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2010 Acura MDX
Sweating the details
By Malcolm Gunn
Apparently Acura hasn't heard the old saying, "if it isn't broken, don't fix it."
Honestly, there was nothing wrong with the MDX. In fact, it's one of the company's best-selling models. However, after three seasons on the market, here we are, wondering what all the fuss is about.
From it's introduction for the 2007 model year, the MDX has been positioned as a serious driver's machine that delivers as much enjoyment when wheeling about twisty back-country two-lanes as it is does when tackling boulder-strewn, mud-bog cart paths or churning through mid-winter snow drifts.
Our last test drive showed the vehicle's competency in both extremes, aided by an advanced all-wheel-drive system that is the heart of this multi-purpose luxury-ute.
In fact, Honda's up-market division thinks so highly of its popular "soft-roader" that it has spun off a sportier hatchback variant, called the ZDX, that recently joined the lineup. How's that for flattery.
For the 2010 model year, the MDX was brought back into the shop for visual tweaking and massaging of the mechanicals. The most noticeable change is a new and much-improved nose piece. Acura's signature boat-prow grille design just doesn't work on every model in the fleet, but the revised version for the 2010 MDX can arguably be considered attractive. Add to that a pair of complementing chrome-ringed air intake vents and the vehicle's transformation is indeed impressive. Brighter Light Emitting Diode (LED) taillights are now employed, the lower bumper area has been spruced up and reshaped twin stainless-steel exhaust finishers provide a bolder look.
But the work here is much more than skin deep. There's a more rigid platform, a stiffened rear suspension and retuned (for improved "feel") power steering. A thicker leather-wrapped steering wheel, new gauges and more simplified center-stack controls head the list of interior upgrades.
The MDX runs with a "new" 300-horsepower 3.7-litre V6 that, on the surface, seems unchanged from the 2009 model year. However, Acura explains that it qualifies as new since the cylinder block is now more rigid and many of the internal components (crankshaft, rods, pistons, etc.) have been strengthened or updated. As a result, the MDX's engine produces its peak power at 6,300 rpm (previously 6,000), while the engine's 270 pound-feet torque rating is achieved at 4,500 rpm, instead of 275 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm.
An all-new six-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shift control replaces the outgoing five-speed unit and does its part to help increase both city and highway fuel economy, now rated at 13.2 and 9.6 l/100 km, respectively.
Carrying over is a virtual treasure trove of standard content that has made the MDX - and the entire Acura line for that matter - the envy of its competitors. The highlights include tri-zone climate control, power moonroof, leather seats (heated and power adjustable in front), reclining second-row seat and a remote-controlled power liftgate.
A 253-watt eight-speaker audio system is also standard, but can be upgraded to a 410-watt 10-speaker unit that's part of the optional Technology Package that bundles perforated leather seats, rearview camera and voice-recognition navigation.
Among the other packaged extra-cost features are auto-leveling headlights, adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, active damping that continuously adjusts the shocks according to road conditions and a blind-spot alert that warns when vehicles on either side are about to overtake the MDX.
Acura helped popularize crash-avoidance technology and its available Collision Avoidance Mitigation System applies the brakes should it sense the MDX driver is about to smack into a slower-moving vehicle.
At a starting price of about $54,000, the MDX is neither the most or the least expensive seven-passenger sport-ute in its class, but it's certainly one well equipped, genuinely fun-loving and now thoroughly updated multi-taskers you can buy.
What you should know: 2010 Acura MDX
Type: Four-door, seven-passenger all-wheel-drive premium sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 3.7-litre SOHC V6 (300)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle-shift controls
Market position: The MDX was one of the first sport utes to blend a wide array of high-tech gadgets with significant luxury-oriented standard equipment. The latest edition simply delivers more of the same.
Points: Practical, stylish sport ute firmly established as crowd favourite; Latest 300-horsepower V6 delivers enough muscle to take on most tasks; Controversial Acura grille could put off some buyers; All-wheel-drive system one of the best in the business; Fuel economy rating only slightly improved.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy):13.2/9.6
Base price (incl. destination): $54,000
Buick Enclave AWD
Base price: $47,900
Popular luxury wagon provides lots of interior space and great fuel economy.
Lincoln MKT AWD
Base price: $50,500
Large Ford Flex-based model offers optional 355-horse turbo engine.
Volvo XC90 AWD
Base price: $52,000
Classy seven-passenger luxo-ute features plenty of safety gear, optional V8.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted May 2, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM