Acura MDX

The first-generation Acura MDX arrived at a time when most luxury SUVs still featured body-on-frame construction and the term "crossover" was but a glimmer in some marketer's eye. At the same time, the midsize MDX bettered other car-based luxury SUVs by offering a standard third row of seats that folded neatly into the cargo floor. It also made no qualms about being a dedicated on-road SUV with a clever all-wheel-drive system designed for tackling inclement weather rather than canyon trails. Though we thought it lacked a little in terms of personality and prestige, the original Acura MDX nonetheless became a favorite among families looking for a comfortable and upscale seven-passenger vehicle.
For the second-generation MDX, Acura maintained the family-friendly packaging but spiced up the recipe with styling, performance and handling enhancements. Most significantly, this model has a more powerful V6 and a new all-wheel-drive system called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Improvements were also made to the interior, where materials and technology were upgraded to bring the MDX in line with the rest of Acura's high-tech lineup.
New or used, the Acura MDX is one of our top recommendations. In areas that are most important for the midsize luxury SUV segment, including comfort, versatility and refinement, the MDX excels. And with the second-generation model, Acura has created an exciting driver's SUV that can easily be mentioned in the same sentence as BMW's new X5 or the Porsche Cayenne.
Current Acura MDX
The Acura MDX was completely redesigned for 2007. As before, there is only one trim level available with several different packages. Standard niceties include leather seating, a sunroof, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Technology, Sport and Entertainment option packages include such items as active damping suspension, Acura's excellent voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic reporting, a power tailgate, a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The new Acura MDX comes with a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission. Also standard is Acura's "Super-Handling" All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD). Besides improving traction in bad weather, SH-AWD is capable of transferring up to 100 percent of power to one wheel depending on conditions. Specifically, it allows the outer rear wheel to accelerate more quickly through a turn to give the MDX greater handling ability.
The MDX's aggressive new exterior has drawn love-it-or-hate-it responses: particularly its shieldlike metallic grille that looks as if it could be wielded by a Spartan in battle. Nevertheless, at 78.5 inches from shoulder to shoulder, the midsize MDX sits on a wide track, giving it an athletic, hunkered-down appearance that conveys its sporting character.
The interior has been spruced up with more wood, improved materials, a more driver-focused design and the latest high-tech features Acura has to offer. With a 60/40-split middle row and folding 50/50-split, fold-flat third row, the MDX offers a versatile rear compartment for passengers and cargo. The rearmost row has decent room for children or smaller adults (certainly more than the BMW X5), but it isn't as roomy as those in the Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia or the Mazda CX-9, and should be considered mostly for occasional use. When the third-row seats are folded flat, cargo capacity swells to 43 cubic feet. Drop the second row as well and there's a max of 84 cubic feet.
In road tests, we were surprised by the MDX's nimbleness and generally sporty nature. If you're looking for a tire-smoking SUV, the MDX's 0-60-mph time of 8.1 seconds will hardly set your heart a-flutter. But its mix of sport sedan handling and crossover utility certainly makes it one of the best luxury SUVs around.
Past Acura MDX models
The Acura MDX was an all-new model in 2001, sharing a unibody platform with the second-generation Honda Odyssey and the first-generation Honda Pilot. It came standard with a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V6 and an all-wheel-drive system that automatically transferred powered front and back for optimal grip. Three rows of seats were standard in this seven-passenger midsize SUV, and as with all Acuras, there was a high level of standard equipment. A touring package added an upgraded stereo, roof racks and dual power front seats. A navigation system was a stand-alone option, but later became its own dedicated package with things like a rearview camera and voice command technology included.
In 2003, power was boosted by 20 horses. The chassis was also strengthened, the suspension retuned and the brakes upgraded. The aforementioned rearview camera and a DVD entertainment system became available. Power was upgraded again in 2004 to 265 hp, while the exterior and interior received a midlife freshening. Upgraded electronic features and improved materials brought the MDX's level of luxury closer to Acura's newer products. Meanwhile, side curtain airbags and a tire-pressure monitor increased the MDX's already impressive safety credentials. The 2005 model year saw the addition of standard satellite radio, available Bluetooth on Touring models and an upgraded navigation system. In 2006, new SAE horsepower testing procedures dropped output to 253, but real-world performance did not change.
At the time, our reviewers commented favorably about the MDX's seven-passenger capacity, top crash test scores and affordable price. Downsides included a below-average tow rating, ho-hum interior materials and a perceived lack of prestige compared to more elegant rivals like the BMW X5 and Lexus RX. Overall, though, the original Acura MDX is a smart used or certified pre-owned purchase. Keep in mind that later models have higher levels of luxury features and power. Also keep in mind that the first-generation Honda Pilot offers roughly the same package as the Acura. Though less luxurious, it featured slightly more interior room (giving it eight-passenger capacity) and could be similarly equipped for a lower price.
Acura RDX

As manufacturers take advantage of the young target demographic to stretch their creative legs, crossover vehicles are getting a lot of hype. Currently, crossovers offer some of the most adventurous designs on the market. The Acura RDX follows that trend with a highly mechanized architecture that pushes the brand's usual style cues beyond its safety threshold to a level that could intrigue many shoppers.
The RDX is also the first factory Acura product to utilize a turbocharged engine. This attribute, along with the vehicle's design focus on on-road performance rather than off-road ability, reinforces the crossover's purpose as a sporty performer inside the body of a small SUV. As such, Acura hopes it will appeal to young affluent buyers looking for an alternative to a sedan or coupe.
Current Acura RDX
The Acura RDX, introduced for the 2007 model year, is a small luxury crossover SUV. Compared to the Honda CR-V, of which there is minimal mechanical similarity, the RDX is much more upscale in terms of interior design, features and performance. Its all-new engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that's capable of 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) is standard fare, and the RDX is equipped with Acura's advanced Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system.
SH-AWD transfers torque between the wheels (front and rear, and side-to-side) to optimize steering and handling under every driving situation. Other important standard performance features include stability control, traction control and antilock disc brakes with brake assist.
For the entry-level luxury crossover SUV segment, the Acura RDX stands out for its list of premium standard features. For instance, leather seating, heated seats, xenon headlights, Bluetooth and a 260-watt audio system with a six-CD changer are all standard. An optional Technology Package adds a navigation system (with voice activation and real-time traffic reporting), sun-sensing climate control system and a rearview camera. The stereo also gets upgraded to a 410-watt surround-sound system with 10 speakers and speed sensitivity control.
The one drawback to such a sport-conscious package is that it comes at the sacrifice of some utility. Although there's plenty of space for passengers (the rear seats are nearly as roomy as those in the larger Acura MDX), the 61 (maximum) cubic-foot cargo hold is on the small side compared to most rivals and lacks items like adjustable cargo tracks and a rear parcel shelf.
If you can deal with the limited amount of cargo space, then you should look at the RDX just from a performance perspective. In road tests, we've found that the Acura RDX drives like a sport sedan. It's quick and extremely nimble through corners. The turbocharged engine is a thrill and makes the RDX exciting to drive, providing 0-60-mph times in the high-6-second range. On the downside, the RDX's EPA fuel estimates are barely average for this segment, and the turbocharged engine requires 91-octane fuel.

Acura RL
As a flagship luxury sedan, the current Acura RL is a bit of an oddity. In terms of size, it's actually classified as a midsize car. It comes with a V6 engine exclusively, even though most competing luxury sedans offer an optional V8. But unlike most of its peers, the RL comes with a price tag that's -- surprise! -- reasonably affordable. So what's the deal with the Acura RL?
Acura didn't design the RL to be a powerhouse sedan or an extravagant luxo-barge. It is, however, a comfortable and refined sedan, packaged with a high level of user-friendly technology. For buyers in this segment, we think that the RL represents the intelligent choice. Alas, it would seem that being the intelligent choice only gets a car so far in terms of sales.
The Acura RL has never attained huge popularity and typically lives in the shadow of more prestigious makes and well-known models. Older Acura RLs suffer from a similar problem, but to an even greater degree. We like the current-generation car, though, and recommend it for buyers who desire an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan, particularly one that's available with all the latest technology.
Current Acura RL
The Acura RL is a midsize luxury sedan. As with other Acura models, selecting a style is quite easy, as Acura makes nearly everything standard. Powered by a 290-horsepower V6 engine, the RL was the first Acura to feature Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). This innovative technology continuously varies power among all four wheels to enhance handling and aid wet-weather traction.
Although it doesn't offer the posh reputation of other luxury vehicles, the RL nevertheless features a classy, sumptuous interior adorned in high-quality materials, leather and real wood trim. The dash is awash in buttons, which may confuse some, but they serve a welcome redundancy with the optional navigation system's iDrive-like control knob and voice commands. The RL's 10-speaker surround-sound stereo with six-CD/DVD audio changer, satellite radio and optional iPod integration is one of the best in the business. An optional Technology Package includes a voice-activated navigation system.
In road tests, we found that the Acura RL gets better the harder it's driven thanks to the SH-AWD system that tenaciously maintains traction. The ride is tuned more on the cushier side of the spectrum, so despite offering notable handling abilities, it is still principally designed to be a comfortable cruiser. Our chief complaint has been a lack of low-end grunt. Unlike its competitors, there is no V8 offered.
Past Acura RL Models
The RL was introduced in 2005, and offered in only one trim level: loaded. The following year saw the addition of a Technology Package (now the unimaginatively named CMBS/PAX package) that includes adaptive cruise control, run-flat tires and a collision-preventing radar-based active braking system. At this time, the navigation system was standard.
Consumers interested in used Acura RLs built before 2005 will be dealing with the first-generation Acura RL (known as the 3.5 RL) produced from 1996-2004. The 3.5 RL debuted as a replacement for the popular Acura Legend, but its new uncreative name demonstrated an unfortunate change in Acura's philosophy that saw it move in a more staid, Lexus-like direction. This generation also had a high level of standard equipment and typically cost less than its competition, but it couldn't overcome its reserved-to-the-point-of-anonymity styling, unexciting V6 engine and lax driving dynamics.
While front-wheel drive is beneficial in smaller cars, most luxury car buyers seem to prefer the extra performance and handling that come from rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This wasn't such a big issue during the RL's early years, but as newer competing models debuted with more power and more features, the RL became increasingly outclassed.
Acura didn't change the 3.5 RL much during its first generation. In 2000, it received a standard stability control system and an improved navigation system. The most significant changes were made in 2002, when it gained a bit more power and a more firmly tuned suspension.
The RL's predecessor was the Acura Legend. Available in coupe and sedan body styles, the Legend largely lived up to its name, being praised for its sporty nature, strong performance and impeccable fit and finish. As with most Acura/Honda products, reliability was very good.

Acura TL
The Acura TL is a midsize, entry-level luxury sport sedan that is currently Acura's best-selling car. Though the TL typically does not deliver the excitement or prestige of competing European sedans, it counters with exceptional value and above-average durability and reliability.
After three generations, the current model is the sportiest and most desirable yet, with chiseled exterior styling, firm suspension tuning, a powerful V6 and an impressive level of standard equipment. The Acura TL underwent a midlife freshening for 2007, with minor exterior and interior styling tweaks and an upgraded optional navigation system. The TL Type-S also returned to the lineup that year with a 286-horsepower V6, various performance upgrades and few styling enhancements.
Like most sedans, the TL is very usable on a daily basis and can perform well in nearly every role. According to our editors, the current TL is "a well-built, high-performing, feature-laden entry-level luxury sport sedan that should please most consumers shopping in this market."
Current Acura TL
The current Acura TL receives a midlife freshening, but the big news is that the TL Type-S returns to the lineup after a three-year hiatus. Equipped with a 286-hp 3.5-liter V6, the Type-S also features a sport-tuned suspension, Brembo high-performance brakes and unique styling elements that include quad tailpipes. A six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with automanual shift paddles are no-cost options. The upgraded touchscreen and voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic reporting is standard equipment on the Type-S, as is the rest of the TL's lengthy features list.
The regular TL receives minor styling tweaks and interior changes, including a sporty new three-spoke steering wheel. The updated navigation system is the only option, while the five-speed automatic becomes the only available transmission. The 258-hp 3.2-liter V6 remains unchanged.
Both versions of the TL come with an attractive, well-built interior designed with a more sporting intent in mind. Aluminum inlays, bright blue electroluminescent gauges and aggressively bolstered seats should appeal to enthusiasts, but may put off those looking for a more classic luxury look. Ergonomics are excellent, with redundant stereo controls on the radio faceplate, steering wheel, and optional touchscreen and voice commands. High-tech standard features also include Bluetooth phone connectivity, programmable driver memory functions and an excellent surround-sound stereo with six-CD/DVD audio changer and satellite radio.
In road tests we've always been impressed with the Acura TL's performance and handling abilities, but ultimately find that its front-wheel-drive setup can't compete with rear-drive models like the Infiniti G35, Lexus IS 350 or BMW 335i. The Type-S ups the ante somewhat, boosting power without noticeable understeer. However, until Acura offers its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system on the TL or even switches to rear-wheel drive (unlikely), the TL will remain a few steps behind its top competitors. For a majority of shoppers, though, the TL will provide a good mix of fun, comfort and convenience at a reasonable price.
Past Acura TL Models
The current-generation TL was introduced as a 2004 model. Consumers interested in a used or certified pre-owned TL would do well to search for that model year or newer. There is not much difference between them in terms of features or hardware. Be aware that Acura revised the V6's horsepower rating from 270 to 258 starting in 2006. However, this revision was a regulatory issue and the engine did not, in fact, change.
The second-generation Acura TL was built from 1999-2003. Though it was not as exciting as the current model, our editors gave the previous generation very positive reviews during its run. Improvements were made throughout this period, and the car had a number of TL firsts, including Honda's VTEC variable valve timing and a GPS navigation option. The powerful Type-S version, which debuted in 2002, should be strongly considered by buyers interested in increased performance. Regardless of specific trim level, just about any used second-generation model should serve well.
The original Acura TL debuted in 1995 as a replacement for the unloved Acura Vigor. Two versions were offered: a 2.5 TL with a 2.5-liter inline-5 engine and a 3.2 TL with a 3.2-liter V6. Both models were available throughout the first generation's run, which lasted pretty much unchanged through 1998. As there is now little price difference between the two, we suggest consumers interested in a first-generation used TL go for the more powerful 3.2.

Acura TSX

The Acura TSX is a relatively new vehicle in the entry-level luxury sport sedan segment. Consumers seeking a sedan that's sportier and a bit more upscale than the typical family four-door will find a lot to like. The TSX, which is Acura's least expensive model, is an ideal choice for daily use given its entertaining driving characteristics, high-quality interior and generous level of standard features. And like most Acura products, the TSX boasts a high level of refinement, a reputation for above-average reliability and plenty of value for the dollar.
One downside to the Acura TSX is that we suspect many people don't perceive it as being as prestigious to own as more established cars from European automakers. This is probably a function of the car's newness, its four-cylinder engine and Honda roots. (It's the Accord in Europe.) But overall, our editors hold it in high regard and suggest that entry-level luxury sport sedan buyers give it consideration.
Current Acura TSX
The Acura TSX has seating for five passengers, boasting almost as much space as the larger TL. Nearly all of the car's high-end features come standard. This includes items like 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, heated power front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with XM Satellite Radio, auxiliary jack and an in-dash CD changer.
Antilock brakes, stability control, front side impact airbags and side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers are also standard. An impressive DVD-based navigation system with touchscreen and voice-activated software is the only cost option.
For power, the front-wheel-drive TSX relies on a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 205 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the six-cylinder engines found in other entry-level luxury sport sedans, this four-cylinder comes up a little short in terms of torque output, but is competitive in terms of horsepower. From TSX road tests, we've found that the TSX's VTEC engine needs to be revved a bit higher to get sufficient acceleration at low speeds. Buyers can choose either a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a no-cost five-speed automatic.
Past Acura TSX Models
The Acura TSX was all-new for 2004, with XM Satellite Radio and a power passenger seat added in 2005. These model years are known to hold their value exceptionally well.
The 2006 TSX featured minor engine, feature and styling changes. The four-cylinder engine was modified to produce a bit more power and the navigation system gained faster processing and additional points of interest. Bluetooth, driver seat memory and the MP3 auxiliary jack were also new. Exterior enhancements included redesigned front and rear fascias, new side sills, foglamps and new alloy wheels.

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