Weidel on Wheels: Honda provides luxury and practicality with SUVs

Honda CR-V and Acura MDX have cargo capacity and performance
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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It’s apparent from these two vehicles that the folks at Honda know a little something about producing sport utility vehicles. Looking to manufacture a family-friendly SUV that is affordable and possesses some refined characteristics, Honda delivers the very popular CR-V, a compact SUV that is large enough that some owners feel like they bought a mid-size vehicle. Looking for a more upscale SUV, Honda’s luxury division — Acura — offers another great choice in the MDX, a mid-size crossover that combines a nice pairing of performance, convenience, and of course, luxury. Below is an evaluation of each vehicle: Honda CR-V When it debuted in 1997, the CR-V was a trailblazer, a car-based SUV that people instantly loved. And because of that, it quickly placed competitors in copycat mode. Nearly 15 years later and the CR-V is still popular, rated among the best compacts in its class. What’s so good about the CR-V? It offers responsive handling, a comfortable ride, ranks near the top in safety testing, gets good gas mileage (21 to 27 miles per gallon), and is extremely reliable. The price ($21,695 to $27,895) might be higher than some of its rivals, but CR-V lovers don’t hesitate to spend the extra cash. Not much has changed in 2011, other than Honda added one more trim option (SE model) for a total of four selections. CR-V buyers enjoy the space that this crossover provides. It offers a large, two-tier cargo area that will store both small and cumbersome items, evidenced by the sizable amount the family stuffed into the storage area on a recent ski trip. The CR-V also offers plenty of room for its passengers, providing comfortable seating along with solid head and legroom in front and back. The sliding and reclining backseat is a plus for families with kids, and the driver will appreciate the easy to manage control gauges. One knock against the CR-V is it comes with only one engine — a seemingly underpowered 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder with 180 horsepower. Still, the CR-V managed to climb the hills to Lake Tahoe and back without any major laboring. Acura MDX Now in its fifth year of production, the all-wheel drive MDX is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV that can make any drive more appealing. It provides what practically all drivers are seeking — performance, handling, convenience and comfort. Two more reasons to like the MDX — it’s attractive and the beefy 3.7-liter, V6 engine with 300 horsepower makes it very fun to drive. The MDX is equipped with an all-wheel-drive system (SH-AWD) that delivers mightily in the handling department. The MDX experienced a modest redesign for 2010, and nothing has changed one year later. Considering how well last year’s model was received, no changes are certainly not viewed as a negative. The 2011 MDX can’t touch the Honda CR-V in price or gas mileage, but we’re talking two different types of car buyers. Featuring a long list of standard equipment, neither the price tag ($42,580 — $52,205) nor the gas mileage of 16 to 21 miles per gallon is bothering anyone purchasing the MDX. The MDX can make sure all seven passengers in the three rows of seating are feeling the love in the heat/cool department, thanks to climate control throughout the vehicle. The coziness doesn’t stop there. The first two rows provide an abundance of comfort and even the third row is fine for an adult on a short trip. The dash has its share of buttons, but they honestly don’t take that long to master. __________ 2011 Honda CR-V Price: $21,695 — $27,895 Power: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower Mileage estimate: 21 mpg city; 27 mpg highway Standard features include: All-wheel drive; anti-skid system; keyless entry; sliding and reclining rear seats; center tray table; four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack; stability and traction control __________ 2011 Acura MDX Price: $42,580 — $52,205 Power: 3.7-liter, V-6 engine with 300 horsepower Mileage estimate: 16 mpg city; 21 mpg highway Standard features include: All-wheel drive; automatic xenon headlamps; fog lamps; power liftgate; sunroof; privacy glass; eight-way power front seats; heated front seats; leather upholstery; tri-zone automatic climate control; rearview camera; eight-speaker sound system and six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio and Bluetooth; brake assist