The first iteration of the Acura MDX--an SUV equally utilitarian and reliable--competed with the Mercedes-Benz ML and the Lexus RX300, but the newest generation of the MDX aims straight at the BMW X5 and the Porsche Cayenne. Cargo capacity and off-road capability are no longer the key metrics when contesting market share with those lithe Germans. To instill the same level of driving excitement in the MDX as is found in its new competitors, Acura's engineers headed to Germany's Nurburgring, which is prized for its ability to expose chinks in a car's driving dynamics.
The new MDX's exterior styling underwent a similarly rigorous workout. According to Frank Paluch, the chief engineer of both the original and second-generation MDX models, the goal was to provide a "stealth family package," which the design team accomplished by lowering the visual center of the vehicle, what they call the C-line, and angling the D-pillar sharply forward to camouflage the third-row seating. Paluch adds, "The vehicle looks smaller, but it's wider, longer, and lower." Until we spend time behind the wheel, we cannot say if the MDX can hang with the fast crowd--but at least it's wearing all the right clothes. Acura is being coy about powertrain performance, but Paluch says they have aimed for best-in-class V-6 performance. When asked if that translates to 300 hp, he remarks, "that's a difficult goal."
Although the vehicle presented in New York is only a concept and in fact has no interior or powertrain, we expect that Acura will retain 99 percent of its exterior styling for the production model, which goes on sale this fall.