2009 Acura MDX Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 20, 2008

The 2009 Acura MDX has a little more appeal to young families who appreciate top safety, useful technology, and Acura's low depreciation.

To assemble a comprehensive review on the new 2009 Acura MDX, the car pros at TheCarConnection.com consulted reviews from a wide range of reputable sources. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove Acura's 2009 MDX and combined their impressions with all the available information to create this conclusive review.

The 2009 Acura MDX is a seven-passenger, three-row luxury crossover vehicle. The design of the MDX emphasizes style, passenger and cargo utility, and on-the-road comfort and handling, rather than off-roading ability. However, with Acura's inclusion of standard all-wheel drive, the MDX can easily handle muddy trails and shallow streams. The MDX crossover SUV was redesigned for 2007 and carries into 2009 with few changes.

Acura's Super Handling all-wheel-drive (SH-AWD) system is standard across the 2009 MDX model line; the full-time all-wheel-drive configuration distributes the optimum amount of torque not only between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels, to help maintain better stability and traction when cornering. A 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine brings strong acceleration to the MDX and impressive passing power, thanks to the responsive yet smooth five-speed automatic transmission. The 2009 Acura MDX has impressive towing ability for such a vehicle, with a maximum rating of 5,000 pounds.

If you've been pulled out of a sport sedan because of a growing family, the 2009 Acura MDX is surprisingly entertaining to drive. Along with the responsive powertrain, the suspension keeps the body from leaning too much in corners, even though the ride is quite supple, and the MDX can be hustled along a curvy road like a smaller, lighter vehicle. Each corner is independently suspended, and especially good steering—with feedback from the road—makes the MDX a lot more fun to drive than other utes.

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A very clean interior design, with a good mix of contrasting materials and matte-metallic surfaces make the inside of the 2009 Acura MDX feel sporty yet inviting. However, the controls could be simpler—for the audio system especially. Programming the voice-activated system takes patience and time. But it's still better than BMW's iDrive. Driver and front passenger seats are generously apportioned and good for even the tallest and largest folks, but the minuscule third-row seat is only for small kids. Families will find plenty of storage cubbies as well. All models come standard with leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, three-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control and air filtration, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface, a six-disc in-dash changer, and XM Satellite Radio. A Sport package with auto-damping suspension is available; it also includes a premium leather interior and a special wheel design. A navigation system featuring real-time traffic and a rearview camera is optionally included in the Technology package, which this year also includes the power tailgate.

The Acura MDX is one of the most secure vehicles of any type, with top results in all U.S. crash tests. It was also an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2008. The 2009 Acura MDX includes front side airbags and full-length side curtain bags, covering all three rows of seating. The standard electronic stability works in conjunction with the SH-AWD system.

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2009 Acura MDX

Styling

Save for its odd grille, the 2009 Acura MDX is a sleek, slightly edgy three-row crossover that will appeal to shoppers seeking something a little different; traditionalists will want to look elsewhere.

Acura released the second-generation MDX to market in 2007. In 2009, Acura MDXs carry over largely unchanged except for the addition of two colors: Bali Blue Pearl and Mocha Metallic. TheCarConnection.com has seen that opinions on the 2009 Acura MDX are divided on the exterior design and generally positive for the interior design.

Kelley Blue Book reports "the characteristics that made the original MDX appealing have carried over intact, if not improved," with few changes from 2007. Car and Driver describes the MDX Acura as "a tall wagon [that] is an all-weather hauler on the sporty side."

There are a few aspects of this 2009 Acura's styling to dislike, however. Car and Driver thinks "some may find the buck-toothed-mole look of the front grille a bit off-putting" and calls the MDX's styling "techno-futuristic." Edmunds and the Washington Post agree that the large aluminum grille is more suited to Wagnerian opera than the front of a contemporary luxury sport-utility vehicle, with Edmunds adding that it "lacked a little in terms of personality and prestige." Nonetheless, it remains a top recommendation at that Web site, which feels that the MDX Acura compares very favorably with its chief competitors, the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. ForbesAutos has a slightly different take on the 2009 Acura MDX styling, calling it "bolder and richer-looking" with "chiseled lines" that are less conservative than its predecessor. Kelley Blue Book describes the 2009 Acura MDX's stance as "wider, lower [and] more aggressive."

On the inside, the MDX "is an attractive mix of sport, luxury and technology," reports Kelley Blue Book. The Washington Post calls it the 2009 Acura MDX's "head-turning quotient," adding "thumbs up for interior design and layout." ConsumerGuide ranks the control panel's layout as a "Con," explaining, "The audio and climate controls are easy to reach, but the vast array of similarly sized and shaped controls is confusing." However, they also note the "MDX's hi-tech interior design incorporates an attractive blend of rich-looking materials, with especially pleasing switchgear feel and movement."

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2009 Acura MDX

Performance

The 2009 Acura MDX is a seven-passenger luxury utility vehicle that drives like a sport sedan, tows like a truck, and has fuel economy you'll want to forget.

The 2009 Acura MDX is well-suited for people who want a sport sedan but have a family to haul around.

When Acura was designing the next-generation MDX, horsepower was the benchmark used, not fuel economy, and that is reflected in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. "The MDX's 3.7-liter V-6 turns out 300 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque, making it Acura's most powerful engine," states Cars.com. In performance testing, Edmunds "found that the MDX goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds." They further explain, "The 3.7-liter V6 isn't quite as smooth as we've come to expect from Acura's past V-6s, but it's hard to argue about its power." The MDX features "unibody construction and a fully independent suspension, and can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the added benefit of a Trailer Stability Assist feature," notes Kelley Blue Book.

Putting all that power to the ground is a standard five-speed auto transmission with manual shift and standard all-wheel drive, called, by Acura, SH-AWD or Super Handling AWD. Although a strictly manual transmission is not available, drivers who absolutely have to change their own gears will be glad to know that the transmission can be shifted manually, if you prefer. Edmunds describes SH-AWD as "capable of transferring different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and in inclement weather." They detail a sensation of torque shifting side to side in hard cornering and say "it's encouraging rather than distracting." Saab has a similar system called XWD. The 2009 Acura MDX's SH-AWD system does a fine job of distributing torque among all four wheels, according to ForbesAutos.

The MDX suffers a bit in the mileage department, averaging only about 15.5 mpg according to testing performed by ConsumerGuide, who add that Acura recommends premium fuel. Despite its power, Acura's 2008 MDX does remarkably well in terms of emissions, earning a ULEV rating from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It should be pointed out that EPA fuel economy estimates are 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway.

This 2009 Acura's handling is universally lauded. "Ride, acceleration and handling [score] excellent marks" from the Washington Post. And though the MDX certainly isn’t geared toward the off-road crowd, the MDX impresses Kelley Blue Book with its off-road ability, which KBB sampled “on a short but extreme course." Car and Driver feels the MDX has "composed dynamics befitting its price" and "quick, decisive, and totally predictable" responses. ConsumerGuide suggests Acura MDX buyers opt for the base suspension, "which provides a compliant but controlled ride." They note the Sport package includes two-mode suspension: "Comfort absorbs bumps well but allows too much wallow; Sport makes the ride brittle." Strong disc brakes at all four corners are found to swiftly bring this multiton beast to a quick and confident stop.

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2009 Acura MDX

Comfort & Quality

If you really had to, you could haul sheets of plywood home in a 2009 Acura MDX, but it's more suited to hauling your kids and their friends to practice in style and luxury.

What's not to like? Very little, based on reviews of the 2009 Acura MDX researched by TheCarConnection.com.

Seats are the most important item in the interior, and this MDX has "comfortable and supportive" seats, according to ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver also finds the front bucket seats comfortable. The reviewer for the Washington Post got some interesting perspectives on the MDX Acura from the women who drove this vehicle and wanted a car they could "trust more than their ex." Aside from their appreciation of this SUV's exceptional reliability, they "liked the idea that it did all of the work of a minivan or station wagon without looking or feeling like one." If you have tall, lanky teenagers, you'll appreciate that Kelley Blue Book thinks "the reclining second-row seats offer enough legroom for those six feet tall and more." Finally, "the MDX boasts seven-passenger seating, tri-zone climate control, a ten-way power driver's seat, eight-way power passenger seat," comments Motor Trend.

Interior storage is plentiful for a vehicle this size. Unlike some three-row crossovers, there's actual room way in back when the third row is in the upright position―15 cubic feet, to be exact, according to Kelley Blue Book, who note that's only 2 fewer cubes than the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Both rear rows fold flat for a total of nearly 84 cubic feet of storage. ConsumerGuide observes, "With all seats folded, the cargo floor is nearly flat, and Acura says it can hold four-foot-wide panels. There's a handy covered in-floor bin behind the 3rd row."

Complaints? Just a few; for starters, the "high step-in will challenge shorter drivers," says ConsumerGuide. Edmunds somewhat contradicts themselves in that first they remark the 2009 Acura MDX has a "relatively large third-row seat for a midsize luxury SUV," then later state "the rearmost seats are better suited for kids." For 2009, the Acura MDX is still available with a power tailgate but only as part of the Technology package, whereas last year it was part of the Entertainment package, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Fit and finish is typical Acura: excellent. ConsumerGuide notes that while there is a "vast array of [confusing] similarly sized and shaped controls," the 2009 Acura MDX's "high-tech interior [contains] especially pleasing switchgear feel and movement." Car and Driver finds "tons of space...with an upscale trim."

"Low levels of tire hum and highway wind rush for an SUV. The engine sounds smooth, with a rich-sounding growl during acceleration," reports ConsumerGuide. On the other hand, Consumer Reports praises its overall quietness, especially at highway speeds. Edmunds agrees, stating that when it comes to "comfort, versatility and refinement, the MDX excels."

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2009 Acura MDX

Safety

Feel confident in the safety of yourself and your passengers if traveling in a 2009 Acura MDX.

There's nothing to fault safety-wise in the 2009 Acura MDX. All the sources consulted by TheCarConnection.com's editors raved about its remarkable safety levels.

Across the board in U.S. crash tests, the MDX gets top scores. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names the Acura MDX a Top Safety Pick. As Car and Driver reports, the MDX is rated four stars in rollover resistance, though no crossover vehicles achieve NHTSA’s lofty five-star rollover score.

"Few vehicles equal the MDX's safety story," remarks Car and Driver. "A laundry list of safety features," reports Motor Trend, "includes standard dual front airbags, driver and front passenger side impact airbags, side curtain airbags [for all three rows], active headrests, and seatbelt pretensioners." That laundry list doesn't even mention the standard ABS, traction control, antiskid system, and standard full-time all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Also standard on all trims are HID headlights "for better night visibility," notes Motor Trend.

The Auto Channel reports that the 2009 Acura employs the company's patented Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) in the vehicle's structure and design, which Honda has been phasing in on all its vehicles. In case of a head-on impact, ACE construction distributes the force in such a way as to keep the MDX's passenger cabin from collapsing. What is marvelous here, however, is that the designers were not thinking only of the vehicle's occupants, but others as well. The hood design is specially designed to minimize injuries to any pedestrians that may be hit, and the bumpers are at a level that will do the least damage to other vehicles.

There are a couple of safety-related items that fall short of perfection. For one, "roof pillars hinder visibility to some angles," as ConsumerGuide states. Second, you can only get a rearview camera with the optional navigation system. Without that system, it will be impossible to see objects directly behind your vehicle while backing.

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2009 Acura MDX

Features

You get toys and gadgets galore if you opt for a fully loaded 2009 Acura MDX, but if you can make do with the long list of standard features on base trims, you'll save a lot of coin.

Choose your 2009 Acura MDX by choosing what packages you want. As reported on The Auto Channel, these are the Technology package, the Sports package, the Entertainment and Tech package, and the Sport and Entertainment package. Each one builds on a long list of standard features that, according to Motor Trend, include: "seven-passenger [leather] seating, tri-zone climate control, a ten-way power driver's seat, eight-way power passenger seat, and an eight-speaker, 253-watt audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD-changer with WMA and MP3 capability, auxiliary input jack, and XM radio." And that's in addition to the standard 300-hp V-6, five-speed automatic, full-time AWD, HID headlights, four-wheel ABS, and numerous safety features. If you like acronyms, you'll fall in love with Acura. The reviewers at Edmunds were most impressed with the high-tech goodies available for this 2009 Acura. In addition to the above features, base models include "a sunroof, a fully adjustable steering wheel, and Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone operation."

Last year, if you wanted the power tailgate, you had to opt for the Entertainment package, which didn't make much sense. For the 2009 MDX, Acura has made the power tailgate part of the Technology package, which seems to fit better. With the Sport and Entertainment package, owners can enjoy amenities such as an active damping suspension system for even greater comfort and control, as well as a voice-activated navigation system with rearview camera, real-time traffic reports, a ten-speaker audio system, and—for the kids on those long road trips—a rear-seat DVD system. Motor Trend recommends, "Those who love their sound can upgrade to a 410-watt, ten-speaker system engineered by Elliot Scheiner" by opting for the Technology package.

According to Edmunds, the Sport package "includes all the Technology Package items, plus an active sport suspension, auto-leveling headlights, different 18-inch wheels, perforated leather upholstery and metallic interior trim." The Entertainment package must be ordered with the Tech or Sport package and "includes heated second-row seating, a 115-volt house-style power outlet and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system." The only criticism here is not of the MDX Acura itself, but of manufacturer Honda; as usual, these options are not available on an a la carte basis—only in "package" form, according to ForbesAutos. These packages aren't cheap either and can easily add more than $10,000 to the price if all the options boxes are checked.

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8.4
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 10.0
Features 8.0
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