Some siblings fare better than others. Consider the 2010 Acura MDX and Honda Pilot, mid-size sport-utility offspring of the same corporate parent, Honda, sharing the same "light-truck" platform.
If cost were no obstacle to customer considerations, the likelihood is that the like-structured Pilot would go begging for buyers.
It's not a matter of the Pilot being a bad SUV. In fact, it's one of the best available -- blessed with Honda's usually excellent fit and finish, thoughtful interior detail, all-around safety, good road performance and longevity.
The Acura MDX has all of the same attributes. But like a favored child at a festive family dinner, it wins more smiles and gobbles up most of the available attention.
It looks better than the Pilot, at least on the inside, which, in this case, speaks to tangible reality as opposed to spiritual beauty. The MDX feels richer, more comfortable -- especially the MDX Advance/Entertainment version driven for this column. And unlike the Pilot, it does not embrace a middle-class concept of democracy.
If you want the MDX, you must accept it with all-wheel drive, which is the only way it's offered. The Honda Pilot, by comparison, gives you a choice: front-wheel-drive for those of you more in need of better fuel economy than better traction, or all-wheel drive for those of you whose psyches have been permanently damaged by the winter of 2009-10.
There's something else, which seems to happen in all families, especially among sisters, in which the favored child holds sway. To wit: The favored child seems to get a tad more of everything.
The Acura MDX, for example, gets a larger engine: a 3.7-liter V-6 (300 horsepower/270 foot-pounds of torque) compared with a 3.5-liter V-6 (250 hp/253 ft-lbs of torque) for the all-wheel-drive Honda Pilot.
The Honda SUV gets a six-speed automatic transmission. The Acura model gets a six-speed transmission that can be shifted automatically or manually, plus something else.
The Acura MDX comes with what vehicle manufacturers call "descent control," which is best thought of as "driving all-wheel-drive vehicles downhill for dummies." Simply stated, descent control employs a computerized relationship between engine power, braking and acceleration to prevent a steep decline from becoming a long-term hospitalization or eternal incline. It works well on the MDX.
In terms off measurements, the MDX is a wee bit longer (191.6 inches vs. 190.9) and shorter (68.2 inches vs. 72.7) than the Pilot. But their widths are exactly the same at 78.5 inches.
The slight differences in measurements give the Acura MDX a longer, sleeker look. But both have somewhat unfortunate faces: a bulldog visage for the Pilot and a Darth Vader-like, mean-girl physiognomy for the MDX.
I would like to tell you that there is a marked difference in handling and acceleration between the all-wheel-drive MDX and the Pilot. But there isn't. You can go to jail, the hospital or to the graveyard in either one if you exceed posted speed limits or try to defy the laws of physics on an icy road.
But, all said, I'd much prefer to go in the MDX. It's just plain nicer than its sister, Pilot. It has more toys -- for example, a blind-side warning system to alert you to traffic approaching left or right on the vehicle's blind sides. Images on the dashboard-mounted screen and the ceiling-mounted rear entertainment screen are clearer, sharper. The premium sound system sounds more, hmm, premium.
-- Clarification: I inadvertently dropped the mileage numbers from last week's joint review of the Cadillac SRX crossover and the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. Combined city/highway mileage for the SRX was 21 mpg. It was nearly 23 mpg for the CTS Sport Wagon.
Brown is a special correspondent.
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