps Acura's Super Handling technology, which can direct power to the outside wheels during a turn, compensates for milder damper rates. Whatever the case, I was impressed.

It wasn't only the ride and handling qualities of the MDX that hit the positive column during my time behind its nicely contoured wheel. Acura has done a commendable job of visually transforming the MDX into a distinctive-looking unit.