With the BMW X5 in its crosshairs, Acura designers made the new MDX look sportier with a longer and wider shadow, sleek cutlines, and a lower profile. Behind the wheel, the first thing you'll notice are the seats; they're significantly sportier, offering more rib and hip bolster support. Even the console-mounted shifter has moved closer to the driver and is tilted to allow for quick-throw shifts when in manual mode.

At its heart is an all-new all-aluminum 3.7-liter V-6, producing 300 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 275 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm and a new five-speed automatic transmission that offers SportShift manual mode. With almost 50 more horsepower than the previous 3.5-liter V-6, the bigger engine actually weighs 17 pounds less. Likewise, the five-speed transmission is more sophisticated and stronger, holding gears longer where appropriate, up- or downhill, as well as being able to sense aggressive driving. Moving the shift lever laterally, from Drive to Manual, gives the driver complete shift control, with the transmission gear displayed on the tach face.

All MDXs will have Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system that allows the rear wheels to provide intelligent power, as well as thrusting the vehicle forward in hard cornering. A small amount of additional power can be sent to one of the rear wheels to prevent a spin. We played (quite hard, actually) with the V-8 Volvo XC90, I-6 BMW X5, and V-6 Porsche Cayenne on a 12-turn, rise-and-fall racetrack (in both dry and pouring rain conditions, including a few near-miss lightning strikes) and were impressed with the speed and subtlety of the SH-AWD system as it allowed those wheels with traction, front or back (right or left rear) to pull the SUV into and out of hard corners. Only the Cayenne gave it a run for its money.

In addition, Acura offers an Active Damper System on all Sport package models with the Delphi-designed active shock absorbers. The system uses metal in a fluid and an electrical current to change from stiff to soft settings. The ADS flattens cornering, tightens up steering feel, minimizes harsh rebound, and most important, improves overall traction by keeping the tires on the ground. An on/off switch on the center armrest lets you toggle between Sport (the default) and Comfort settings.

Front passengers get sporty seats, but middle- and third-row seats are stiff. Cargo capacity for the new vehicle is substantial with 83.5 cubic feet behind the front row, 42.9 cubic feet behind the second, and 15.0 behind the third. All MDXs have a 5000-pound towing capacity and tranny cooler standard, as well as a special software program designed to prevent trailer wag.

Base-model MDX units will start around $42,000, with fully loaded Sport models (equipped with Technology and Entertainment packages) to run around $48,000.

2007 Acura MDX
Price range $42,000-$48,000
Layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door
Engine 3.7L/300-hp V-6, SOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Transmission 5-speed automatic
0-60 mph, sec 7.5 (est)
On sale Currently