The all-new 2007 Acura MDX is built on a proper truck platform, and is not an adaptation of the Accord passenger car platform. It doesn't look larger than last year's MDX, but it is in fact several inches longer and wider. That makes it among the largest vehicles of its type. It offers more space for folks and flotsam inside, totaling almost 143 cubic feet. From its wild new grille to its elaborately stylish cat's-eye headlamps to its huge new taillamps, it's got a more muscular look compared to the original, especially in the areas around the tires. Sporty styling cues include the big, fat dual exhaust tips that look like they belong on a V8, and the hefty five-spoke alloy wheels. Even the Acura badge in the grille has been changed, and is now twice as big as it once was.
The seats are laid out in three rows of two, offering seating for up to seven people. The 10-way driver and 8-way front passenger power seats allow huge adjustment latitude for long-distance comfort.
The new MDX is physically stronger than the previous model, with a more rigid structure that's much more resistant to twisting and bending, beneficial for ride and handling as well as tightness as the vehicle ages.
Powertrain improvements include a larger, more powerful V6 engine, combined with a five-speed manual-shift automatic transmission. The completely updated exterior appearance, which is sportier still than the original, will make it easy to spot the new one. Inside, there is a completely new approach to SUV interior design, a more organic, unified presentation of instruments and controls, a more involving scheme for the driver that should be appreciated by moms and dads alike.
We found the MDX quiet and quick, with nicely weighted steering. The active damper system that comes on the Sport model makes driving the MDX more fun, with a flatter ride and less body roll in the corners. The driver can select between sport and comfort modes for sharper handling or a softer ride. The navigation system, satellite radio, iPod input jack and Bluetooth phone synching make it easy and fun to go down the road.
Acura says the new MDX competes with the BMW X5, the Volvo XC90, the Lexus RX 330, the Mercedes-Benz ML350, as well as the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali. Acura hopes the new MDX will appeal to women who want a sports car but need an SUV.
Acura MDX ($39,995); Technology ($43,495); Sport ($45,595)
The formerly tasty grille has been turned into a metal-filled hole that looks like a battering ram, and the entire side has been rearranged with a new side window arrangement that suggests more sportiness than the original, with converging sheetmetal lines built into the design. Both headlamps and taillamps are heavily sculpted, and there is not one ounce of plastic cladding or side trim, in the same design vein as the original. Very clean, but susceptible to parking lot slams and door dings. The wheel openings, especially the fronts, are very pronounced, for a more sporty stance. Overall, we'd give it an 8.7 for exterior design, remembering that it's essentially a big cargo box on wheels.
This second-generation MDX is more than two inches longer in length and wheelbase than the previous model, with a wider track and a lower stance. The MDX is now larger than its competitors.
Acura's first power tailgate system is available on the MDX with the entertainment package. It can be operated either from the remote key fob, from a button on the driver's door panel, or from a button located inside the tailgate. The location of the tailgate's motor is the D pillar, not the roof, which yields more headroom for the third-row occupants. The tailgate can also be operated manually.
The new dashboard has a high-mounted large navigation screen in the heavily sculpted panel, with all other switches subservient to the big nav center, and carefully orchestrated into about one square foot of dashboard real estate. The two-line readout display for the climate control and entertainment systems uses large segmented figures and is very easy to read and interpret. The compact main instrument pod is housed in one deeply tunneled nacelle, with four even deeper nacelles for the main instruments. If you look at them long enough, they appear to be staring back at you, with bright white-on-black markings and red needles tracking your progress.
The seating is arranged as two front, two center, and two rear, with a third seat available in the second row. There is scant rear legroom in the third row for adults; the third row is strictly for kids. In spatial terms, the interior has 142.2 cubic feet of passenger space. There's 15 cubic feet of cargo behind the third seat, 43 cubic feet with the third row seats folded into the floor, and 83.5 cubic feet with all seats down. Translation: The MDX is competitive in the class.
The 2007 Acura MDX benefits from a completely new platform, suspension, and unit-construction body with a built-in frame and subframes front and rear. The MDX is really stout, some 15 percent stronger in torsional bending and seven percent stronger in lateral bending. This time out, it has 56 percent of its body in high-strength steel as opposed to the original MDX's 13-percent HSLA steel content. It's longer and wider, with a 2.5-inch longer wheelbase and similar gain in overall length.
All that adds up to a quieter ride quality, with zero squeaks, creaks, groans or rattles.
The 300-hp 3.7-liter V6 engine is all-new for this application. Compared to the old 3.5-liter, it has been treated to a hot-rod upgrade, with a bigger bore, bigger stroke, higher compression (11:1, necessitating the use of premium unleaded fuel), and a higher redline (maximum rpm). It makes 47 more horsepower and 25 additional pound-feet of torque compared to the old engine. Acura says it's the most powerful V6 engine in any SUV sold in the U.S. market. It's quick, fast, and quiet, like every Acura engine before it, only more so.
One very significant development has come underneath the lithe lines of the MDX, and that's the active damper system in the Sport package option. These are the fastest-acting shock absorbers in the world, used by Cadillac, Ferrari, Corvette, and Audi, and they make driving an SUV much more sporty, with a flatter ride and less body roll in the corners. A console-mounted switch lets the driver select between sport and comfort modes with the shocks. With the additional power and torque available from the new engine, and the amazing capabilities of the Acura Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system already on board, we wouldn't order an MDX without this new technology.
We drove the MDX in the hill country of western Pennsylvania and eastern West Virginia, and found it to be a delightful traveling partner. The torque-sensing variable power rack-and-pinion steering provided the right amount of help in every situation from parking to very high speed Interstate travel, with nice weight at the wheel and good center behavior. The wheel was connected to big 255/55R18 mud-and-snow tires, very nice to have along, not too noisy, with plenty of cornering grip. Braking performance in those hills was exemplary.
The Acura MDX is all-new for 2007. It's larger now, and sized right for the job. It's aggressively sporty-looking, it's powerful and its suspension was developed on the Nurburgring, so the sportiness is really there. The interior design is especially zoomy, but not at the expense of function and ease of use. They've nailed it, again.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Jim McCraw performed his test drive of the MDX in the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.