Although it was Honda who pioneered the Japanese luxury brand market with its Acura line, Acura is underappreciated and often overlooked. As the story goes, Acura’s success heeded moves from Nissan with its Infiniti brand and Toyota with its Lexus brand. And even Mazda was poised to enter the market with its luxury line, Amati, but a poor economy in the early ’90s put an end to those plans.
Unlike Acura with its front-track, 6-cylinder models, both Infiniti and Lexus entered the market with rear-wheel drive V-8 models. And to this day, Acura still does not offer V-8 power or rear-wheel drive, 20 years after its inception. Acura has missed out on plenty of market share because of the lack of rear-wheel drive and V-8 models.
My recent tests of the Acura MDX and Lexus GX460 got me to thinking; does Lexus’ V-8 power give it the edge over the V-6 powered Acura?
Yes, I had the perfect excuse to compare the Acura and Lexus brands. It’s just too bad that this comparison test doesn’t involve the Acura TL and the Lexus LS460, because SUVs are sooo boring.
Like Audi, Infiniti and especially Cadillac as of late, Acura’s interiors are very, very nice. In fact, the overall design and the use of prime materials, along with excellent fit and finish, has given Acura models some of the most inviting interiors. In fact, the interior design of the last generation Acura TL is one of my all-time favorites to this day.
The Acura MDX’s interior has a nice mix of traditional touches of wood grain accented by modern appointments. Layout and design for the MDX’s interior has more of a driver-oriented, dynamic feel than the Lexus GX460.
Unlike the estrogen-infused exterior design of the last generation MDX, the current MDX has a muscular look that most guys wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in. Unlike with the TL and ZDX, the huge chevron-shaped, Transformers-emblem-looking grills fit the MDX’s character better.
My test of the Acura MDX took place in March during the running of annual Cooper River Bridge run — 40,000 runners and a weekend of sweating and partying.
The MDX was great for the ride to Charleston and for shuttling friends about town over that weekend. Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel-drive system, 300 horsepower, good steering and suspension provided a bit of fun too. Acceleration is plenty fast for most applications, and the brakes are good for reining in the bulky SUV. And for a sizable SUV, the MDX is fun in the corners, too.
The 1st noticeable thing about the Lexus GX460 is that it is not a handsome-looking truck. On the other hand, the design does scream that it is an expensive, luxury model. And unlike some of Lexus’ entry level models, the GX460 has a level of refinement that is simply world-class.
Everything from the operation of the premium leather seats to the excellent sound of the Mark Levenson sound system to the many configurable options give the GX460 a flair of its own. The 301 horsepower V-8 is quiet and smooth but jumps into action nicely. Even the transmission is silky smooth as it clicks through its 7 automatic gears.
Believe it or not, the GX460 even has both comfort and “sport” settings for the suspension. While its performance levels are not that of the Acura MDX, it’s no complete slouch either. Although I came into this comparison favoring V-8 power, the Acura’s V-6 was more than adequate.
There is no clear cut winner here, because it all depends upon the needs, wants and desires of the buyer. If you want BIG space, big soft leather seats, a quiet suspension, smooth transmission and more luxury options than you can shake a stick at, the GX460 might be for you.
On the other hand, the Acura MDX offers plenty of luxury options and features. too. But this package is leaner, more fit and more athletic. The Acura MDX offers a great combination of luxury and performance. The engine is a bit more pronounced, transmission shifts are a bit crisper and the suspension isn’t as buttery.
In other words, one could argue that the Acura MDX is a young family’s vehicle and the Lexus is an older family’s vehicle.
Larry Cornwell is an automotive journalist with Speedracer Syndication. He is based in the Charlotte area.