The 2001 Acura MDX' was created to define a new era in the evolution of luxury class sport utility vehicles, treading beyond the limits of existing SUVs in terms of handling, packaging efficiency and environmental impact. Both models of the newest Acura &endash; MDX and MDX with Touring Package, were developed with an over-riding goal of setting new benchmarks for luxury SUV performance. That performance goal applies to the three main themes of the development concept, to establish new performance benchmarks in the SUV category for versatility, responsibility and dynamic performance. An additional development goal was added as its need was realized -- the MDX development team sought to provide features that effectively "defeat winter" for its driver and passengers -- limiting the harsh effects of the cold winter months on MDX occupants.
These goals encompass all areas of development, even when they are seemingly at odds with each other. For example, the Acura MDX is powered by a 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine -- more performance than any 6-cylinder SUV in its class -- yet it is also offered as an ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) in all 50 U.S. states. MDX also manages to achieve an impressive EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 23 miles per gallon on the highway. In a similar manner, MDX's stylishly sculpted exterior belies the spacious and versatile interior -- boasting the only 7-passenger seating of any SUV in its class, and any number of easily configured seating/cargo layouts. And the confident on- and off-road performance of MDX does not detract from its thorough active and passive safety systems.
The MDX was created to be the best luxury class SUV, designed to live up to its designation as a Multi-Dimensional Cross Trainer -- an athlete that excels on many playing fields.
PERFORMANCE ATTRIBUTES OVERVIEW
Outstanding performance has always been a fundamental Acura character trait. The development of its first in-house designed and engineered SUV presented the opportunity for the MDX's engineers to sidestep the standard shortcomings of products already on the market and begin with a fresh approach to the SUV equation. That was achieved by setting out to create the first no-compromise SUV -- melding attractive design, unmatched versatility, driving exhilaration, social responsibility, and value in one neatly wrapped package.
To venture beyond established SUV performance boundaries, MDX introduces several new technologies. Its 3.5-liter V-6 engine is tuned to deliver an outstanding 240 peak horsepower at 5300 rpm with 95-percent of its peak torque (245 lbs-ft) available from 2000 to 5500 rpm. MDX also rates ULEV emissions certification for the entire 50 states of the U.S., and it also scores higher in EPA mileage tests than any other six-cylinder, 4x4 SUV. In the interests of helping provide sure-footed all-weather traction and exemplary medium-duty off-road prowess, the engineers invented an entirely new and exclusive Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) 4-wheel-drive system that's notably more compact and smarter in operation than the hardware found in competitor's models.
Acknowledging that ordinary SUVs feel clumsy and cumbersome, extra effort was invested in making sure that the MDX provides driving exhilaration consistent with Acura standards. Chassis systems and the power-to-weight ratio are optimized with balanced all-around performance as the priority.
MDX's 3500-pound tow rating with towing package (4500-pound for boats) was achieved by tuning the powertrain and chassis systems to manage heavy loads with confidence. This vehicle's wider-than-normal stance, high-torque engine, a close-ratio 5-speed automatic transmission that has a broad range of operation, and powerful brakes yield a highly competent tow vehicle.
ACCELERATION, BRAKING, CORNERING PERFORMANCE
A pillar of the Acura development approach is that the driver's seat should be the most rewarding seat in the vehicle. With this in mind, the development team groomed MDX to behave like a sport sedan when driven in an assertive manner. The starting point is a new 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 engine that seemingly achieves the impossible by combining remarkably broad range of torque -- 245 lbs-ft from 3000 to 5000 rpm -- with a potent 240 horsepower at 5300 rpm. Factor in a wide-ratio five-speed automatic and a sensible curb weight achieved by the shrewd use of high-strength materials, and MDX posts best-in-class acceleration performance. The sprint from zero to 60 mph requires less than nine seconds. Thanks in part to its best-in-class aerodynamic drag coefficient, MDX sprints through the quarter-mile in less than 17 seconds and trims 1.3 to 2.3 seconds from the Mercedes-Benz ML 320's passing times.
Demanding drivers expect a braking system to match a vehicle's acceleration &endash; and MDX measures up to that task as well. To provide short stopping distances, high fade resistance, and a reassuring pedal feel, the MDX's four-wheel disc braking system uses large-diameter rotors and extra-rigid single-piston calipers. The Anti-Lock Braking system (ABS) features electronic distribution of brake forces for optimum use of the traction available at each corner of the vehicle. The result is best-in-class braking performance for short stopping distances with a confident pedal feel.
Excellent handling begins with getting the fundamentals of vehicle dynamics right from the start as well. A wide track maximizes stability and cornering grip so MDX has the widest track in its class. The MDX design was tuned to achieve the best possible maneuverability and helps to minimize the cumbersome feeling that plagues most truck-based SUVs.
To overcome the usual ride-versus-handling compromises, engineers incorporated front and rear subframes to isolate road noise and driveline vibration from the passenger compartment, along with independent front and rear suspension systems with extra wheel travel and complementary suspension geometry. Low roll centers are combined with stiff anti-roll bars to provide progressive, predictable cornering response and excellent stability at the limit of adhesion. Lightweight materials &endash; such as aluminum castings for all major driveline components and extensive use of high-strength-steel unit body components -- give MDX an overall agile feeling.
THE VERSATILE SUV
The multi-dimensional theme of versatility was applied to each area of development, from exterior and interior styling to powertrain to chassis design and the many performance targets. From the inside out, MDX offers many options to the driver and passengers. Starting with the potential of six seating positions from the split and folding second and third-row seats the MDX offers the most passenger/cargo combinations in the mid-size luxury SUV class.
The options don't end there however, as the powertrain is tuned for optimum performance in virtually any condition the driver is likely to encounter. Key to this is an engine that is powerful, fuel efficient and environmentally cleaner -- with a broad range of torque and horsepower. Likewise, the 5-speed transmission offers one of the widest overall gear ratio ranges in the segment, ensuring that engine speeds are matched as closely as possible to the demands of the driving conditions at any time.
For the interior and drivetrain adaptability to be meaningful it has to be coordinated with a platform and chassis components that are equally well-suited to any possible conditions. MDX's unit body construction provides the optimum balance of strength and rigidity while still being the most space and weight efficient construction for an SUV of this size. All suspension, steering and braking components are designed to minimize unsprung weight to avoid adverse effects on handling, but are still rugged enough for medium-duty off-road driving.
THE RESPONSIBLE SUV
MDX demonstrates a high degree of environmental responsibility by providing excellent fuel economy with very low exhaust emissions. MDX is the first SUV to achieve stringent ULEV emissions levels for all 50 states -- thanks in part to a low-thermal-mass exhaust system that helps the three-way catalytic converter heat-up to full effectiveness quickly after a cold start. The MDX's combination of 17 mpg city and 23 mpg in EPA highway tests places it well ahead of ordinary mid-size SUV fuel economy and stands out as an exception to the trend that powerful SUVs cannot also be environmentally responsible and fuel efficient.
Safety has been an integral part of the MDX design from its inception, and an important aspect of the responsible SUV concept. To help avoid situations that could lead to a collision, MDX is engineered with the agility and maneuverability necessary to maintain control in emergency maneuvers.
When a collision is unavoidable, MDX helps protect its occupants with a reinforced body structure and state-of-the-art occupant protection features.