2007 Acura MDX: My Take

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Yesterday I spent the day with two of Acura’s new SUVs, the all-new RDX and the redesigned 2007 MDX flagship. The MDX has always been a solid seller, appealing to the perfect demographic of capable and affluent families. Now it has received some flashy grille work and a much cushier — and sportier? — ride. Cars.com’s senior writer Joe Wiesenfelder has already weighed in on the luxury ute in his full review, and I agree with him on almost every level — except when it comes to Acura’s new Active Damper System.

While I do go along with Joe’s assertion that in other applications the ability to alter these systems between different modes is usually not done well, the MDX was definitely the best I’ve tested. After sitting through a technical presentation that was all schematics and talk, I highly doubted a press of a button would radically change the real world feel of such a large SUV. But change it, it did.

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The MDX starts up in Sport mode, taking advantage of the work the Acura boys and girls did trying to best other sporty SUVs like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. In that mode there’s a mild rush — about as much rush as one can get in anything this large, but not quite akin to the Porsche. A manual-shift mode is also standard and helps in straight-ahead acceleration. Driving hard in this baby is almost fun, and that’s hard to say about an SUV. I wish I had gotten the same track time as Joe had so I could have pushed the MDX to further extremes than the long row of shopping centers I was looping allowed.

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Then I decided to see how good the Comfort mode was. There was a four-mile route mapped out on a sheet for us so we didn’t get lost (I’m still waiting for someone to program this into a nav system but, alas, no) and I took the MDX back out on it with the Comfort button pressed in. A little diagram popped up in between the gauges to tell me that I was now riding in comfort. We’ll see about that.

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The streets were wet and bumpy. This is Chicago after all, and if there’s a worse-kept infrastructure of streets and highways I’ve yet to find one (and no, Detroit doesn’t count — that’s a world unto itself). Now that I was paying more attention to the road feel and less to the engine and handling, I realized there wasn’t much to pay attention to. The MDX was super smooth in Comfort mode. It offered a pleasant ride that won’t jostle the kiddies or the groceries. I even drove across two lanes to absorb the maximum amount of bumps trying to simulate the impressive video the PR team showed earlier of the MDX tackling offroad test courses.

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While I was about to pat Acura on the back, I pulled up to the stoplight that signaled I had completed my loop and then pressed the Comfort button again. The little diagram now told me I was going into Sport mode and I took the right turn starting the loop again. This time I could feel the bumps. I could definitely feel the bumps. The difference was not jarring enough for me to discount the MDX outright, but I was more surprised that I could tell the difference between the two modes. Perhaps it was the setting and the rough terrain that made it so glaring. I’ll also say the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport feel a bit rougher than the MDX does in Sport mode, so the Acura team did its job right; they could have settled for that single mode and done just fine.

Now the only question is why the default setting for the MDX is Sport and not Comfort. I would think the majority of users would prefer Comfort, then when Dad wants to make a fast run to the grocery store he has to remember to turn on the Sport button, not the other way around. But that was about the only fault with this new Acura.

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Inside is a study in cost-efficient luxury design, as Acura used a number of films to simulate not only metallic finishes but also exotic wood grains. That’s not real wood? Nope. Will you notice or care? Nope. There are three rows of seating to accommodate seven, and the second row has side bolsters so the kids will feel like they’re riding shotgun. Should a car company pay this much attention to the kiddies? If 75% of MDX buyers have children, as Acura states, than yes. There’s also an improved optional DVD entertainment system in the rear if the kids are really deserving.

Acura still wouldn’t cough up an exact price, but between $40,000 and $48,000 is a pretty accurate estimate for now. If all this whets your whistle, hold on, you still have to wait until November before the MDX shows up on dealership lots. Then you can see if you’re a Comfort or Sport person for yourself.

Related:
2007 Acura MDX Revealed

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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