Subscribe to the Free

One-Year Test Verdict: 2001 Acura MDX

sport/utility of the year--for a reason

John Kiewicz
Jan 16, 2003
Photographers: John Kiewicz, David Newhardt
Photo 2/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx badge View
Only once a year does a single sport/utility take home our Golden Calipers, and for '01, it was the all-new Acura MDX. Honda's upscale nameplate's first homebuilt SUV combines a stylish mix of clean lines, quality materials, luxury presence, and better than expected off-road prowess. Featuring a unibody platform with a cleverly disappearing third-row seat, the MDX impressed the MT staff with its intelligent approach to solving a multitude of issues, including packaging, structural rigidity, and safety. We took delivery of a new MDX, with 12 miles on the odometer, in preparation for 12 months of evaluation in our long-term fleet.
Our fully equipped Nighthawk Black Touring model (with Navigation system) cost $39,450 out the door, a good value at less than $40 grand, and it's covered by a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.
Built as a unibody, the MDX has a high level of bending and torsional rigidity. The result is a stiff body shell, ideal for mounting a sophisticated MacPherson-strut setup at the nose and a fully independent multilink rear suspension. It gave us a polished ride that treated our backsides with more care than most off-road-capable vehicles. Truck Trend Editor Mark Williams said the MDX had "probably the best suspension of any SUV crossover sold in the U.S." Numerous logbook entries also pointed out the carlike handling characteristics: "The more I drive this vehicle, the more I'm glad we picked it as SUV of the Year," and "It rides like a sedan, yet when I wanted to take the 15-plus-mile dirt trail used by the local Jeep tours, the MDX performed quite well on the rut-filled road."
Photo 3/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx front Interior View
This brings up a facet of sport/utility-dom taken more seriously by some makers than others: off-road ability. While most SUVs will never see any harsher road conditions than mud flowing in the gutter past the driveway, the MDX impressed us with its willingness to tackle topography we wouldn't normally want to walk over. Senior Feature Editor Scott Mead noted in the logbook: "It soaked up highway ruts and bumps, yet once we hit the trails, it expertly bounded over terrain only a true 4x4 would dare traverse. Lock the rear diff, and you'll easily play in the sand or rock-strewn trails."
Photo 4/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx top Side Engine View
Although the MDX sports faux wood that resembles reformulated plastic, the seven-passenger leather interior is high quality. The better than average ergonomics allows for a wide range of body sizes and shapes in which to get comfortable. The "Touring" package consists of a two-position driver seat and mirror memory, an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, roof rack, reverse-mode tilting sideview mirror, special light-alloy wheels, and a 200-watt eight-speaker Bose audio system, coupled with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. We also had the in-dash navigation system, a $2000 stand-alone option, but standard in the Touring package. Editorial Assistant Brian Vance noted, "the cupholder cover feels very flimsy. It seems like it would easily snap off if accidentally handled in the wrong fashion." Several others expressed frustration with the need to access some of the HVAC controls via the navigation touch screen, especially when manually adjusting the fan speed. But everyone liked the supportive seats, as noted on one staffer's quick trip to Sedona: "My back felt like it had been behind the wheel for a brief period of time, not all day."
The MDX's Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle 3.5L SOHC V-6 churns out 240 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque, power that's useful when merging onto crazed freeways. Taking only 8.1 sec to reach 60 mph, the engine delivered most of its power at higher revs, allowing it to cruise serenely at above-legal speeds. That it made wonderful sounds while doing so is frosting on the cake--the MDX is an AWD vehicle; it's not a true 4x4, and it doesn't pretend to be. A pair of wet clutches in the rear axle, controlled by the VTM-4 computer, help the MDX extract the most traction from marginal areas. It's better off-road than we expected.
Fuel mileage over the long haul came in at an impressive 21.3 mpg, using premium unleaded. Part of the credit must go to the 0.36 Cd, which also aids in keeping cabin wind noise to a minimum.
Photo 5/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx center Storage Console View
There are a few design issues to pick on, however, and just a few minor service-related problems. The fuel gauge gave us erratic readings, making mileage computations difficult. One staffer wrote: "The notchy shifter is a cheap knockoff of an older Mercedes design, but the ratios are well spaced." Foldable third-row seats came in handy hauling kids, but adults expressed whispers of claustrophobia. When set down, the seats expose a large, useable cargo area, and the rear-mounted 12-volt outlet was appreciated. We noted a hint of torque steer at wide-open throttle, but it was never a cause for concern. Some front-suspension bolts started to rattle, but a trip to the dealer tightened everything up under warranty. Normal service at 7500 miles cost $176.57, while the 15,000-mile service set us back $155.92. Overall, the MDX is a solid, user-friendly, reliable, and inexpensive-to-operate performer.
Photo 6/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx rear Cargo Load View
At the end of our four seasons with the Acura, we had logged 15,676 miles. It had proven it was the right choice for '01 Sport/Utility of the Year, and we were sorry to see it leave the garage.
Photo 7/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx rear Seat Fold Down View
From the Logbook

"The term 'surprising' doesn't even begin to describe the MDX and its capabilities. It rides like a sedan, hauls like a station wagon, and tackles off-road trails like a truck. A Jack of all trades? Perhaps. A well-thought-out and executed SUV? Definitely."
--Scott Mead
Photo 8/11   |   2001 Acura Mdx navigation View
"A 200-mile round trip to Santa Barbara and back with 22.9 mpg!! Wow! If there's a midsize SUV out there that gets similar mileage, I've never driven it. Spectacular. And the MDX doesn't mind a throttle romp every so often."
--Mark Williams
"The engine is sprightly and smooth, never wanting for passing power. The MDX drives and feels surprisingly light. But it's no lightweight on the road."
--Thomas Voehringer
"Combines the best of car, truck, and SUV into one great package. Tight, car-like handling let us carve corners with ease, yet wasn't so rough as to require a kidney belt."
--John Kiewicz
"There's a lot to like about the MDX, mostly in that it serves the needs most people have for a mid-luxury SUV. The "magic" rear seat is truly that. It serves up a polished driving experience, will do more than its share of off-road work, and represents good value and high feature content for the money. Those climate controls are maddening, but, otherwise, a good piece."
--Matt Stone
What's New, Changed, Different
For '02, Acura installed new diffuser side mirrors, a sound-absorbing roof lining, thicker windshield glass, and a layer of Thinsulate insulation in key areas of the interior to reduce noise transmission. Four new colors were added. Model-year '03 brings a power increase, from 240 hp to 260. The suspension has been tweaked toward a sportier feel, and a new DVD rear-seat entertainment setup is available to keep passengers smiling.
 {{{2001 Acura MDX}}}
Drivetrain layoutFront engine, awd
Engine type60* V-6, alum block and heads, SOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc211.8 / 3471
Max horsepower @ rpm{{{240}}} @ 5300
Max torque @ rpm245 @ 3000
Transmission5-speed automatic
Suspension, front; rearMacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar, multilink w/trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes, front; rear11.8-in vented disc, 12.3-in solid disc, ABS
Wheels17x6.5, cast-alum alloy
Tires235/65R17 Michelin Cross Terrain
Traction controlYes
Wheelbase, in106.3
Length, in188.5
Width, in76.3
Height, in68.7
Curb weight, lb4387
Seating capacity5-7
Cargo capacity, cu ft81.5
Fuel capacity, gal19.2
0-60 mph, sec8.1
1/4 mile, sec @ mph16.3 @ 84.3
Braking, 60-0 mph, ft139
Skidpad, g0.74
{{{600}}}-ft slalom, mph{{{57}}}.3
Total mileage15,676
Avg test mpg21.3
Problem areasNone
Non-warr cost$176.57 (7500-mi svc), $155.92 (15K-mi svc)
Base price$34,370
Price as tested$39,450
Current value, wlsl/rtail$34,790/$39,165 (Kelley Blue Book)
AirbagsDual front, front side
EPA mpg, city/hwy17/23
Range, city/hwy, miles326/442
Basic warranty4 yrs/50,000 miles
Powertrain warranty10 yrs/{{{100}}},000 miles
Roadside assistance2 year/unlimited miles
RecallsSeatbelt harness replacement
Photo 9/11   |   2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer front Side View
2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer
·Base engine: 4.2L/270-hp I-6
·Opt engine: None
·0-60 mph, sec: 7.7
·Fuel economy: 15/21
·Price range: $26,510-$37,000
·What's hot: Torquey inline-six
·What's not: Only a four speed auto
·What's new: Longer EXT version with V-8 power
Photo 10/11   |   2002 Infiniti Qx4 front View
2002 Infiniti QX4
·Base engine: 3.5L/240-hp V-6
·Opt engines: None
·0-60 mph, sec: 9.6
·Fuel economy: 15/19
·Price range: $34,695-$41,000
·What's hot: Refined, upscale interior
·What's not: High price challenges value
·What's new: V-8 FX45 replacement in '03
Photo 11/11   |   2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited front Side View
2001 Mitsubishi Montero Limited
·Base engine: 3.5L/200-hp turbo V-6
·Opt engine: None
·0-60 mph, sec: 10.3
·Fuel economy: 13/18
·Price range: $33,000-$37,000
·What's hot: An absolute mule off-road
·What's not: Thirsty for a V-6
·What's new: 3.8L engine for '03



Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend

Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power

Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to: