Acura MDX & Toyota Avalon
By Kelly Foss mycardata.com
Acura MDX | Starting price: $44,000
The MDX is a charter member of the midsize SUV fraternity. It first hit the market in 2000. With no traditional truck-based body-on-frame vehicles built by Honda or Acura, the front wheel driver/all-wheel drive MDX became an industry innovator.
SUV’s in this class come with either two or three rows of seats. The MDX is a three-row vehicle meaning it can accommodate seven passengers, five big and two small. With the seats folded flat, you will find over 90 cubic feet of cargo area in this fun to drive SUV.
The interior is well executed and upscale. It contains all the expected gadgetry in this class of vehicle, and outward visibility is outstanding because of its elevated seating position and its windows-everywhere unobstructed view.
The MDX has from the beginning been the “driver’s” midsize SUV. Whereas many of the competing vehicles in this segment are mere conveyance, being able to carry large volumes of stuff, the MDX is more engaging and fun to drive. The design begins with Acura’s excellent 3.5 V6 rated at 290 horsepower.
The MDX comes with a totally new 9- speed automatic transmission plus paddle shifters. Acura chose to use dual clutch technology which means it’s an automatically shifting manual transmission with the clutch mechanism automated. It gives the MDX a direct engine-transmission connection, and in my front-wheel-drive test vehicle it would actually squeal the tires when you step on the gas at a stoplight. You’ll have to get used to the mechanical feel of the vehicle which is somewhat different from the silky-smooth automatics you’re accustomed to. In addition to the standard FWD (front wheel drive) model, an SH-AWD (super handling all wheel drive) variant is also available.
The FWD combination delivers an EPA rating of 19 city and 27 highway with a combined rating of 22 miles per gallon. In the week of testing my $57,340 FWD model, it averaged 23.7.
With the Advance Package, the engine has a built-in “Idle Stop” mode which turns the engine off when you come to a stop and instantly restarts it when you take your foot off the brake pedal. This feature can easily be turned off if desired.
The MDX has all its options bundled in three packages. The Technology Package includes remote engine start, navigation, upscale ELS premium sound audio, blind spot information system, 20-inch aluminum wheels and GPS linked climate control, to name a few.
The Advance Package offers surround view 360 degree exterior camera, heated and ventilated front seats, upgraded Milano perforated leather, second row captain’s chairs, natural wood accents, second row sunshades.
The Entertainment Package when combined with the Technology Package has a 9-inch overhead video screen, wireless headphones and remote control, 11 surround sound speakers and a second row bench seat allowing three passengers. When combined with the Advance Package you get a 16.2 ultra-wide split screen which displays two different videos at the same time, one additional speaker and HDMI connection. This “Inspector Gadget” SUV is both a useful tool and a fun vehicle to own.
Toyota Avalon Starting price: $33,000
The pinnacle of the Toyota car lineup is the Avalon. It’s one of those cars that is still technically a midsize sedan, yet comes with near-luxury features. It competes in a market space with models like the Nissan Maxima, the Buick LaCrosse, the Hyundai Azera and the Ford Taurus to name a few.
The Avalon has a very loyal following based on the reliability, quality and ownership experience enjoyed by the car’s owners. It’s an efficient and comfortable sedan that is easy to fall in love with. Compared with the Toyota Camry, the top- selling midsize sedan, the Avalon’s starting price is $33,000 versus the Camry’s $23,000. Keep in mind that the Avalon comes very well-equipped. In recent testing of the two vehicles, my fully loaded test Camry hybrid was priced at $37,000 and the upper midlevel Avalon Touring was $38,000. For comparison, adding the hybrid option to the Avalon would cost about $2,000 yet would yield a very nice driving vehicle with a 40 city/39 highway fuel economy rating. That would place the substantial Avalon in about the top 5 percent of the very best fuel economy of all vehicles sold on the market today. Though each of these two cars has laudable attributes, I’d choose the Avalon hands down — every day — with no regrets.
The Avalon has low key yet handsome styling. It moves down the road safely, comfortably and confidently without drawing too much attention to itself. When noticed, it exudes both elegance and presence. The interior of the Avalon is a study in occupant comfort. It is spacious and has upscale appointments. The seats are very inviting and comfortable, the equipment is easy to use and the styling is decidedly premium. The rear seating space is very roomy, the rear window screens are very posh and the trunk is a generous 16 cubic feet.
The car is solid and walks that fine line of informing the driver of what’s going on with the car, while screening out the unwelcome outside din and bustle of traffic. The industry NVH (noise vibration harshness) levels in the Avalon are very low, which is good. It gives the passengers that coveted experience of going on a road trip and at the end of the day exiting the vehicle without feeling worn and fatigued.
The new Touring model with 3.5 liter V6, dark gray aluminum wheels and touring suspension is the rebellious sibling in the family. It takes this great vehicle platform and energizes it. The Touring is clearly more engaging and entertaining, but the tradeoff is that you forfeit some of the soft refinement of the other models.
Buyers who tend to keep their vehicles for a long time will likely be drawn to the Avalon’s upscale features, comfort and industry leading reliability.
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