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article details
Author Jeff Palmer
Categories Light Trucks, TOV Road Test, Pilot
Create Date August 15, 2003 17:00
Last Update August 31, 2003 08:20
2003 Acura MDX - Introduction

Since being greeted by long waiting lists of eager customers in late 2000, the MDX has impressively maintained its torrid sales pace, pulling the Acura division through the wake of flagging sales of a few of its stablemates.

Demand for the MDX stayed strong through the introduction of the Honda Pilot, which arrived about a year and a half behind the MDX. This is notable because the Pilot shares many of the MDX's virtues, at a more affordable price point. Some pundits predicted the Pilot would soak up much of the demand for the MDX, yet at this point it would seem they were wrong.

As Honda's first large sport utility vehicle, the MDX has been universally praised for its combination of style, power, value, comfort, over the road manners, and practicality. It was one of the first in its class to offer seating for 7 (or 5.2, as I call it), a powerful, smooth, and relatively efficient 3.5L V6, and class leading ride and handling attributes. Upon its introduction, the base sticker price of under $36000 was considered a bargain. When the Pilot hit the streets with (seemingly) the same 240hp V6, similar driving dynamics and utility, but no requirement for Premium unleaded fuel and a starting price of under $27000, the MDX was cast into a slightly different light. Acura obviously anticipated this, as in the Autumn of 2002, a response came in the form of an extensively (yet subtly) updated 2003 MDX.

To stay ahead of the Pilot (Honda and Acura swear that the two models do not compete for the same buyers, and for the most part they are probably correct, but there are the sibling rivalry issues to contend with) , the motor was further developed to produce a rated 260hp (albeit still requiring the more expensive Premium grade petrol). While many product managers might call it a day at that point, Acura's had a lot more in mind: the transmission was redesigned to be smoother and quieter in operation, the VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management 4-wheel drive) system was recalibrated to send more torque to the rear wheels if necessary, VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) was added, the suspension was retuned to improve ride quality, and additional sound deadening was employed in many places to address some of the complaints of the earlier models' road noise. For those who so opt, the DVD-based Navigation system was upgraded with voice command capability. Additionally, a DVD Rear Entertainment System (RES) can now be ordered as a factory installed option. In contrast to the Pilot, you can get both the RES and the Navi in the same vehicle (both options are only available with the Touring Package).

The Midnight Blue Pearl MDX (base price: $35,700) we tested was "blinged" out with the Touring Package (+ $2600), DVD Entertainment System ($1500), and the Voice Activated Navigation System ($2200) as factory options. The sticker on all that rang up to $42,500. And people are buying as many as Honda can build.

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