With Acura focused on launching its redesigned TL, TSX, and a refreshed RL, it should come as no surprise that the 2009 Acura MDX receives minimal changes for the third year of its second-generation run. Given the recent controversy surrounding the styling of the three aforementioned cars, that's probably a good thing. In 2007, the freshly redesigned MDX finished a respectable second to the Mazda CX-9 (which went on to become our 2008 Sport/Utility of the Year) in a three-way comparison, where it was dubbed the "driving enthusiast's CUV."

As before, the 2009 MDX is powered by a 3.7L V-6 with 300 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque on tap, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The combination nets the MDX a fuel-economy rating of 15/20 mpg city/highway -- not exactly class-leading. The MDX is equipped with Acura's high-tech SH-AWD system, which is capable of sending as much as 100% of the total power to just one wheel. The MDX's handling prowess is due in large part to what Acura calls a "Nurburgring-tuned" four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear setup. Stopping power comes from 13-in. vented discs front and 13.2-in. solid discs rear sitting behind 18-in. wheels with four-wheel ABS and Brake Assist, an active safety system designed to apply full brake pressure more quickly in rapid braking situations.

Inside, the MDX boasts seven-passenger seating, tri-zone climate control, a 10-way power driver's seat, eight-way power passenger seat, and an eight-speaker, 253-watt audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD-changer with WMA and MP3 capability, auxiliary input jack, and XM radio. Those who love their sound can upgrade to a 410-watt, 10-speaker system engineered by Elliot Scheiner by opting for the technology package, which adds a navigation system, satellite-linked communication and traffic system (Dayton, Ohio, joins the list of covered metro areas for 2009) and power tailgate -- another change for 2009. Previously, the power tailgate was part of the optional entertainment package, which includes a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, heated rear seats, and a 115-volt power outlet.