Luxurious it is, but don't think Acura's designers forgot the "utility" part of this evaluation. Both of the MDX's 70/30 second- and 50/50 third-row seats split and fold flat into the floor to conveniently handle a variety of people- or cargo-hauling needs. The engineering difficulty of packaging fold-into-the-floor seats into a four-wheel-drive vehicle is significant, but for you this trick means owners don't have to worry about hefting the third seat's weight or where to store it. And all seven seats have headrests and three-point seatbelts.

Only one powertrain choice is available, or required: A powerful V-6, smooth five-speed auto, and all-wheel drive.

A few years ago, it would've been unthinkable for a sport/utility to pack an all-aluminum SOHC V-6 as sophisticated and flexible as the MDX's with variable valve timing and valve-lift control and a two-stage intake manifold. These two deep-breathing technologies contribute mightily to its 240-hp rating-as much as some V-8s-available at 5300 rpm, and 245 lb-ft of torque (95 percent of which is available by 3000 rpm).

Don't feel right about driving an SUV because of environmental issues? All MDX models, built exclusively in Ontario, Canada, meet California's stringent Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) requirements while managing a respectable city/highway rating of 17/23 mpg. That's a new standard for luxury vehicles in this hard-working midsize class. And with its 19.2-gal fuel tank, the MDX will deliver quite good range, if pedaled reasonably.

Speaking of pedaling, check out this rig's acceleration numbers. Sixty arrives in just 8.1 sec. That's as quick as many V-8-powered sport/utilities, and only the best sport coupes sound as good as the MDX doing it.