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ACURA HINTS AT TWO NEW MODELS FOR EARLY 2000

Honda Canada will reveal the sport-utility to be built at the company's Alliston plant at the Detroit auto show on January 11 and is currently showing off an artist's sketch of the actual vehicle.

Not much is known about the vehicle, which will debut bearing the Acura MD-X badge in Detroit's Cobo Hall as part of the North American International Auto Show and is likely to remind people more of the Lexus RX 300 and the BMW X5 rather than a Ford Explorer or Jeep Grand Cherokee. That is to say, it seems more car than truck and will likely be more at home on-road than off.

All Honda will say is that it "represents Acura's vision of the next generation SUV, emphasizing on- and off-road performance combined with a host of technological and design innovations."The MD-X has "distintive Acura styling cues," Honda says, pointing to the pentagram grille and the jeweled headlights. As well, "Large diameter wheels with specially designed tires allow for high-performace driving on-road while generous ground cleaance ensures confident off-road capability."

Because it bears the upscale Acura name, the MD-X will get "individual bucket seats and extensive interior appointments that ensure a luxurious ride."

Acura will also debut the next generation of its coupe model, the 3.2CL, early in the new year, but at the Los Angeles auto show that runs a week before the Detroit show.