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The Second-Gen Acura MDX is an Unappreciated Classic, Here’s Why
By raw sales figures alone, the late 2000’s Lexus RX Crossover will likely be looked upon more favorably than its rival from Acura and their MDX. Believe us when we tell you, though, raw sales data doesn’t even tell half the story between these two titans in the American luxury crossover market of just under 15 years ago.

The Second-Gen Acura MDX is an Unappreciated Classic, Here’s Why

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The second-generation MDX deserves to be looked back upon as more than just a fantastic people hauler, it’s also one of the most underrated factory sleepers of the last 20 years. Don’t believe us? Let us break it down for you.

The first-generation Acura MDX was a landmark car not just for Acura, but their parents at Honda as well. Before the MDX, high-end luxury SUVs were primarily the domain of German automakers like the Mercedes-Benz M Class or the BMW X5. Sure, there was the odd Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator here and there, but those were much larger and heavier vehicles and not nearly on the same level of refinement.

The MDX changed that dynamic forever. Yes, the Lexus RX350 was at least a year and a half ahead of the Acura in launch dates. But it was the MDX that stole the show and became Acura’s highest-selling model, overtaking the long-standing TL Sedan of the period. If the second-generation MDX was going to maintain this narrow lead over their rivals at Lexus, it would need to be very special indeed.

Thankfully, the 2007 MDX made its debut just in time to compete with the newly facelifted Second Generation RX 350. It’s very easy for a seven-seater SUV like the MDX and RX 350 to look flabby, ungainly, or downright ugly. Large seating capacity doesn’t lend well to well-defined curves, it would seem.

But as far as styling is concerned, the second-generation MDX was second to none in its day. Its sculpted, muscular-looking body panels melded together with the striking metallic beak arrangement front-grille to become one of if not the best-looking crossover SUV ever made.

The MDX wasn’t all show, no go, like so many other SUVs, are, mind you. Its motor was forged by people who know a thing or two about building great engines. Honda's VTEC didn’t gain a worldwide reputation for no good reason, and the 3.7 liters naturally aspirated V6 engine was perhaps its finest creation ever.

Dubbed the J37 in relation to its cubic capacity, this engine used a die-cast aluminum block with aluminum cylinder liners and topped off with an intake manifold made of cast magnesium alloy. In the MDX, this motor was christened J37A1 and jetted 300 horsepower and between 270 and 275 lb/ft of torque depending on the model year.

That’s right, this seven-seater crossover SUV with room for seven people and all the latest gizmos and gadgets of the time made as much power as the equivalent model year Porsche Boxter (245 hp), U.S.-spec Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (291 hp), and even the Acura NSX supercar that Acura had only discontinued 24 months prior.

The VTEC is best known for its use on small four-cylinder engines to make them as eager to rev as your right food allows it to do so. But on an engine as large as the J37, it becomes a different beast entirely. Instead of a raspy exhaust note, all six cylinders come together to form a sound somewhere in-between a classic V-tec Civic Type R and a modern American Muscle car.

Pair that with Acura’s exclusive Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system keeping the big SUV planted at all times, the MDX handled, accelerated, and gave as many thrills as a sports car a third its size. 0 to 60 times in the six and a half-second range cemented the MDX as a legitimately quick vehicle, full stop, and not just compared to other crossover SUVs. Not many SUVs from this era can claim to have suspension components stress tested on the Nordschleife race track at the Nürburgring in Germany, but the MDX can.

This devotion to satisfying the needs of a family and a car enthusiast is a quality some have argued was lost in subsequent generations of the MDX, up until its latest A-Spec and Type S models of recent times. These days, you can buy a decent example MDX from this time period for anywhere from $8,000 to $11,000 depending on specifics. Not bad, considering a new one is worth four and a half times as much at the very least.

So, yes, even if the RX350 ultimately won the sales competition between the two. In the hearts and minds of people who drove them, the MDX was the hands-down favorite.


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