It’s a fact that Acura is a latecomer in the luxury SUV crowd — never mind the Acura SLX, a rebadged Isuzu Trooper that was just too trucklike to compete with other luxury SUV offerings.
Three years after the arrival of the Lexus RX 300 and Mercedes-Benz ML 320 and more than a year after the BMW’s introduction of its X5, Acura is finally introducing a new luxury SUV of its own. Acura officials said that Honda/Acura R&D has wanted for years to design the MDX in- house, in North America, but the group has been tied up for the last several years doing the Honda CR-V and Odyssey, and the Acura RL and TL.
Although the MDX shares only 12 percent of its parts with the Honda Odyssey minivan, both vehicles are produced on the same Alliston, Ontario, assembly line. The two vehicles have approximately the same outward dimensions, but most else is different, including the hoodline, roofline, and undercarriage. Odysseys are currently selling as fast as Honda can produce them, so Acura is likely wishing it had more production space for the MDX.
A no-compromise SUV, but…
When Acura’s Dan Bonawitz introduced the MDX to the press, he termed the MDX a "no compromise SUV." Minutes later Art St. Cyr, principal engineer for the MDX, said "This is not a hardcore off-road vehicle." Although that sounds a bit contradictory at first, this is exactly the intention of the MDX — to keep the carlike ride, handling, and comfort that people opt to forego on some trucklike SUVs, and keep them on an SUV that’s able to go off-road but not optimized for it.
Acura did very well with the MDX, and without a doubt they have a sales hit on their hands. The MDX has an engine that’s torquey and tough, but also smooth and happy to rev, a four-wheel drive system that does have a center locking differential, a capable chassis, and a comfortable interior.