It was hard to follow a trio of silver Lexus RXs on the freeway -- as I did this morning -- without wondering what on earth could be going through their driver's minds. Whatever it was though, my suggestion would be they quickly see a doctor. Outbreaks of mass automotive repetition like this on our highways need to be nipped in the bud.

Fortunately, there's a treatment for the particular strain I witnessed -- medically referred to as Silver Lexus Crossover Syndrome, I think -- and that's Acura's latest MDX. First of all, the MDX is never, ever, seen in groups of three (let alone two, come to think of it). And while the Acura is a bit pricier than the RX (by about eight percent, comparing AWD base versions), for it you're rewarded with a handles-like-no-other-crossover experience, made better for 2010 by a fairly comprehensive sprucing.

What's spruced most of all is an all-new 3.7-liter V-6 engine featuring a higher compression ratio and a bigger throttle body girded by a stronger crankshaft and connecting rods, a more rigid block, and better cooling. On paper, all this revamping appears to be kind of puzzling, as its maximum power is not only identical to its predecessor's (both offering 300 horses from 3.7 liters), but the new engine's torque actually decreases 5 pound-feet, to 270. The riddle's answer is that the new engine's peak power is at 300 more rpm while its maximum torque appears at 500 fewer revs. In other words, it's tremendously more flexible. It also gets better mileage, by 1 mpg both in the city and on the highway.

Magnifying the MDX's flexibility even further is a new six-speed automatic (replacing the previous five-speeder) that Acura claims to be the most advanced transmission it's ever built. Notably, gears one through 5 are tightly spaced so you're never caught flat-footed, while sixth is a tall, relaxed-cruising cog. And among its various coolnesses are paddle-shifts, grade logic, consultation with the lateral-g level before shifting, hill-start assist, two shift modes, and a transmission cooler.

In addition to Acura's remarkable SH-AWD (Super-Handling All Wheel Drive), which can vector the rear wheel's lateral torque split (and aided by stiffer trailing arm mounts) a new, topline Advanced Entertainment Package offers available 19-inch wheels and magneto-rheological dampers to make the MDX one sweet-handling crossover. Oh, and its new fascia and other visual revisions, should also make the 2010 MDX little easier to remember too, come trade-in time for my numerous RX-driving freeway companions.

At the track, the MDX's numerous technical improvements translate into a sprightly 0-to-60 time of 6.8 seconds - though that number is highly misleading as the MDX's multitude of gears reward it with far quicker downshift reactions than you might expect. And given the MDX's tallish center of gravity, its 120-foot stopping distance from 60 is tolerable, considering its Michelin tires' all-season nature -- which is good for light snow, opines the Tire Rack. However, at 255 mm in width, we suspect you might not comfortably venture into snow much deeper than that.

Those wide tires and their surprisingly squat, 50-series sidewalls (and their accompanying sport-oriented suspension) deliver a decidedly firm ride, so the MDX is probably not a good choice for transporting vials of nitroglycerine or herniated disc patients (and definitely not both). But, gosh, was the MDX ever explosive (and maybe spine dislocating) and around our figure-eight course. Beyond its best lap's respectable 26.7-second time is the lateral-g number generated during the execution - 0.85 g. Gads, that's respectable for a performance car. With MDX's flat stance, quick pickup of cornering grip turning off-center, snap-your-fingers-quick paddle shifts, and extraordinary SH-AWD system, the MDX simply handles better than crossover within multiples of its price.

Negatives (beside that raised flag about ride quality)? While we like the 2010 MDX's visual freshening, its looks continue to suggest a transformer impatient to reconfigure its appearance. And you might have noticed our test MDX's startling $54,565 price.

Understand that ours was the full-boat edition, including navigation system and a multiview rear camera (ingredients of the Tech Package), active dampers, blind spot detection, sport leather seats, and pre-braking for stopping emergencies (grouped under the Advance Package banner) as well as such comforts as a rear DVD display and heated second-row seats (these, part of the Entertainment Package). Remember that our Acura's extraordinary vehicle dynamics can all be for $52,665 by adding the Advance Package alone (and even in base, $43,040 trim, the MDX still includes its SH-AWD system).

And of course, considered as an antidote for that dreaded Silver Lexus Crossover Syndrome I so tragically witnessed on the way to work this morning, it's priceless.


2010 Acura MDX
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front-engine, AWD
Engine type 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
Valvetrain SOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 223.5 cu in/3664 cc
Compression ratio 11.2:1
Power (SAE net) 300 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 270 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Redline 6700 rpm
Weight to power 15.4 lb/hp
Transmission 6-speed auto
Axle/final-drive ratios 4.25:1/2.36:1
Suspension, front; rear Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio 17.0:1
Turns lock-to-lock 3.3
Brakes, f;r 13.0-in vented disc; 13.2-in disc, ABS
Wheels, f;r 8.5 x 19-in, cast aluminum
Tires, f;r P255/50R19 103H, Michelin Latitude Tour HP
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 108.3 in
Track, f/r 67.7/67.5 in
Length x width x height 191.6 x 78.5 x 68.2 in
Ground clearance 8.2 in
Apprch/depart angle 22.2/23.8 deg
Turning circle 37.6 ft
Curb weight 4625 lb
Weight dist., f/r 56/44 %
Towing capacity 5000 lb
Seating capacity 7
Headroom, f/m/r 39.2/38.6/37.5 in
Legroom, f/m/r 41.2/38.7/29.1 in
Shoulder room, f/m/r 61.6/61.5/57.1 in
Cargo volume, behind f/m/r 83.5/42.9/15.0 cu ft
TEST DATA
Acceleration to mph
0-30 2.4 sec
0-40 3.7
0-50 5.2
0-60 6.8
0-70 9.1
0-80 11.4
0-90 14.9
0-100 19.2
Passing, 45-65 mph 3.5
Quarter mile 15.3 sec @ 91.1 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 120 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.85 g (avg)
MT figure eight 26.7 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1750 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Base price $43,040
Price as tested $54,565
Stability/traction control Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 4 yrs/50,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 6 yrs/70,000 miles
Roadside assistance 4 yrs/50,000 miles
Fuel capacity 21.0 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 16/21 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.08 lb/mile
Recommended fuel Unleaded premium
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