The definition of what a “car” is has certainly changed in the past ten or twelve years. No longer can we refer to only something with a low roofline as a car, and use the word truck to describe a vehicle that occupies a higher vertical space on the road.
For instance, the Acura MDX resembles a sports utility vehicle and can do many of the chores an SUV might be asked to perform. Carrying large amounts of cargo is one example, and having room for lots of people is another. The profile, seat count and large hatch on the rear would seem to exclude Acura’s luxury crossover from being included in a discussion of luxury sport sedans.
But wait, it’s not that easy. The MDX is also blessed with car-like ride and handling, and can serve as an alternative to a sedan. After a week behind the wheel exercising its powerful V6 engine and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (Acura’s trademarked term), I’m convinced that it could keep up with or surpass many so-called sport or luxury sedans.
True, it’s much taller than a sedan and pretty heavy at 4,600 pounds. But it passed my own special handling test with flying colors. You see, there’s this certain freeway on-ramp that’s the most perfectly banked set of sporty s-turns that the State of California ever accidentally built. I’ve flung many a test car over this particular entrance ramp, as it’s well suited to safely wring out a vehicle’s road dynamics without technically breaking any laws. I just need to wait until the right time of day, when traffic is light, and it’s full speed ahead.
The 2010 MDX hung on, bit down, revved up its 300 horsepower engine, and actually surprised me by how well it stuck to the curves and just made quick work of the long, twisty ramp. I almost wanted to go back and do it again, but I was actually using the ramp to get somewhere, not just to test the limits of the Acura’s grip.
While SUVs have gotten a bad name in some circles, the (not so secret) secret is that the crossover sport utilities, or CUVs as some car companies have taken to calling them, are really just cars with larger bodies on them. The MDX traces its roots to the Honda Odyssey minivan. And minivans trace their roots to contemporary sedans. If there had been no Honda Accord, there would be no Honda Odyssey. And if there had been no Odyssey there would have been no Acura MDX.
It was not quite ten years ago that the MDX first rolled into Acura showrooms, and it was an almost immediate hit. The upscale brand from Honda had been on a roll since the late 1980s, but it needed to spread its wings, so the MDX offered a roomier choice for Acura customers who wanted to move up in size but stay with the brand they loved. We’re now in the second generation of MDX (with a mild restyling for 2010) and although there’s formidable competition from almost every other luxury brand, Acura’s CUV still holds its own.
Part of Acura’s strategy in the marketplace has been to showcase technology. It was first to offer both Bluetooth phone connection as well as real-time traffic map information in its navigation screen. Now, they’ve added some other things to the newest MDX. Some we’ve seen on other makes (radar-guided cruise control and blind spot warning, for example), and one new feature is exclusive to Acura so far, available on both the MDX and new ZDX: the multi-view camera system.
Rear-view cameras have become almost commonplace on newer vehicles, especially upscale ones. They’re a great safety feature and make parking much easier, and Acura has taken the reverse camera one step further. By simply pushing a button, the driver can select the field of view from the camera’s lens. Normal shows a somewhat wide view, while a “wide” setting brings even more surrounding objects into view. The third setting shows a top-down view which can be handy when trying to back into a stall.
The multi-view rear camera is part of the optional Technology Package, which brings the price of an MDX to $45,905. The base model is $42,230, and the top configuration is called the Advance Package. With the Entertainment Package (DVD player and flip-down video screen for rear seat passengers) it carries a bottom line price of $53,755. The Advance Package includes the aforementioned high-tech safety systems like the advanced cruise control, the blind spot warning system and a pre-collision system.
I used to think that anything this big and tall was not a car, but a truck. That run up the twisty onramp — as well as a very comfortable 100 mile round trip on the freeway — convinced me otherwise about the Acura MDX. It’s a very nice car.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He’s also a car enthusiast and owns several classics. Dave can be reached at TVCarz @ pacbell.net