2004 Acura MDX
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Changes to the latest version of the Acura MDX sport-utility vehicle promise to help it maintain its considerable popularity.
The 2004 model gets revised styling, more power and additional safety features, although its third-row seat area is best suited to diminutive occupants.
The all-wheel-drive MDX is from Honda's upscale Acura division and has been a hit since introduced for 2001 because it's above-average in most respects and is loaded with equipment.
Forget serious off-road driving because there's no low-range gearing with the all-wheel-drive setup, which does let the MDX normally cruise in front-wheel-drive mode to save fuel.
Added for the 2003 model were an optional DVD entertainment system and a rearview television camera that shows what's behind when backing up, along with a new engine with 20 additional horsepower.
A new tire-pressure monitoring system uses sensors in the valve stem of each wheel to alert a driver via an indicator when pressure in one or more tires falls significantly below the recommended level. Also new are head-protecting side-curtain airbags for all three rows of seats in case of a side collision or rollover.
Equipment levels significantly affect list prices. The base MDX costs $36,400 and has enough equipment to satisfy most buyers. The $39,000 Touring version adds such items as a front power passenger seat and higher-line sound system.
Prices top the $40,000 mark to cost $41,200 with a navigation system and rearview camera and go to $42,700 with a navigation system and DVD player.
The MDX has lots of power and weighs a hefty 4,451 pounds. Fuel economy thus is only an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. Moreover, premium fuel is required.
Fun to Drive
Stability is enhanced by a Vehicle Stability Assist system. That system works with the all-wheel-drive system and electronic "drive-by-wire" throttle control system to provide enhanced control during acceleration, cornering and braking. The brake pedal has a linear feel, and stopping distances are short during moderately hard braking.
Occupants sit high in the quiet interior, which has supportive front seats. Gauges are backlit even during the day for quick reading, and the large, nicely placed controls are easily used. There are plenty of cupholders, and doors have storage pockets.
There isn't much cargo room in the quiet, upscale interior with the third seat in its upright position. Second- and third-row seats fold flat to the floor for a large cargo area.
The refined MDX has a lot going for it, but it faces formidable new rivals such as the BMW X3 and Volkswagen Touareg.