If you need a big crossover vehicle but don't want to give up on performance completely, the 2011 Acura MDX might suit you well.
It has a heart of gold, for sure--or really, a great V-6. The 300-hp, 3.7-liter six lays out strong acceleration and passing power. The complex engine has electronic throttle control and variable valve timing. The cabin's usually stone-quiet, but the 6-cylinder winds up with a sporty intake growl.
The V-6 pairs with a 6-speed, paddle-shifted automatic. Those flappers induce sporty driving in a vehicle otherwise uninclined toward it. In sport mode, the MDX clicks off its gears and lingers in manual mode for up to 30 seconds as it waits for another quick shift. The powertrain enables the MDX to step away from stop lights smartly. Acura says the crossover will run to 60 mph in about 7.0 seconds.
The glaring error here lies in its electronic power steering. It's far, far too light and fast for a truck of this size and caliber; there's almost a total lack of connection between wheel motions and cornering forces, and that's a shame because retuning available magnetically controlled shocks has cleared up the brittle ride that affected those vehicles. We used to recommend only the base suspension; now it's up to you and your budget.
Acura fits standard all-wheel drive in the MDX. It's a complex setup that can send power to any wheel, based on input from the anti-lock brake sensors at each wheel. The MDX constantly measures grip, hands out more power to the wheels stuck best to the pavement. That ability cuts out most of the sluggish steering feel tht afflicts most all-wheel-drive crossovers. That's why the MDX is more engaging to drive, and why it can be hustled along a curvy road like a smaller, lighter vehicle.