There are all sorts of luxurious SUVs on the market, including models such as the BMW X5, the Mercedes M-Class, the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7. But one Canadian-made SUV stands out from the crowd with its proven track record on the road.
It's the 2009 MDX, Acura's flagship SUV built at Honda's manufacturing facility in Alliston, Ont. For 2009, the MDX comes in three trims: a base model at $52,500, a Technology trim at $57,200, and an Elite version at $62,200. Personally, I'd skip the Elite trim, stick with the base model and pocket the extra cash.
After all, the base trim is well-equipped with a power moon roof, cruise control, a power tilt and telescoping steering column and heated front and heated second-row outboard seats. The Technology trim adds a navigation system, a backup camera and power tailgate.
My Elite test vehicle is filled with luxurious appointments and extras such as auto-levelling front headlamps, an active damper system, a 115-volt power outlet and a DVD entertainment system with 9-inch display, integrated remote control and wireless headsets with surround sound.
From the outside, the MDX is conservative in design although I do like its strong, chiselled face, dark tinted glass and 18-inch Euro silver aluminum-alloy wheels.
Its step-in is high, but once you're in the driver's seat you have a commanding view of the road ahead.
The cabin is spacious with three rows of seats for seven passengers. The front leather seats are comfortable and tightly bolstered for extra support.
A 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat including power lumbar support makes it easy to find a suitable driving position. Once you have it, you can save the settings and store the driver's seat, steering column, side mirrors and climate control settings in the two-position memory system.
The 60/40 second-row seats offer ample head- and legroom. The 50/50-split, folding third-row bench seats are best suited for kids rather than adults.
When all seats are in use, the cargo area is small. But if you drop the third- and second-row seats, there's 2,364 litres of room.
The seats also fold down easily to create a flat cargo floor. Four cargo area tie-down anchors also keep goodies from shifting around while driving.
A power tailgate makes it easy to load and unload items when your hands are full of grocery bags. There are plenty of storage compartments and cup holders, including a deep centre console, door pocket storage bins, a huge lockable glove box, a hidden rear storage well, a second-row folding centre armrest with cup holders and a compartment for sunglasses.
The interior is impressive with high-quality materials such as real wood, lavish leather and brushed metal accents. But the dashboard is very busy with many small, similar-looking buttons that are hard to decipher. You have to take your eyes off the wheel to find some functions.
While the navigation system is more user-friendly than most, it's still distracting to operate. However, the upgraded audio system is great; it has a 410-watt premium sound system with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, an in-dash six-disc CD changer, satellite radio and AM/FM/MP3/WMA capability.
A DVD rear entertainment system is optional - it features a nine-inch LCD colour display, integrated remote control and wireless headsets for rear-seat riders to pass the time.
Powering the MDX is a 3.7-litre V-6 engine with 300 horsepower and 275 lb-ft torque. Paired to the engine is a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode shifter, which lets you change gears manually via the gear shifter. The transmission is refined; the gear changes smooth and precise.
On the road, the MDX is supple and quiet with little wind, engine or road noise seeping into the cabin. At times, there is moderate body lean when cornering.
Although large, the SUV doesn't feel cumbersome to drive. Parking, however, can be tricky at times. An excellent rear-view camera helps. The power, heated side-view mirrors also tilt down when you're in reverse to improve side visibility. The MDX can also tow 2,268 kg.
Acura's all-wheel-drive system offers excellent traction on rain-slicked roads. Other standard safety equipment includes electronic stability control, four-wheel ABS with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, traction control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, dual front airbags, front side airbags and third-row side curtains.
It's also kid friendly with LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) child-seat mounting positions in the second-row and child-proof rear door locks.
The Acura MDX also achieved impressive crash test results. It was named a Top Safety Pick in the mid-size SUV category by the U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. It received a "good" rating in frontal, side and rear crash tests.
The Acura MDX is a Canadian-made success story - too bad Acura doesn't advertise this little-known fact a bit more.
2009 ACURA MDX ELITE
Type: Luxury mid-size SUV
Engine: 3.7-litre, SOHC, V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 300 hp/275 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city/10.0 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW X5, Lexus RX350, Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne
- Top safety pick
- Ride and handling
- Made in Canada
- Busy centre console
- Tight fit in third-row seats