The beefy Honda MDX started out life in 2001 as a luxury mid-size crossover 4x4, built around the same platform as the Accord, Acura, and Odyssey. Left-hand drive versions finally reached Australia in 2003 when the 4x4 market was really starting to take off.
The MDX’s bulky frame stands 8 inches off the deck and features a large front grille and blended bumper. The substantial boot area also features third row seats that fold flush when not in use, while the second row has a 60/40 split to give a variety of loading space combinations.
The first major facelift came about in 2007 when the MDX was made wider and longer. There were slight changes up front to the grille and headlights, but the redesign of the rear meant a little less visibility from the steeply raked D pillar, which featured a spoiler, wrap-around LED rear lights, and twin exhausts.
Where the MDX gains advantage over its competition is with its interior; there is a great level of attention to detail, which automatically shines through and gives it an innate sense of luxury. The cabin lives up to its luxury tag, and the quality finish and sturdy construction provide a palatial environment in which to travel.
The current second-generation Honda MDX is powered by a 3.7L SOHC V6 VTEC engine, although the earlier models, before the 2007 restyling, were fitted with the 3.5L V6. The Honda MDX is a complete family 4x4 and capable of tackling unforgiving terrain, but it can also pick up the pace, accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, using on average 15L/100km of fuel around town. The assured roadworthiness is gained by the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH AWD) and a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
Honda have made a safe car in the MDX, which achieved the much coveted five-star ANCAP rating with its front and side impact airbags, ABS, EBD, vehicle stability system, and Honda’s ACE energy-absorbing body work.
What the MDX’s engineering accomplishes is practical utility, stylish driving, and family comfort. Whether you are using the 83.5 cubic feet of storage to move luggage or equipment or the 7 seats to transport the family, you are well catered to in this vehicle.
The standard equipment list that came with the first MDX was pretty long, including duel zone climate control, remote locking, electric windows and powered mirrors, cruise control, electronic sunroof, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, 8-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, heated front seats, auto off headlights, leather finished steering wheel, wooden trim, and gorgeous leather upholstery. This didn’t change with the second generation, which also had Xenon headlights and powered moon roof.
The most recent refinements and technological updates have introduced a better spec navigation system, powered tailgate across the various trims, auto dim-rear mirror, and features like the blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, and active damper suspension. There are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, rear view cameras, and ventilated seats for extra comfort.
The additions come in three offerings; the entertainment, technology, and sports packages give customers the chance to select their own preferred gadgets and features to suit. The technology package adds navigation, voice recognition, live traffic updates, rear view camera, and solar sensors. The Sports package includes the techno gadgets, better wheels, and active dampers. The Entertainment package can be added on either the Technology or Sports packages and comes with a rear DVD screen and heated second row seats.
Australia’s interior is often seen as the proving ground for any 4x4 with pretensions to great off-roading capabilities, and the second-generation Honda MDX sees itself compared with the likes of the VW Touareg, Volvo XC90, Land Rover LR3, Cadillac SRX, and Lexus GX470. All were run against each other in a performance test back in 2007, and the Honda MDX won hands down.
The earlier MDX saw itself compared to old stagers Land Rover Discovery, sound engineering from the Mercedes Benz ML320 and BMW X5, as well as the likes of the Audi Allroad, Lexus RX330, and Volvo Cross Country. The MDX still holds up well, even a couple years down the line. Provided it has not been handled too roughly, it is a good second-hand buy.
There are murmurings circulating of a new MDX and concept drawings promising an “aero sculptured” car to be released around 2014. However, the current generation is still very much a viable off-roader’s dream. As a luxury mid-size crossover 4x4, the Honda MDX takes on the competition. It’s well connected, strikingly designed, and comfortable to drive. Fuel economy could be better, but you cannot fault its quality interior.