The 2003 Acura MDX midsize sport utility vehicle (SUV) competes with class leaders from BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz by offering solid handling, a reasonable price, decent luxury, and great safety. The off-road abilities and towing capacity are at the bottom of its crowded segment, so buyers needing an all-terrain SUV or torque-filled towing beast should look elsewhere. But buyers needing a reasonably-priced and luxurious pavement warrior that seats seven should definitely check out the MDX.
Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Acura MDX, Acura MDX Touring
The 2003 Acura MDX gets a number of major improvements. There is a 20-horsepower boost, upping the total to 260. There's a revised five-speed automatic transmission, a new stability control system, a strengthened chassis, a retuned suspension, and stronger brakes that combine to help handle the increased power output. In the cabin, the optional navigation system now offers voice recognition capability, enhanced graphics, and expanded database coverage. A new tailgate-mounted rearview camera that transmits its view to the display screen when the vehicle is put in reverse makes backing up an SUV even easier. An optional DVD-based entertainment system can be installed as a factory option.
The 2003 Acura MDX midsize SUV is available in two trims: base and Touring. The base trim offers standard gear like 17-inch alloy wheels, rear defogger, rear wipers, intermittent wipers all the way around, privacy glass, power glass sunroof, power door mirrors, heated door mirrors, and four-wheel independent suspension.
It has a look that Acura defines as a combination of muscular and elegant. It feels a bit plain, under-styled, and lacking enthusiasm.
The 2003 Acura MDX has standard interior features that include leather upholstery, eight-way power driver seat with manually adjustable lumbar support, heated front seats, power windows, remote power door locks, cruise control, power steering, tilt steering wheel, audio and cruise controls mounted on the steering wheel, interior air filtration, front and rear air-conditioning, leather trim on doors, steering wheel, shift knob and center console, and a 155-watt audio system with AM/FM, CD player and seven speakers including a subwoofer. The seven-passenger cabin is comfortable and luxurious. It may not rival offerings from Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, but it is a rather posh interior, especially with the reasonable price.
Performance & Handling
The 2003 Acura MDX uses a 260 horsepower, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that makes 250 lb-ft of torque and mates to a five-speed-automatic transmission. A VTM-4 variable-torque management, all-wheel-drive system powers the front wheels during optimal driving conditions. Under traction-challenged conditions, this system automatically transfers power to the rear wheels as needed to maintain traction. A dashboard button can be used to lock the system allowing it to deliver maximum traction. In Acura’s own tests, it did the zero-to-60-mph run in less than nine seconds. Acceleration is enough to handle traffic situations well, but not enough to tear up off-road and the torque isn’t enough to allow it to challenge class rivals for towing capacity, a feature that is lacking on this Acura. It won’t rival a car when it comes to handling, but it isn’t too bad with body lean, the steering is responsive, and it is more athletic than many class rivals. However, it can’t perform like the BMW X5, a noted class leader. Braking is strong, although a bit touchy for some drivers. The ride is relatively smooth, but class leaders from Mercedes-Benz and Lexus will offer a more posh riding experience. It isn’t as hushed as a luxury car, but for an SUV, the moderate tire and wind noise isn’t too bad.
The 2003 Acura MDX offers an impressive list of standard safety equipment that includes dual-stage front airbags and side-impact airbags for the front seats, all-disc anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, child seat anchors, anti-theft alarm system, front seatbelt pretensioners, traction control, stability control, rear door child safety locks, and a rear center three-point belt. In NHTSA testing, it earns five out of five stars for side-impact safety and four stars for driver, passenger, and rollover safety. In IIHS testing, it receives the highest rating of ""good"" for frontal offset crash safety. It is one of the better choices for safety in the crowded four-door luxury SUV segment.
EPA Fuel Economy
Acura MDX: 15/21 mpg city/highway
- Spacious interior
- Powerful V-6 engine
- Balanced suspension
- Great crash test scores
- Low price for its class
You Won't Like
- Off-road capability lacking
- Tow rating lags classmates
- Plain interior design
- Cabin materials not exactly luxurious
- Availability causes buyers to exceed sticker price
A plain SUV that is capable and offers good utility.
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