Premium midsize SUV; Built in Canada
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $7,100 – $16,500*


2001 Acura MDX


2001 Acura MDX


2001 Acura MDX interior


2002 Acura MDX


2003 Acura MDX

Pros:
  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
  • Refinement
Cons:
  • Climate controls
  • Fuel economy
  • Navigation-system controls

Although the MDX was a late arrival in the SUV market, Acura did its homework and the vehicle quickly became a hot seller. An MDX is competent, comfortable, and convenient–a must-see model for near-luxury SUV shoppers. Overall refinement and generous standard equipment make MDX a fine value, new or used, though the ride can be truck-lumpy at times.

Overview

Honda’s upscale division designed and built this all-wheel-drive midsize sport-utility vehicle to compete against the popular Lexus RX 300 and other car-based SUVs. Based on the Honda Odyssey minivan platform, the MDX (“Multi Dimensional Luxury”) is about 5 inches longer than a BMW X5 and 8.5 inches longer than a Lexus RX 300. Both of those competitors seat five, however, while the MDX holds seven occupants. Additional rivals include the Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and Toyota Highlander.

Under the MDX hood sat a more powerful version of the Odyssey’s 3.5-liter V6, producing 240 horsepower and linked to a five-speed automatic transmission rather than a four-speed. Standard Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) four-wheel drive normally powers the front wheels, but is designed to sense impending wheel slippage and direct up to 52 percent of power to the back wheels when needed. A rear-wheel locking device kicks in for maximum traction below 6 mph, but no low-range gearing was included. An MDX can tow a 3500-pound trailer or a 4500-pound boat.

Standard fare included leather upholstery, heated power front bucket seats, a power sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Front side airbags, antilocking all-disc brakes, rear air conditioning, heated mirrors, and a CD player also were standard. The optional Touring package added a driver’s seat/mirror memory, roof rack, and a six-disc in-dash CD changer. A navigation system with dashboard screen was optional.

Second- and third-row bench seats were standard. As in the Odyssey, the third-row seat folds into the rear cargo floor. So does the second-row seat, which was an SUV “first.” Both seats were split, so sections can stow individually to suit passenger/cargo loads.

Yearly Updates

2002 MDX
Noise-reduction measures marked the 2002 edition of Acura’s SUV. Windshield glass grew thicker, sound dampening material was added to the roof and other areas, door mirrors and the roof rack were repositioned–all part of a quest to cut down on unwanted sounds. A rear wiper/washer was now standard, and child-seat anchors were installed.
2003 MDX
The MDX engine gained 20 horsepower for 2003, and an antiskid system became standard. Honda now had a seven-passenger Pilot on sale, with a 240-hp version of the same 3.5-liter V6 engine. But the upscale MDX had a shorter body than the Pilot, with unique styling and a somewhat smaller cabin.
A new electronic “drive-by-wire” throttle was installed, along with rain-sensing wipers. Some structural stiffening took place, wheels were restyled, and the steering and suspension systems were revised. The available navigation system now operated with voice control and 3-D graphics, and its screen served the newly optional rearview camera. A new DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system could not be installed in models with Acura’s navigation system.
2004 MDX
New for ’04 were head-protecting curtain side airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system. Also, front and rear styling were slightly altered.
2005 MDX
More entertainment features were added for 2005, including standard satellite radio on all models, plus a larger fuel tank. OnStar assistance is also newly standard with the navigation system.
2006 MDX
Revised interior trim for the top-line model heads the short list of 2006 MDX changes.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive

Acura’s 3.5-liter overhead-cam V6 engine produced 240 horsepower, driving a five-speed automatic transmission. Engine output grew to 260 hp in 2003, 265 in 2004. All MDX models had all-wheel drive, which lacked a low range.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/212
Engine HP 240-265
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 245-255
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

17/23

17.8

Road Test

Coming across as a highly competent and pleasing compromise, the MDX feels more nimble than a Lexus RX 300 and lighter on its feet than a Mercedes ML, if not quite as athletic as a V8 BMW X5. Road manners are carlike and even sporty, at reasonable cornering speeds.

The suspension is firm, but not jolting, over most large bumps, furnishing a nice balance between ride comfort and handling ability–though a Lexus RX or Toyota Highlander is better at ironing out lumpy freeways. Body lean isn’t excessive, particularly by SUV standards. Brakes have good stopping power, with little nosedive.

Acura’s 3.5-liter V6 pulls a lot of weight here, which makes it feel weaker than its power rating implies. Even so, acceleration is lively enough for most situations, aided by the transmission’s smooth, prompt downshifts. A test Touring model accelerated to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. Fuel economy ranks slightly above the six-cylinder midsize SUV norm, but premium fuel is needed. A test MDX averaged 17.8 mpg in city/freeway driving.

Tire hum and highway wind rush are noticeable, but tolerable for an SUV. The engine is quite hushed at idle, and refined under hard acceleration.

All but the very tallest front passengers have good head and leg room in comfortable, supportive seats. The driving position is efficient, except for an awkwardly shaped left-foot dead pedal. The cabin eschews opulence for a comfortably upscale, contemporary feel.

Passengers in the second-row seat have similarly generous head room, with knee space sufficient for six-footers. It’s comfortable and wide enough for three-across adult seating, although shoulders will likely rub. The third-row seat is kid-sized, yet useful. Both back seats have reclining backrests, and second-row seats slide fore/aft. Step-in isn’t carlike, but it’s lower than many midsize SUVs.

Cargo room is modest with a full passenger load, but numerous seat-folding options help. Flush-folding second- and third-row seats have simple one-lever latches and are easy to stow for cargo hauling.

The dashboard layout is mostly clear, logical, and handy. Controls for the automatic climate system are high in the center and don’t require an attention-diverting downward look, but they’re a far reach for some drivers. Also, their indicator lights and temperature display wash out in bright sunlight. Though easier to use than some, an MDX’s optional navigation system can still be distracting.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Acura MDX base

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
70%
Cargo Room - 8
80%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 56

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 188.5 76.3 68.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
81.5 19.2 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.7 39.0 41.5 37.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Transmissions may fail due to lack of thread-locking compound on nut for low clutch. Honda/Acura has extended warranty on affected vehicles to 7 years or 100,000 miles. (2001-03)
Seat
Description: The left seat in the second row fails to fold down or slide away for third-seat access because of a loose cable. (2001)
Water leak
Description: Water may drip almost constantly for quite a while, especially after washing the vehicle. The mirrors should be removed and a drain slot cut into them at the base. (2001)
Wipers
Description: The nut holding the rear wiper arm comes loose, allowing the wiper to become loose. A redesigned nut must be installed. (2001)
Battery
Description: The battery may become weak or die because the glove box light stays on and installing a plastic cap over the plunger makes it go off when closed. (2001-04)

Recall History

2001-02 MDX
Description: Heat may build-up between the countershaft and secondary shaft of the automatic transmission, resulting in gear failure. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
2001-02 MDX
Description: Gear failure due to heat build-up may result in transmission lockup, which could result in a crash.
2001-02 MDX
Description: On SUVs sold in specific states, excessive corrosion can cause spring failure and possible breakage, which could puncture a front tire and increase the risk of a crash.
2002 MDX
Description: Water-pump timing-belt tensioner pulley might be misaligned and could cause timing belt to fail, resulting in engine stalling. Dealers will inspect water pump and replace pump and timing belt if necessary.
2003-2006 MDX
Description: Ignition-switch interlock lever may deform, meaning the vehicle may not lock into “Park” and could roll away.
2005 MDX
Description: During a crash, improperly-manufactured fuel tank could be damaged and leak; could result in fire, in presence of an ignition source.
2005-2006 MDX
Description: Potentially damaged Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) control module can cause intermittent, minor brake application, but if the driver applies the brakes while the VSA is malfunctioning, the vehicle will come to an abrupt stop.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.