2011 Acura MDX
Maybe it's just too complicated
WE LIKE: Mechanical upgrades highlighted by its new engine and
transmission and SH-AWD system's razor handling.
WE DON'T LIKE: Mechanical complexity, ergonomic confusion, and menacing styling.
The Acura MDX must have been baffled by its experience at this year's SUV of the Year festivities. Here's a vehicle that loudly answers what's perhaps the automotive press' single biggest gripe about SUVs-that they drive like oatmeal on the road-with a brilliant technological reply, and it doesn't even make the cut to Round Two. What's up with that?
As Lassa put it, "You really don't use the MDX's SH-AWD system unless you get into the throttle in a turn. And I really don't care to get into the throttle much while turning in a high-profile vehicle like this. SH-AWD is more useful in lower sedans." That thunderclap you just heard was the simultaneous forehead slap of every product planner in the Honda empire.
However, the opinion wasn't unanimous. Said Lago, "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive is aptly named. It provides a downright surprising amount of rotation-I even experienced some decent oversteer around the autocross." The testing director (that's me) rather liked it too, but I'm afraid the majority viewed it as simply more weight and complexity than benefit. Just reporting the facts, as they say.
Elements that got the majority's approval included the new 3.7-liter V-6 that sports a higher compression ratio, a stronger crankshaft and sturdier connecting rods, a more rigid block, and improved cooling. Though the engine's power rating is unchanged, the rpm spread between its horsepower and torque peaks has considerably widened, a good thing for driveability. And combined with the brainy new six-speed paddle-shift transmission, it returns a nice 1-mpg improvement in combined mileage.
Unfortunately, the MDX's visual revisions, which bring it in line with the brand's official "face," perhaps shouldn't have. The guillotine grille is downright scary, and its whole presence seems more weapon-like than handsome. And the interior? "C'mon, Acura, this center stack isn't working," noted Lago. That army of buttons blitzkriegs my psyche every time I want to change the stereo." And blitzkrieged psyches don't recommend SUV of the Year winners. -Kim Reynolds
| 2011 Acura MDX |
| Base price || $43,440 |
| Price as tested || $54,965 |
| Vehicle layout || Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV |
| Engine || 3.7L/300-hp/270-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6 |
| Transmission || 6-speed automatic |
| Curb weight (f/r dist) || 4600 lb (56/44%) |
| Wheelbase || 108.3 in |
| Length x width x height || 191.6 x 78.5 x 68.2 in |
| 0-60 mph || 7.1 sec |
| Quarter mile || 15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph |
| Braking, 60-0 mph || 132 ft |
| Lateral acceleration || 0.81 g (avg) |
| MT Figure Eight || 27.5 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) |
| EPA city/hwy fuel econ || 16/21 mpg |
| CO2 emissions || 1.08 lb/mile |
| RATINGS |
| ENGINEERING || ***** |
| DESIGN || ** |
| INTERIOR/Functionality || ** |
| PERFORMANCE || *** |
| ON-ROAD REFINEMENT || **** |
| OFF-ROAD ABILITY || ** |
| VALUE || **** |
| BOTTOM LINE |
| Complicated taste for most, sweet handler to some. |