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Acura MDX, 2012: Versatile SUV best in its class

Now in the sixth year of its second generation, the 2012 Acura MDX is the flagship midsize crossover Sport Utility Vehicle in Honda’s luxury brand.

As the first crossover to offer third-row seating, it’s hard to view the modern MDX as a sibling of the Isuzu Trooper. But 12 years after its debut, the MDX (Multi-Dimensional Luxury) retains little resemblance to its long-gone utilitarian SUV beast of a relative. Instead, it’s firmly positioned as the top-rated vehicle in its segment.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

While hugely popular, SUVs aren’t for everyone. But the Acura MDX could easily sway car owners whose buying preferences are solely geared toward gas mileage and other economic considerations.

But why would a solo owner or a small family buy the seven-passenger Acura MDX?

After my week’s test drive — an estimate combined 200 city and highway miles — it’s a simple equation. The Acura MDX is so comfortable and presents such a dynamic, confident ride, it’s just as much a luxury sedan as it is a three-row SUV. It may not be suited for extensive off-road use, but while not serving as a luxury vehicle, it’s a versatile SUV with plenty of cargo space and lots of leather and handsome trim.

Acura MDX, 2012: Versatile SUV best in its class 1
All images © James Raia/2012

The Acura’s qualities begin with a 3.7-liter, 300-horsepower V6 engine featuring a six-speed transmission with a sequential sportshift and paddle shifters. From there, the positives include a long list of standard features: all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, stability, traction control, active headrests, a multi-view rear camera as well a power moonroof and a power tailgate.

The Advance edition I drove also included the Exterior, Tech and Advance packages, which total a few-dozen additional features, most notably: adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, motorized DVD rear entertainment system with wireless headsets, heated second-row seats and leather seats and trim.Acura MDX, 2012: Versatile SUV best in its class 2Add it all up and what’s not to like? The MDX performed well in city and highway driving like few, if any, SUVs I’ve driving in nearly 10 years of weekly driver test drives.

Likes:

Confidence acceleration.

Smooth all-wheel drive system.

Accurately defined seven-passenger SUV.

Easy to maneuver, easy configure third-row seats.

Side view mirrors’ blind-spot warning system. It’s efficient but not shockingly overt.

Dislikes:

Cluttered dash features.

Gas mileage averages could be better.

Facts & Figures: 2012 Acura MDX

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.0 seconds
Airbags: 6.
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg (city), 21 mpg (highway), 18 combined, six-speed automatic transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: NTHSA (out of five stars), frontal crash: (driver), five stars; (passenger) four stars; Side Crash: (front seat), not rated; (rear seat), not rated; Rollover, four stars.
Horsepower: 300.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $54,455.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.acura.com.
Price As Tested: $55,340.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion: 12 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance, 4 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“By combining manageable dimensions with 7-passenger capacity, a comfortable highway ride with responsive in-town handling and car-like construction with respectable off-pavement capability, the MDX has been one of our favorite SUVs since its introduction for the 2001 model year.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“This premium SUV has contemporary styling and thoughtful features. MDX has a highly desirable blend of upscale appointments, performance, and convenience. Among its highlights are a strong and surefooted powertrain, good 1st- and 2nd-row seat comfort, and urbane cabin appointments.” — Consumer Guide.

“When it comes to being both sensible and desirable, the Acura MDX is second-to-none.” — Edmunds.

What The Wife Says:

“It’s a comfortable car with lots of room and it drives great.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“What the Honda Odyssey is to the family van, the Acura MDX is to the midsize SUV segment. It’s well built, has a seven-passenger capacity, upscale features as well as grand performance and convenience. There’s no better vehicle in its class.”

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