2003 Acura MDX -- Introduction - Part 1

The Acura MDX' was launched in 2001 to define a new era in the evolution of luxury sport utility vehicles, treading beyond the limits of existing SUVs in terms of handling, packaging efficiency and environmental impact. It was developed with the overriding goal of setting new benchmarks for luxury SUV performance. That performance goal applies to the three main themes of the development concept; to establish new performance benchmarks in the SUV category for versatility, responsibility and dynamic performance. As the development process progressed, an additional development goal was added - furnishing the vehicle with an array of cutting edge features that effectively "defeat winter" for its driver and passengers - limiting the harsh effects of the cold winter months on MDX occupants.

For 2003, the two primary goals for the MDX are to boost its already formidable performance by increasing horsepower and further refine the MDX inside and out. The 2003 version of the MDX features many improvements that enhance its best-in-class status including a next generation engine that boosts horsepower from 240 to 260 and an all-new compact 5-speed automatic transmission. Engine refinements make the MDX the first SUV to meet rigorous ULEV-2 emissions standards and allow it to achieve an impressive estimated fuel economy rating of 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway using the EPA method. Revised suspension and steering systems coupled with a 35 percent increase in dynamic torsional chassis rigidity enhance ride comfort while maintaining responsive handling. A new Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system works in concert with the MDX's VTM-4 four-wheel drive system and innovative drive-by-wire throttle system to provide enhanced vehicle control during acceleration, cornering and braking.

The MDX's stylishly sculpted exterior belies the spacious and versatile interior - boasting 7-passenger seating, and many easily configured seating/cargo layouts. And the confident on- and off-highway performance of MDX does not detract from its thorough active and passive safety systems. The 2003 MDX receives rear splash guards, rain-sensing windshield wipers (w/ Touring Package), redesigned alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights and three new colors, Midnight Blue Pearl, Sage Brush Pearl and Sandstone Metallic.

The 2003 MDX also debuts the third generation of the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition, featuring a wide range of new features and capabilities including voice recognition capability, enhanced graphics, and expanded US database coverage. A rearview camera has been added that transmits pictures from behind the vehicle onto the navigation system screen when the MDX is in reverse gear.

A new Acura DVD Entertainment System is now available as a factory installed option on MDX models with the optional Touring Package. This system features a 7-inch widescreen LCD display for rear seat passengers that flips down from the ceiling at the push of a button. The system comes complete with two infrared (IR) wireless headphones and a wireless remote control as standard equipment.


  • Next generation engine increases horsepower from 240 to 260 and reduces emissions
  • All-new compact 5-speed automatic transmission for smoother, more refined shifts
  • Drive-by-wire throttle system
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) to enhance vehicle control
  • Revised suspension settings for a smoother ride
  • 35 percent increase in dynamic torsional body rigidity for precise handling
  • Refined steering system for enhanced feel and reduced kickback
  • New dual-piston front brake calipers for enhanced stopping power
  • Dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags
  • Additional front airbag sensors and new system control logic
  • New alloy wheel design
  • Auto-up driver's side window with auto-reverse
  • Rain sensing windshield wipers (with Touring Package)
  • Auto on/off headlights
  • Rear splash guards
  • Three new exterior colors:
    o Midnight Blue Pearl
    o Sage Brush Pearl
    o Sandstone Metallic
  • Available Acura DVD Entertainment System with headphones and remote control
  • Improvements to the optional Acura Navigation System including:
    o Voice recognition
    o Enhanced graphics.
    o Rearview camera
    o Expanded US data base coverage
  • New interior color - Quartz

Outstanding performance has always been a fundamental Acura character trait. The development of Acura's first in-house designed and engineered SUV presented the opportunity for the engineers to sidestep the shortcomings of products already on the market and begin with a fresh approach to the SUV equation. That approach was to create the first no-compromise SUV - melding attractive design, unmatched versatility, driving exhilaration, social responsibility, and value in one neatly wrapped package.

The 2003 MDX is powered by a next generation 3.5-liter, V-6 engine, which is tuned to deliver an outstanding 260 peak horsepower (an increase of 20 horsepower compared to the 2002 model) at 5750 rpm and 250 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 5 lb-ft compared to the 2002 model) between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm. This engine is coupled to an all-new compact 5-speed automatic transmission that is 60 mm shorter than the previous generation transmission yet features increased torque capacity to cope with the more powerful engine. A new drive-by-wire throttle system helps reduce shift shock and incorporates cruise control functions. The MDX's standard VTM-4 four-wheel drive system was remapped to work seamlessly with a new Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system to improve performance on low traction surfaces, and enhance stability in all conditions.

MDX's 4500-pound boat towing package (3500-pound for trailers) was achieved by tuning the powertrain and chassis systems to manage heavy loads with confidence. This vehicle's wider-than-normal stance, high-torque engine, wide-ratio 5-speed automatic transmission, and powerful brakes yield a highly competent tow vehicle.

A pillar of the Acura development approach is that the driver's seat should be the most rewarding seat in the vehicle. With this in mind, the development team groomed MDX to behave like a sport sedan when driven in an assertive manner. The starting point is a 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 engine that seemingly achieves the impossible by combining a remarkably broad range of torque - 250 lbs.-ft. from 3500 to 5000 rpm - with a potent 260 horsepower at 5750 rpm. Factor in a new, wide-ratio, five-speed automatic transmission and a sensible curb weight achieved by the shrewd use of high-strength materials, and MDX posts outstanding acceleration performance. This performance is especially apparent in the 2003 MDX as the additional 20 horsepower has dropped its 0-60 and quarter times 0.4 seconds.

Acknowledging that ordinary SUVs feel clumsy and cumbersome, extra effort was invested in making sure that the MDX provides driving exhilaration consistent with Acura standards. Chassis systems and the power-to-weight ratio are optimized for all-around performance.

The 2003 MDX features 4-channel Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) for increased driver control during accident avoidance maneuvers, aggressive cornering and inclement weather. The VSA system monitors lateral (cornering) stability and seamlessly integrates traction control, 4-wheel drive, Anti-lock braking, throttle control and stability control functions.

Demanding drivers expect a vehicle's braking system to match its acceleration - and MDX measures up to that task as well. To provide short stopping distances, high fade resistance, and a reassuring pedal feel, the MDX's four-wheel disc braking system uses large-diameter rotors, extra-rigid calipers and, new for 2003, dual-piston front calipers. The 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) features electronic distribution of brake forces for optimum use of the traction available at each corner of the vehicle. The result is responsive braking performance for short stopping distances with a confident pedal feel.

Excellent handling begins with getting the fundamentals of vehicle dynamics right from the start. A wide track maximizes stability and cornering grip, so MDX has the widest track in its class. The MDX design was tuned to achieve the best possible maneuverability and helps to minimize the cumbersome feeling that plagues most truck-based SUVs.

To overcome the usual ride-versus-handling compromises, engineers incorporated front and rear subframes to isolate road noise and driveline vibration from the passenger compartment, along with independent front and rear suspension systems with extra wheel travel and fine-tuned suspension geometry. For 2003, the suspension has been recalibrated to improve ride comfort, while at the same time the rear subframe, tailgate opening, rear floor and wheel house have been reinforced, resulting in a 35 percent increase in dynamic torsional rigidity and an improvement in handling precision. Low roll centers combined with large stabilizer bars provide progressive, predictable cornering response and excellent stability at the limit of adhesion. Lightweight materials - such as aluminum castings for all major driveline components and extensive use of high strength steel unit body components - give MDX an overall agile feeling.

The theme of versatility was applied to each area of development, from exterior and interior styling to powertrain to chassis design and the many performance targets. From the inside out, MDX offers many options to the driver and passengers including the potential for six seating configurations from the split and folding second and third-row seats.

The options don't end there however, as the powertrain is tuned for optimum performance in virtually any condition the driver is likely to encounter. Key to this is an engine that is powerful, fuel efficient and low in emissions - with a broad range of torque and horsepower. Likewise, the new 5-speed transmission offers one of the widest overall gear ratio ranges in the segment, ensuring that engine speeds are matched as closely as possible to the demands of the driving conditions at any time.

MDX's unit body construction provides the optimum balance of strength and rigidity while still being the most space and weight efficient construction for an SUV of this size. All suspension, steering and braking components are designed to minimize unsprung weight to improve handling precision, but are still rugged enough for medium-duty, off-road driving.

MDX demonstrates a high degree of environmental responsibility by providing excellent fuel economy with very low exhaust emissions. Thanks in part to a retooled, high output exhaust system, and innovative new fuel injectors, the 2003 MDX meets stringent ULEV-2 emissions levels. The MDX's combination of 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway* places it ahead of competitive luxury SUVs in fuel economy and proves that powerful SUVs can be environmentally responsible and fuel efficient.

Safety has been an integral part of the MDX design from its inception, and an important aspect of the responsible SUV concept. To help avoid situations that could lead to a collision, MDX is engineered with the agility and maneuverability necessary to help maintain control in emergency maneuvers.

When a collision is unavoidable, MDX helps protect its occupants with a reinforced body structure and state-of-the-art occupant protection features.

* Internal test results using EPA testing method. Final EPA results are pending.

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