What's New for 2002
Introduced last year, Acura's capable SUV receives only minor changes for 2002. There are four new exterior colors, and enhancements have been made to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) for a quieter, more comfortable ride.
Acura may be late to the SUV party, but it's decided to come dressed to the nines with a uniquely transformable interior wrapped in an angularly attractive skin supported by a four-wheel independent suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels.
With its standard 240-horsepower 3.5-liter VTEC V6 (which meets ULEV regulations nationwide) and electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission, the MDX delivers better performance than many of its competitors. With an estimated EPA rating of 17 city and 23 highway, the MDX is also one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs in its class.
Power travels to the wheels through Acura's Variable Torque Management (VTM) full-time four-wheel-drive system, which uses sensors to determine the vehicle's dynamic position and transfers engine torque to the wheels with the most grip. Unlike conventional automatic 4WD systems, Acura's proactively distributes engine torque during acceleration before wheel slip occurs. Unlike a Mercedes ML320, the MDX doesn't have a 4WD-low gear range, and the trailer towing capacity is low (at 3,500 pounds) for its class.
In terms of appearance, the MDX includes Acura's signature pentagon grille, clean headlamp treatment and sharply chiseled front fascia, but with a muscular look appropriate to an SUV. Some of us find the bulky nose a bit off-putting, but from most viewpoints, the MDX is quite a looker. We like to think of it as a luxury off-road minivan that you can take through the brush all day, and the valet will still front-line it for you when you reach Spago for lunch.
Inside, the MDX features second- and third-row seats that split and fold flat into the floor, creating an interior that can be easily reconfigured from seven-passenger hauler (though we wouldn't recommend trying to cram adults into the third row) to a flat-floor Home Depot runner in a matter of seconds. Large, flowing shapes dominate the instrument panel and center console, which is highlighted by woodgrained trim.
The MDX comes with a comprehensive list of standard equipment, including leather seating surfaces (on first- and second-row seats), eight-way power and heated front seats, side airbags for front passengers, keyless entry, power moonroof, automatic climate control and a multi-function digital trip computer.
Opt for the Touring Model and the front seat positions become linked to the key fob remotes, plus you get a 200-watt Acura/Bose stereo with in-dash six-disc CD changer as well as a handy roof rack. An optional DVD navigation system, mapped for all the 48 contiguous states, is also available.
Like most other Acuras, and Hondas, for that matter, the MDX is meticulously engineered to serve a specific purpose, much like a good set of Craftsman tools. There is no doubt that this attribute is attractive, as evidenced by Honda's sales successes over the years. But the MDX is not given to whimsy or flair. Consumers desiring a more impudent SUV should look elsewhere.