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2004 Acura MDX SUV

Description: Sport Utility Vehicle
Base MSRP Range: $36,400-$42,700
Invoice Price Range: $32,792-$38,462

Substantial upgrades worked on Acura's luxury sport-utility vehicle last year and carry over to 2004. Acura makes the MDX as a refined luxury vehicle that provides cushy appointments and fancy features, yet the three rows of flexible seats permit different uses as a workhorse hauler and the strong engine allows it tow a boat and trailer, while sophisticated mechanical equipment enable the vehicle to roll comfortably on pavement as well as dirt or dispel the inherent danger of roads made slick by spring showers or the snows of winter.

A front-mounted engine directs its muscle to the front wheels with an electronic device on tap to channel some of that power to the rear wheels when front ones slip. Factor in the relatively short (106.3 inches) wheelbase and a broad wheel track to create a stable stance. And isolate the independent suspension system on subframes, add variable-power rack and pinion steering and disc brakes for all corners with ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). The result: Uncommon agility for a wagon. Up to 265 hp flows from the aluminum six-pack engine through a five-speed automatic transmission. A drive-by-wire throttle eliminates a mechanical connector between engine and accelerator.

The spacious cabin piles on leather and wood trimmings to set up a luxurious atmosphere. Two bucket seats occupy the front row on either side of a floor console. A three-person bench split in 60/40 sections stands in the second row, but two third-row seats divided 50/50 are also included. Second-row seats drop forward and third-row seatbacks fold into the floor for a quick and relatively effortless disappearing act to make room for more cargo. With all second and third seatbacks down, the vehicle ends up with a flat-floored cargo area that encompasses more than 80 cubic feet of storage space.