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2004 Crossover Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Acura MDX
2004 Acura MDX

If you're the kind of person who likes to talk to your car, Acura has good news for you. If you opt for the Touring Package version of their MDX crossover vehicle, you can tell it just where to go -- some 217 different ways -- and presumably it will understand.

And if you're the kind of driver who wants to know what's going on behind you, MDX can also fill in that information gap. A rearview camera hidden in the tailgate on equipped models displays a view of what's within range on the vehicle's navigation system screen.

Those are some of the major and minor refinements Acura has added to its 2004 version of the sport utility crossover company execs claim is one of the "most sought after" kids in its class. That's a boast backed by such surveys as the Kelley Blue Book that forecasts it will remain tops at retaining value for five years.

Among add-ons: Side curtain airbags, electronic tire pressure monitor and an improved emissions system, paired with Acura's VTM-4 anti-slip technology that anticipates rather than reacts. Those combine for added safety and a shade better mileage. Emissions changes and a new dual exhaust also eke out more gusto from the 3.5 liter, VTEC V-6 engine, bringing horsepower up five to 265, and raising torque to 253 lbs-ft.

Although touching premium level in the high 30s-low 40s range of pricing, depending on trim level, Acura has sweetened the deal with some exterior redesign touches and optional upgraded entertainment system featuring a DVD system with infrared earphones. (No more kicking seatbacks by third row small fry, perhaps.)

The MDX's available vocabulary promises to direct one to some 7 million U.S. points of interest, whenever the word is given. There's no guaranteeing, however, if it will recognize a pet name someone has for their car.