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2008 Acura MDX review: 2008 Acura MDX

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The Good The 2008 Acura MDX can be outfitted with a full plate of tech goodies, including a 10-speaker ELS surround-sound audio system, second-row DVD-entertainment package, and voice-controlled navigation and cell phone access. Electronically controlled all-wheel drive and active damping combine for confident handling.

The Bad While the requisite cabin tech is present and functional, its presentation is now a generation old and the interior ergonomics could also use a freshening.

The Bottom Line Still among the best all-around seven-passenger luxury SUVs, the 2008 Acura MDX never disappoints (except perhaps in its looks), but is due for some cabin tech updates and a little more power to match its handling.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.2 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 5

Review Sections

The 2008 Acura MDX remains largely unchanged from the 2007 model, when we reviewed the then-new redesign and found it chock-full of tech options inherited from Acura's sedans, and with improved handling courtesy of similarly upgraded four-wheel-drive management. Back in 2006, the first-generation MDX had some unfinished first-generation electronics, but nonetheless impressed us with the breadth of its tech offerings.

Some minor feature additions are present on the 2008 model, which improve the overall tech experience, and its solid driving dynamics are still intact. But other luxury SUVs offer better performance, and we're ready to see Acura's next round of cabin tech updates.

The styling of the exterior seems generally unpopular, and our opinion in that vein hasn't changed since last year. The snout especially is a curious mix of chrome, vents, and bumper plastic that announces the car's presence with something less than authority.

Test the tech: Road trip, round two
Our 2007 test car was subjected to a wintry road trip to Lake Tahoe courtesy of Wayne Cunningham, who put the new-to-the-MDX SH-AWD system to the test with some snowy driving shenanigans. This time around, our MDX arrived just before our annual August trek to the Monterey Historics and Pebble Beach Concours weekend, about two hours south of San Francisco.

Although we know the way to Monterey, the navigation system shows the current traffic conditions.

We dug into the various cabin systems with aplomb during our five days with the car and uncovered some features we had noted were lacking in previous tests. And we were able to get in enough twisty-road miles and around-town maneuvering to appreciate the four-wheel drive system's contributions to dry-road handling.

The navigation system is an old friend to us by now, reliable and predictable, but we've heard its stories already and maybe take all its practical wisdom for granted. In short, it works as well as ever, but we're ready to try some new features. Still, it's always nice telling a car what to do and having it actually listen, and this Honda/Acura voice command system is better than most. Live traffic reporting is included with the package, with visual cues on the map available within the mid-range of zoom adjustment. We were oddly (perhaps shockingly) disappointed not to incur any major traffic delays while on any of our programmed routes during the trip, but we did enjoy seeing the suckers stuck on other highways on our map.

Voice control of the navigation is nice, but we usually end up finding it quicker to use the screen and large joystick-knob, especially for programming destinations. Voice control of the audio and climate control systems is more useful in practice, and we can now say from extended experience that once most of the commands are mastered, voice operation can trump buttons and switches for many functions.

The ability to import a cell-phone contact list is a new feature in the MDX.
The same is true of the Bluetooth hands-free cell phone setup, which responds well to dialing by numbers and things like switching calls from phone to car and vice-versa. The system can store and recognize 50 numbers in its own phone book, which can then be voice-dialed by name. Another likeable feature we uncovered that was lacking in 2007 was the car's ability to download a paired phone's contacts list. Once downloaded (and optionally locked with a PIN), the list can be searched by letter using the joystick-knob, a clear improvement over reading the numbers aloud to the car off the phone.

We found the MDX a very welcome long-weekend companion, with enough room for the occasional back-seat wardrobe change, space for plenty of gear, decent performance and fuel economy, and generally comfortable driving.

In the cabin
The rest of the cabin tech appeared no different than during our previous stint with the MDX. The impressive 10-speaker ELS surround-audio system works better in the smaller cabin of the RDX, but especially while checking out the factory demo disc that was still in our test car, it perked our ears up in the MDX as well. Listening to everything from live sports to jazz to news, the crispness seemed palpable and with the surround center adjusted to the driver's seat we detected elements of familiar songs we'd lost to lesser systems.

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