Used Car Review

2001-2006 Acura MDX: Used Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Lee Ronson April 2012

When the sport-utility craze took off, automakers that produced only cars were left in the dust. In the mid-1990s, Acura slapped together the truck-based SLX, a warmed over version of the sturdy but hardly Honda-like Isuzu Trooper. Its first homegrown SUV came in 2001. Based on the highly successful Honda Odyssey minivan platform, the MDX was one of the first "crossover SUVs" and Acura's answer to the trend-setting Lexus RX 300.

Why You Want It

It may sound like a cliche, but the MDX was one of the very first SUVs to put the sport in utility. It's got a smooth and torquey 3.5-liter V6 engine, intelligent all-wheel drive, stiff and sound unitized body construction and sophisticated 4-wheel independent suspension. This is one 5-passenger (seven in a pinch) hauler that has the athletic moves of a car and the utility to swallow up to 81.5 cubic feet of cargo or tow a 3500-lb trailer. Both the 50/50 split third-row seat and 70/30 split second row seat fold into a variety of configurations, or disappear into the floor. The leather-slathered front seats are comfortable and the quality of materials rivals a luxury sedan. The MDX has received plenty of kudos from the press. The 2001 model garnered Motor Trend magazine Sport Utility of the Year honors and was also named North American Truck of the Year. Consumer Reports magazine lists the used 2001-2006 MDX as a Good Bet.

Notable Features & Options

MDXs come only one way - loaded. Standard fare includes leather-trimmed first and second row seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, power driver seat, power moonroof, 3-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, all wheel drive, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, polished 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, 7-speaker audio with CD and cassette, Homelink garage door opener and lots more. The second-row seats are split 60/40 and the third row 50/50. The third-row seats fold into the floor. Options are few, but a Touring Package adds items like a power front passenger seat, roof rack, memory driver seat and side mirrors and an upgraded 8-speaker Bose audio with a 6-disc in-dash CD player. Optional only with the Touring Package are a navigation system with voice recognition and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Model Milestones

2003: Engine output increased from 240 to 260 horsepower.

2004: Exterior styling refreshed with new projector beam headlamps, and revised front fascia, chin spoiler and tail lamps. New dual exhaust increases power to 265 hp. Side curtain airbags and tire pressure monitoring added.

2005: XM Satellite Radio, Vehicle Stability Assist and Brake Assist become standard and navigation with voice command is optional. Standard with the Touring Package are OnStar with HandsFreeLink. Larger fuel tank increases driving range.

2006: Zebra wood trim on console and door panels and satin chrome interior accents added to Touring Package. Engine is re-rated to 253 SAE net hp.

Engines & Performance

All 2001-2006 MDX models were equipped with a responsive 3.5-liter all-aluminum SOHC V6 engine, paired with a smooth-shifting 5-speed automatic transmission and on-demand all-wheel drive. The flexible and sophisticated V6 benefits from variable valve timing, valve-lift control and a two-stage inlet manifold. Horsepower has varied a bit over the years, rising 240 to 260 hp in 2003 courtesy of some retuning. A revised dual exhaust in 2004 bumped output to 265 hp. Power was to 253 SAE net hp in 2006, a result of all automakers adopting a single SAE engine rating standard. EPA estimated fuel economy for all 2001-2006 models is 17-mpg city/23-mpg highway, which would equate to 15-mpg city/21-mpg highway if converted to the tougher 2008-and-newer EPA standard. All versions of the MDX 3.5-liter V6 require premium unleaded fuel. Car and Driver, Motor Trend and Consumer Reports all report 0-60-mph acceleration of around 8 seconds.

Recalls, Safety Ratings & Warranties

The NHTSA has announced the following safety recalls for the 2001 to 2006 Acura MDX:

2001-2002: Transmission overheating, gear failure and possible gear lockup could cause a crash. Dealer to revise oil cooler line, inspect gears and replace transmission if damaged.

2001-2002: Excessive rust on front springs in Northern climates could cause spring breakage. Dealer to replace with improved springs.

2002: Misaligned tensioner pulley could cause timing belt to fail, causing engine to stall. Dealer to inspect and replace belt as necessary.

2005: Improperly built fuel tank could leak. Dealer to replace tank.

In its testing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2002 and 2005-2006 MDX 4 stars for frontal and side impacts. The 2003 model was rated 4 stars for frontal impacts and 5 stars for side impacts, while the 2004 MDX received 5 stars for the driver and 4 for the front passenger in frontal impacts and 5 stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2001-2006 MDX a good rating for offset front impacts but did not rate it for side impacts.

Acura backed the 2001 to 2006 MDX with a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance. For 2006 the powertrain portion was expanded to 6 years and 70,000 miles of coverage.

On Acura Certified Pre-owned cars, the bumper-to-bumper warranty is extended to 5 years/60,000 miles or if the original warranty is expired, another 1 year/12,000 miles. The powertrain warranty increases to 7 years/100,000 miles.

Word on the Web

In its 2001 Sport Utility of the Year report, MotorTrend.com called the MDX an outstanding value considering its high feature content. The editors congratulated Acura engineers for blending the functional flexibility of a minivan, the all-weather confidence of an SUV and the comfort of a well-tailored luxury car. Further, MT liked the gutsy, sport-sedan-like power and handling prowess. The only area MT found issue with was the brakes, due to long stopping distances.

In a test of a 2003 model, ConsumerReports.org lauded the MDX's powertrain smoothness, communicative steering, good visibility, comfortable front seats, and ample cargo space, but criticized the crossover's cramped third-row seats, intrusive coarse road noise and long stopping distances.

CarComplaints.com lists transmission vibration, slippage, hard shifting and premature failure as the most frequent issues on 2001-2006 MDXs.

ConsumerReports.org gave the 2001-2006 MDX good marks for predicted reliability in all areas except for the transmission, with 2001, 2002 and 2003 models rated worse than average for transmission repairs.

Competitive Set

It's hard to fault the smooth ride, quiet cabin, first-class build quality, top-rated reliability and resale value of the Lexus RX, but the MDX has better acceleration, third-row seating the RX lacks and is more fun to drive. The Infiniti FX35 is a crossover SUV for buyers who would rather be driving a sports coupe and it will out-accelerate and out-brake the MDX handily, but the FX lacks third-row people hauling capability and has the least cargo space in the segment.

AutoTrader Recommendation

It's always wiser to purchase a model from one of the later years in its production run that benefitted from all of the previous improvements. For the MDX, that would be 2004 and later models that have safety advancements like roof rail airbags and tire pressure monitoring. Also the 2004-2006 MDXs had fewer incidents of transmission failure. If you are considering purchasing one of the earlier MDX models, get a vehicle history report to see if the transmission has been updated and by all means make sure you get the transmission checked out by an Acura dealer or reputable mechanic.

Find an Acura MDX for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2001-2006 Acura MDX: Used Car Review - Autotrader