The 2012 Acura MDX breaks away from its utilitarian shape and family-minded mission, with surprisingly strong performance. The 3.7-liter V-6 makes 300 horsepower and doles out strong acceleration and impressive passing power, thanks to features like variable valve timing and electronic throttle. It even sounds good, with a tinge of intake growl making its way into the otherwise stone-silent cabin.
Together, the six-speed automatic and the V-6 let the MDX step off smartly from stoplights. 60 mph arrives in about seven seconds from a standing start. And when you need responsiveness in corners or for passing, the six-speed automatic with paddle shifters only serves to make it better; click right or left and the MDX snaps off gearchanges and stays in manual-shift mode for about a half-minute, anticipating you'll want more hands-on control of the shifting.
Our biggest complaint about the MDX is that its steering is just too light, though the MDX's optional magnetic-electronic shocks allows great handling and body control without the brittle, jittery ride you sometimes get in these kinds of vehicles as a tradeoff. The base suspension offers a good balance, too.
On all trims, Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel-drive system remains standard. The complex system pushes power to each wheel based on its available traction. It's constantly measuring grip, handing out more power to the wheels still stuck best to the pavement--and that neatly excises most of the sluggishness and heft that usually afflicts crossovers with all-wheel drive, so you can have more fun on a curvy road.