First Drive: 2011 Acura MDX SH-AWD

Matt Tierney
#Acura, #MDX

Sharp Styling
Most of the MDX's chiseled form is identical to early second-generation models, but a mild facelift performed in 2010 did add a few cosmetic improvements. The unusual solid grille insert is replaced with a more conventional opening, while the front bumper receives a pair of triangular openings above the foglamps to help lend the crossover a wide, low-slung feel.

Acura's recent design language has at times proven divisive, but the MDX wears the edgy styling well. The SUV has a very balanced and proportionate appearance, thanks in part to large wheels (18-inch aluminum wheels are standard; 19s are optional), short front and rear overhangs, and what appears to be a relatively low roofline. In back, the MDX's sharp fenders and upright D-pillars contrast nicely with the rounded rear window glass.

Likewise, the MDX's cabin shares a number of design cues with its siblings, yet it manages to possess a little extra sophistication. A curved dashboard tapers into a triangular center stack, which then terminates at a wide center console. Vast quantities of burl wood trim adorn the top of the console, and are nicely complemented with stitched leather trim on the armrest itself. Leather seating is standard across the board (models fitted with either the Advance or Technology packages receive upgraded Milano leather), but the seats themselves are comfortable, well bolstered (especially the outboard second-row spots), and supportive during bouts of spirited driving.

A Sports Car In Disguise?
Yes, we said spirited driving. The best part of the MDX may well be its on-road performance -- unsurprising, as Acura believes the crossover targets sports car enthusiasts forced into buying a more practical people mover.

Beneath the skin, the MDX's powertrain is almost identical to that used in the TL sport sedan. Power is provided by Acura's 3.7-liter SOHC V-6, which in MDX form, produces 300 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The engine is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, which was introduced to the MDX line for the 2010 model year. The extra gear allows the 2011 MDX to earn a 16/21 mpg (city/highway) rating from the EPA, a mild improvement over the 15/20 rating tied to the five-speed.

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