The 2010 Acura MDX has been loaded down with technology like no SUV before. That's a good thing, as that tech solves so many of the problems inherent to the SUV form factor.
The 2010 MDX retains the 2008 model's torque-vectoring SH-AWD, adding re-tuned Active Dampers a new 6-speed, paddle-equipped automatic transmission, larger 13-inch front, 13.2-inch rear brake discs, optional 19-inch wheels and retunes the 300 HP, 270 Lb-Ft 3.7-liter V6 with a more flexible power band.
Put together, it makes the MDX both more capable and more refined. Engaging "Comfort" mode on the adaptive dampers now better isolates passengers from bumps, further differentiating it from "Sport" mode, which is still taut and controlled, delivering a near absence of body roll.
You can now click the paddles twice in rapid succession to shift down two gears at once, useful for overtaking and cornering as that sixth gear is now a very tall overdrive, spec'd to boost highway fuel economy and refinement. However, one needn't worry — the more flexible engine means sixth doesn't lack the ability to accelerate.
Engage "Sport" mode, knock it down from fourth to second, get on the accelerator and throw the MDX into a corner fast and the result is something akin to a dialed-back BMW X6. Like BMW's strangely-shaped crossover-car-coupe, there's virtually no roll or steering feel, but there's not really any understeer either. The MDX just takes corners at any speed you require of it. Thank the torque vectoring rear differential for that, although, unlike the X6, the front wheels can't push power side-to-side to really capitalize on available traction. Still, the ability to send power to the outside rear wheel in a corner greatly boosts confidence, speed and outright cornering ability. I was disappointed I couldn't convince the MDX to hang its rear out like the X6, but I suppose the desire to do that in a 7-passenger SUV is strongly indicative of its ability to push the boundaries of physics.
The tech fest continues inside with new VGA screens front (8") and rear (9"), the latter featuring a detachable remote that mimics the main HMI on the dash. Neat. There's also LED ambient lighting in high-tech blue, a backup camera with three selectable views (180 degree wide-angle, normal and one that points 90 degrees down for precise negotiation of obstacles), blind sport warnings, radar cruise control with last-second collision mitigating brakes, heated and cooled leather seats, a power tailgate, Sat/Nav with real-time Doppler radar weather maps and live traffic info, a 15 GB hard drive for storing music, full voice-controlled iPod integration with Bluetooth audio, lane guidance and a wallpaper function for the Nav screen capable of displaying your favorite cute kitten picture. Hang in there!
Bizarrely, Acura has slathered the dash and console in an ugly wood trim that isn't in keeping with the otherwise tech-focused nature of the interior.
All these interior features, 6-speed tranny and SH-AWD will also be used on the 2010 Acura ZDX.
At 7.0-seconds to 60 MPH, the new MDX is faster than V6-equipped rivals like the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 3.2, Lexus RX350, Infiniti FX35 and BMW X5 3.0. At 16 MPG city/21 MPG highway, it's also more fuel efficient than all but the Lexus. It's expected the new MDX will start around $43,100 when it goes on sale late this year and top out around $55,000 with the "Advance" (the dynamic stuff), "Technology" and "Entertainment" packages.
The restyled MDX is also the best interpretation of Acura's otherwise awkward new design language. In fact, if we were in the market for a 7-seat luxury SUV with tiny rear seats, this would definitely be the one we'd buy. But we're not in the market for a 7-seat luxury SUV, we're in the market for cars that aren't inherently compromised by the desire to conform to the questionable fashion for tall, aggressively-styled wagons. The MDX is arguably the most fun-to-drive, most comfortable and nicest looking car in Acura's range; the problem is there's also cars in Acura's range and they should drive better and look nicer than a big honkin' SUV.