2002 Acura MDX

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2003 Acura MDX

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

The MDX is better than ever with all its improvements and new features.
Pros:
  • More power
  • New stability control system
  • Optional new rear television camera
Cons:
  • Fuel-thirsty
  • Snug third seat area
  • Not for serious off-road driving

Significantly more power, a standard stability control system and even an available new rearview television camera are among features that should keep the Acura MDX one of the most popular midsize sport-utility vehicles.

The all-wheel-drive MDX has been a hit since its arrival for 2001 as the first Acura-designed SUV. Its alluring combination of performance, luxury, refinement and competitive pricing has never allowed it to even begin collecting dust in showrooms.

The MDX is from Honda's upscale Acura division. It shares its basic design with the Honda Pilot, and the lineage of both can be traced to the carlike Honda Odyssey minivan. Such sharing of designs and components among successful vehicles helps hold down costs of attractive new models.

The stylish 4-door MDX has base prices ranging from $35,700 to $42,000. It comes as a base version and in four Touring trim levels.

All Touring versions have items such as a power front passenger seat, upgraded sound system with an in-dash 6-disc CD player and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Well Equipped
But MDX buyers shouldn't feel deprived if their budgets only allow the base version because it has a front-rear climate control system, remote keyless entry, power sunroof, AM/FM/cassette/CD player, tilt wheel with audio controls.

There's also leather upholstery for the first two seat rows, cruise control, heated front seats and power windows, mirrors and door locks.

Tight Third Row Seat
There are three rows of seats, but the third seat area is best suited to two short adults or children because of scarce legroom. Front-row bucket seats are supportive in curves and comfortable during straight-ahead driving. The second-row seat slides fore and aft—and allows three-across seating for average size adults.

Second- and third-row seats split and fold into the floor to open up an impressive 82 cubic feet of cargo space. However, there isn't much cargo room with all seats in their normal position.

More Power
Horsepower of the 3.5-liter V6 has been raised from 240 to 260, which allows quicker merging into fast traffic and passing on highways. The overhead-camshaft, 24-valve engine works with a compact new 5-speed automatic transmission.

On the downside, fuel economy is an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway, and premium fuel is called for. But then, one can't expect much more from a powerful sport-ute that weighs 4,420 to 4,504 pounds.

Low Emissions
On the bright side, fuel economy ratings are unchanged from 2002, despite the added power. And Acura said the V6 meets emissions requirements not called for until 2005.

Eliminating the need for a mechanical connection between the accelerator pedal and engine is a new drive-by-wire throttle system. It controls the throttle during transmission shifts for improved smoothness—a key asset with high-line sport-utilities.

Other significant new features are an all-wheel-drive system recalibrated to improve performance, particularly on low-friction surfaces. But off-road abilities are limited because there is no low-range gearing.

Smoother Ride
A smoother ride is provided by a retuned all-independent suspension, but not at the sacrifice of precise handling. The MDX often does feel like a big, comfortable sedan, thanks to such features as a wide track, low center of gravity and wide tires on large 17-inch wheels.

More Stability
However, the 68.7-inch-high MDX still is fairly tall, and thus benefits from Acura's new Vehicle Stability Assist system. The system works with the all-wheel drive and drive-by-wire systems to provide better control during acceleration, braking and cornering.

Steering has been refined to enhance road feel and reduce kickback on poor roads. Improved front brake calipers improve stopping abilities with the standard anti-lock brake system. Electronic brake force distribution allows better control during emergency stops.

New Safety Features
Front side airbags remain standard, but new safety items include dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags and additional front airbag sensors that determine front-passenger occupant weight and position.

The list of improvements goes on—and on. For example, the MDX is sturdier because body rigidity has been increased 35 percent by reinforcing components such as the rear subframe and tailgate.

Redesigned alloy wheels make the MDX look sportier, and there are newly standard mudguards.

Other new features include automatic on-off headlights and automatic-up driver's-side window.

Rearview Camera
About that intriguing rearview camera: It's deftly integrated into the tailgate and shows objects behind the MDX via the navigation system's dashboard screen, when reverse gear is engaged.

The new-generation, satellite-linked Acura Navigation System has a new voice recognition system, upgraded graphics and expanded database with more than 7 million points of interest. However, the system raises the MDX price to $40,500.

Entertainment System
Also new is a rear DVD entertainment system with headphones and a 7-inch LCD screen in the headliner. It can be controlled with front audio controls or from the rear seats via a remote control—or with the screen's control panel.

Order an MDX Touring with the navigation and entertainment systems and you're staring at a $42,000 list price.

But, with all its improvements and new features, the MDX is more desirable than ever.

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BB05 - 9/20/2014 3:42:45 AM