A seven-passenger luxury SUV that drives just like a sport sedan? Well, no, but the 2008 Acura MDX comes very close.
The term "performance SUV" comes very close to being an oxymoron. Really, if your number-one goal is performance, a big and boxy sport-utility is usually a poor choice to go about getting it. But for consumers who really like to drive, yet have certain constraints in their life that require an SUV (read: a family), such a vehicle can make a certain amount of sense. Enter the 2008 Acura MDX.
Acura's midsize luxury SUV was redesigned last year. As with the first-generation MDX, it's a car-based crossover SUV with V6 power and seating for seven. But the new model is considerably sportier. It's powered by the largest and most powerful V6 ever to grace an Acura (yes, including the NSX), giving it unparalleled juice and athleticism. With it, Acura promises V8-like performance while still maintaining respectable fuel economy.
On-road handling ability is also high on the MDX's resume. The ute benefits from a stiff chassis and an electromechanical all-wheel-drive system first seen in the RL sedan. This system, dubbed SH-AWD, can not only actively shift torque from front to rear, but also from side to side in order to maximize traction and stability in all situations. Actively controlled dampers are also available, and with them come two driver-selectable modes: Sport and Comfort. The default mode, in a nod to the MDX's mission, is the Sport setting.
Thankfully, there's still plenty of "Acura" to the MDX as well. The interior is attractively designed and solidly constructed, and one can outfit it with real-time traffic navigation and surround-sound audio. Technically, there's room for seven passengers, but the MDX works best seating four adults with the third row folded for cargo. That third row will handle small children, but like most midsize SUVs, it's for occasional use only.