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Buying Used: Not the grille of our dreams

In 2007, Acura's mid-size MDX SUV came in three trim levels: base, Technology and Elite. Unfortunately, this was also the year the awful "granny brooch" front grille treatment made its first appearance.

All three versions were powered by a 3.7-litre V-6 engine that featured four valves per cylinder, a single overhead camshaft, Honda/Acura's V-Tec variable valve timing arrangement and drive-by-wire throttle.

Power was 300 hp at 6,000 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. A five-speed automatic with manual shift feature and Grade Logic was the only choice and this vintage of MDX featured Acura's SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive) system. This setup was engineered to help drivers hustle the MDX faster through corners and keep it under control should one wheel want to catch up with the other.

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As befits a luxury SUV, equipment level on the MDX was high. The base model came with a full roster of luxury features and high-tech mod cons: heated seats, power front seats, climate control, power tilt steering, remote locking, hands-free Bluetooth capability, and a stereo system with a speed-sensitive volume modulator.

The Technology version had all of the above, plus a DVD-based navi system, back-seat entertainment system, rearview camera and upgraded stereo with XM radio. The entertainment system came with a pair of headphones and a remote, while the navi was bilingual and featured a vocal prompt setup.

There was seating for seven and all back seats folded down; 60/40 for the second row and 50/50 for the third row.

In just about every respect, the MDX was an accommodating and comfortable vehicle, and Acura very much wanted it to be seen in the same light as BMW's X5 or Mercedes M-Class: upscale, but with a high-performance flavour. Aside from the unsightly grille treatment, the new body style conveyed a more muscular image than the previous one.

Power-wise, the revised V-6 almost felt like a V-8. Definitely not lacking in terms of bottom-end grunt and revving power, which is sometimes the case with V-6-propelled SUVs. This edition of the MDX could keep up with most other similar SUVs and was probably better through the turns than many of them, thanks to its SH-AWD system.

A word about the SH-AWD setup. If the MDX started to spin its wheels - in snow or mud, for example - the traction control system shut off, just for a split-second, while it recalibrated itself and sorted out where the power was to be directed.

So, just when you needed a bit of oomph and wanted to get some power down, the system went away. The key to driving in the snow, as most of us who live north of the 49th parallel know, is to keep moving. Stop and you're asking for trouble. In short, the SH-AWD system was first and foremost a performance feature. Nothing wrong with that, but it's interesting to note that during its R&D process, the MDX was apparently tested at the high-speed Nurburgring track in Germany. That said, the traction control could be disabled.

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No safety recalls are on file with Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just has one - for a glitchy aftermarket bike rack that could injure users if they get their fingers caught in the pinch mechanism. This recall was also applied to the Honda Pilot and other vehicles.

NHTSA has just three technical service bulletins for this vintage of MDX, and all appear to be minor in nature. There is a "labelling" issue regarding the load-carrying capacity, a possible "clicking" noise that emanates from the front suspension and a diagnostic alert for engine cooling.

Consumer Reports likes the 2007 MDX, giving it a better-than-average used-car prediction, and high marks in just about every category. There appear to be some issues with the audio system, but otherwise it's clear sailing. Here are some comments from owners: "Way too noisy, hard steering," "Hands-free link does not like woman voice commands" and "Blind spot, rear passenger side." Disappointing fuel economy and heavy steering seem to be common complaints.

The vehicle gets pretty good marks from market research company, J.D. Power and an overall slightly above-average rating for predicted reliability. There appear to be issues with features accessories quality and design, but curiously, this organization gives the MDX top marks for style.

From its base price of just more than $52,000 in 2007, the MDX has dropped to between $24,000 and $34,000, depending upon equipment level and trim. In other words, it's holding its value comparatively well.

2007 Acura MDX

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Original Base Price: $52,300; Black Book: $33,900; Red Book: $24,550-$26,475

Engine: 3.7-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 300 hp/275 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city/10.0 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: BMW X5, Mercedes M-Class, Lexus RX 330, Cadillac SRX, Subaru Tribeca

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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