2003 Acura MDX -- Safety

The Acura MDX SUV is engineered to meet and often exceed all applicable safety standards. Safety, security, and accident avoidance are top Acura priorities. With that in mind, various systems - body structure, chassis, driveline, passenger restraints - interact positively to help the driver steer clear of hazards whenever possible and enhance occupant protection in the event an accident is unavoidable.

The Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) all-wheel-drive system is the key to sure-footed handling and straightforward controllability whether the pavement is dry or wet and slippery. Combined with MDX's new Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), 4-wheel independent suspension, torque sensing power rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, VTM-4 delivers best-in-class traction to enhance the driver's ability to guide an MDX safely out of harm's way.

To help safeguard occupants from injury when a collision is unavoidable, MDX provides multiple layers of protection. The computer-engineered body structure features front, side and rear crumple zones to help protect occupants during offset and side impacts, and a well protected fuel tank. Extensive use of high-strength steel yields a robust safety cage surrounding passengers without incurring an awkwardly heavy curb weight.

All seating positions have three-point seat belts. Front seat belts are equipped with pretensioners and automatic load limiters that are activated in certain collision conditions. The MDX comes with standard front dual stage, dual threshold front air bags. These air bags can deploy at the most appropriate of two rates depending on the severity of the crash. In addition, if the driver's or passenger's seat belt is not fastened, the air bag deploys at a lower collision speed to help offer more protection to the unbelted occupant.

For 2003, the MDX adds two weight sensors to the front passenger's seat and a driver's seat position sensor to the dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbag system.

The driver's and front passenger's seats also feature side air bags mounted in the seat bolster closest to the door. The passenger's seat is equipped with a system designed to disable side air bag deployment and prevent injury to a small child (or small-statured adult) if they lean into the side air bag deployment path. Once the child returns to an upright seating position, the side air bag will reactivate so it can deploy and protect the child in a side impact.

MDX engineers used powerful computers to assure that this vehicle's safety cage structural design would perform well even before physical prototypes were built. Crash simulations helped reveal areas of the design that needed more - and sometimes less - reinforcement to absorb energy while resisting intrusion.

MDX has an especially robust floor construction to optimize both rigidity and resiliency. Two longitudinal rails run continuously from bumper to bumper. The rails are buttressed by a total of eight box-section crossmembers and two bumper bulkheads. This provides the strength needed to resist standard barrier impacts at the front and rear, offset crashes (wherein most of the load is applied longitudinally to one corner of the vehicle), and side impacts.

A four-ring shell-type safety cage is used to help protect occupants with A, B, C, and D pillars that run continuously to avoid intrusion during side impacts. To meet current federal head-impact requirements, roof-pillar trim and headliner materials absorb energy and help reduce the likelihood of occupant head injury. Stiffeners inside the doors at the beltline provide a continuous horizontal connection between the first three pillars. Tubular beams are welded inside the doors at wheel height to provide additional intrusion resistance.

One quarter of the body structure - longitudinal rails, floor crossmembers, pillar reinforcements, and bumper beams - is made of high-tensile steel for maximum strength with minimal weight.

MDX's fuel tank is made of highly puncture resistant, six-layer, high-density molded-polyethylene, with high-strength, box-section floor reinforcements to help guard it from side collision damage. It is located ahead of the rear axle for protection

The bottom line is best-in-class collision performance. Based on internal simulation and testing, the MDX is expected to earn five stars in federal government New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) frontal barrier tests and Side Impact (SINCAP) tests. The MDX also received a "good" rating and a "best pick" designation based on results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 40 mph frontal offset barrier tests.

Unlike some SUVs, MDX provides a three-point restraint system for all seating positions. A special roof-mounted reinforcement, positioned between the C and D pillars, serves as a rigid mounting point for the second row, middle passenger's shoulder belt.

Front seat belts are equipped with pretensioners and automatic load limiters that are activated in conjunction with the front air bags.

The 2003 MDX is equipped with dual-stage, dual-threshold airbags for the driver and front passenger. These airbags are designed to minimize the potential for airbag injury while providing head and chest protection for the occupants in the event of a collision. For 2003, this front airbag system features additional sensors; front passenger seat weight sensors and a driver seat position sensor designed to enhance occupant protection.

The MDX's front airbags can deploy at one of two rates. Deployment of the driver's side airbag takes into account the severity of the crash, whether or not the driver's seat belt is fastened and, new for 2003, the position of the driver's seat. During a lower speed collision, the airbag inflators are triggered in sequence, resulting in slower overall airbag deployment with less initial force. The same sequence is also utilized regardless of collision speed if the driver's seat is within a half inch of the full forward position. During a higher speed collision if the driver's seat is more than a half inch from the full frontal position, both inflators operate simultaneously for full, immediate inflation. Airbag deployment on the front passenger's side is regulated by crash severity, seatbelt usage and, for 2003, the weight of the occupant. Sensors under the seat gauge occupant weight and if the total weight on the passenger seat is less than 65 lbs, the airbag system will not deploy, minimizing the potential for injury to children. During a lower speed collision, the airbag inflators are triggered in sequence, resulting in slower overall airbag deployment with less initial force. During a higher speed collision, both inflators operate simultaneously for full, immediate inflation.

The driver's airbag is located in the steering wheel hub and the passenger's airbag is located on top of the dash. As in all Acura automobiles, the front passenger's airbag is designed to deploy upward toward the windshield and then back toward the occupant. This provides a large cushion to help protect the front passenger.

Like other Acura models, MDX is equipped with seat-mounted side air bags to help safeguard the driver and front passenger from side-impact injury. An innovative occupant position detection system is used to assure that the passenger's side air bag has a clear path for deployment. In the event a child (or a small-statured adult) leans into the deployment path of the side air bag, a seven-segment antenna system built within the backrest signals this condition to an electronic control unit (ECU) also located within the seat. The ECU then deactivates the side air bag from functioning and triggers a "SIDE AIRBAG OFF" indicator light in the instrument cluster. After the front occupant returns to a normal seating position, the side air bag module automatically resumes full-functional status.

MDX has a standard keyless-remote entry system that locks and unlocks all doors and the rear hatch at the push of a button. To enhance theft protection, only one key lock mechanism is provided for the driver's door position. The same key fob used to lock the doors also activates the MDX's security system. In response to any attempt to enter the vehicle without the key fob or ignition key, the horn sounds, and the flasher lamps are activated. If need be, the alarm system can be triggered to summon help by depressing a "panic" button on the remote-keyless fob.

Imbedded within MDX's ignition key is an electronic microprocessor circuit that communicates with a receiver in the ignition switch to enable the vehicle's electrical systems. Forcibly vandalizing the ignition switch, hot-wiring, or attempting to start the car with a key lacking the microprocessor circuit will result in immobilization. Without proper key-to-immobilizer communication, the MDX will simply not start.

The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system is standard on the second row of outboard seats. The LATCH system features built-in, ready-to-use anchors and tethers allowing compatible child safety seats to be installed without using the vehicle's seat belt system.

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