2004 Acura MDX

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2001 Acura MDX

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

Bottom Line:

New, upscale MDX is among the best car-like sport utilities.
Pros:
  • Car-like
  • Roomy
  • Refined
  • Innovative features
Cons:
  • Third seat mostly for kids
  • Moderate cargo room with third seat in place

The sport-utility-vehicle market has become so crowded that it has reached the point where it takes a really good one to stand out. The midsize 2001 Acura MDX is such a sport ute.

Honda took plenty of time developing the 7-passenger MDX for its upscale Acura division. It has sold the SLX sport utility, but that was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper.

Conservative Styling
Honda avoids radical styling, so the MDX generally looks conservative. But it's fairly handsome, with aerodynamics that allow little wind noise at highway speeds. Body-part fits are precise, but there's no protection from parking lot dings.

The MDX costs approximately $35,000, which makes it price-competitive with other high line midsize competitors such as the all-wheel-drive Lexus RX 300 and Mercedes-Benz ML320.

Distinctive All-Wheel Drive
Acura is especially proud of the MDX all-wheel-drive system, which allows this vehicle to outdo rivals in some messy driving situations. The system was specifically designed for the MDX and normally delivers power to the front wheels. But it uses electronic control mechanisms to monitor driving conditions and manages the automatic distribution of engine torque to all wheels for above-average drivability and control in wet, snowy and icy conditions.

Unique Rear Seats
However, most prospective MDX buyers will first notice features such as the cleverly designed third-row split seat; it only holds two passengers but folds into the rear floor and need not be removed to create a large cargo area.

In fact, the second-row seat, which has room for three adults, also splits and folds into the cargo area, which is a sport-utility "first."

The third-row seat doesn't allow much cargo area behind it when in its normal position, and is best suited to children because legroom is scarce back there. It calls for extra effort to reach the third seat, but it isn't too difficult if you're fairly athletic. Not to mention that the second-row seat moves forward to allow entry to it.

The versatile seating can be easily reconfigured to accommodate one to seven people and a variety of cargo. Gardening and recreation equipment fits. So does a 6-foot ladder.

The utility of a sport-utility vehicle has become increasingly important as sport-ute competition has heated up, and Honda made sure the MDX is among the utility leaders in its market.

Thorough Climate Control
Rear passengers get separate heating and cooling equipment built into the center console. And the MDX has what it calls the world's first Synchronized Climate Control System. This system allows simultaneous or independent operation of front and rear air conditioning systems for improved heating, cooling and defogging.

You get a lot for your money with the MDX. For one thing, it's loaded with equipment, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, power sunroof, cruise control, AM/FM/cassette with in-dash CD player, remote keyless entry, and the usual power accessories.

A $2,500 Touring package contains a power front passenger seat, special alloy wheels and a higher-line sound system. And the $2,000 navigation system is among the easiest to use.

Based on Odyssey Minivan
The MDX is based on the platform of the highly successful Honda Odyssey minivan. And it's powered by a strong 3.5-liter 240-horsepower V6 that is a more potent version of the Odyssey V6.

The SOHC engine has variable valve timing and 2-stage intake manifold to maximize output across its entire operating range. The V6 works with a 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that upshifts seamlessly and downshifts quickly.

Lively Acceleration
The MDX weighs in at a hefty 4,328 pounds, and that bulk makes 65-75 mph passing times just average. However, this sport ute does 0-60 mph in a fairly quick 8.8 seconds and is lively in town.

Fuel economy is about what you'd expect with a heavy sport ute: an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. But the automatic allows the V6 to loaf at 2000 rpm at 70 mph.

The MDX is almost as car-like as the Odyssey, helped by a firm-but-supple all-independent suspension and big tires on 17-inch alloy wheels. No need here to order an uplevel suspension and larger wheels and tires for better road manners.

The steering, ride, handling and braking should make most car owners feel at home. However, although it has good road feel, the steering initially called for too many small corrections near the on-center wheel position to keep the MDX in its lane. I got used to that quirk, but the brake pedal always was a little too touchy.

Safety is a big issue with sport utes, so Honda gave its new baby plenty of safety features to shout about. The MDX is designed to help avoid bumper override with cars in frontal impacts and to withstand a 35-mph rear impact with no intrusion into the third-row seating area.

Other safety features include anti-lock brakes and dual-stage frontal airbags.

Classy-looking chromed outside door handles make it easy to enter the MDX even with groceries in your arms, although a little extra effort is needed to climb in and out. A large hatch makes it easy to load the cargo area. And the prominent interior grab handle, which can be yanked to help close the hatch, is a nice touch that will be appreciated over the long run.

High-Quality Interior
The quiet interior has high-grade materials and is very user-friendly. Gauges can be read at a glance and controls work smoothly. Front seats offer unusually good support and forward visibility is excellent, with a large windshield, big outside mirrors and fairly thin roof pillars.

However, the front console storage bin partly gets in the way of the two console-mounted cupholders and may lead to spills. And vanity mirrors on the back of the sun visors don't light up to, say, allow makeup to be applied unless headlights or running lights are on.

Like the Odyssey, the carefully conceived MDX should be a hit, even though it's several years late getting to the party.

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BB05 - 7/30/2014 8:33:09 AM