Recently Driven: The 2013 Kia Sportage SX and the Acura MDX
Kia and Acura provide secure winter driving and dynamic road control
Winter is still upon us, particularly for those of us who live in a mountain climate. As of this writing, we’re still experiencing plentiful snow and ice near Mount Rainier.
While driving in winter conditions can be more about the driver than the vehicle, there is little doubt that an all-wheel- or four-wheel-drive CUV or SUV can provide much safer driving if prudence by the driver is paramount.
Recently we’ve tested several excellent vehicles that have handled well in rain, snow, and ice. They include 2013 models of the Kia Sportage and Sorento, Acura MDX, Ford Escape, and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Each offered its special features and attributes for enjoyable winter driving.
The 2013 Sportage SX AWD unit we tested was not only priced right, but it offered most everything we needed in a CUV, including a very reactive all-wheel-drive system mated to a DynaMax electronically controlled, on-demand six-speed transmission. It was exceptionally smooth and performed well in snow and ice conditions.
At the top of a four-model lineup, the SX has a very pleasant 2.0-L DOHC CVVT turbo-charged engine (the other three have the 2.4-L four-cylinder engine). The in-line four-cylinder has aluminum heads and block and produces 260 HP at 6,000 RPM, more than adequate power for the 175.2 inch-long SX.
We liked the feel and handling of the Sportage in all driving conditions. The unibody steel CUV has a front suspension that combines MacPherson struts, coil springs, and gas shock absorbers, while the rear is a multi-link suspension with gas shocks. With the 18-inch wheel and tires, plus a ground clearance of 6.77 inches, this small crossover was made for fun in the snow. The motor-driven rack-and-pinion steering turns the vehicle curb to curb in just 34.7 feet.
Other favorable aspects of the Sportage include an amazing 26.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seat up, and 54.6 cubic feet with the seat down. Plus this little beast has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.
The Sportage SX had as standard equipment power/heated outside mirrors (plus optional LED turn indicators), daytime running lamps, projection headlights, fog lights, rear spoiler, roof rails, dual chrome exhaust, rear-view camera, dual-climate control, a back-up warning system, and a premium Microsoft Infotainment system. Storage units abound in the Sportage, including an under-rear cargo floor storage compartment and multiple cup holders both front and rear.
Pricing on the 2013 Sportage begins at $19,000 and all models are loaded with standard features. It measures up to great value for a more than reasonable price, plus fuel economy on the SX is 20 MPG/city and 25 MPG/highway (varies by model; up to 30 MPG on the 2WD base model).
The 2013 Acura MDX is a totally pleasurable SUV to drive for many reasons. Among them is its Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system that we put to the test and it reacted exactly as it should, making snow and ice driving much less stressful.
With a combination of the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) that utilizes the SH-AWD, an anti-lock braking system, throttle control and yaw, as well as speed and steering sensors, the MDX Advance Entertainment model we tested provided exceptional control and handling. Front and rear stabilizer bars along with a hydraulic speed-sensitive steering system offered added utility for driving in difficult road conditions. The 19-inch all-season tires (18-inch are standard on other models) also assisted with traction control.
Powered by a 3.7-L aluminum alloy V-6, the MDX engine produces a gracious 300 HP at 6,300 RPM and 270 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500 RPM. The transversely mounted SOHC, 24-valve VTEC is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters, as well as Grade Logic and Shift Hold Control systems. The engine purrs and the drivetrain with the SH-AWD is just flat perfect. Excellent power, reactive shifting, and road control — everything needed for good- or bad-weather driving.
With five model offerings, the MDX starts at $43,280, but our top-of-the-line Advance Entertainment model was a bit pricier at $54,805. It did, however, have no priced options as it included everything from the Acura Navigation System with voice recognition (one of our favorites) to fog lamps, a rear DVD entertainment system to heated front and rear seats (another favorite during cold weather).
To say the MDX is loaded with safety, comfort, and technical features is truly an understatement (there were more than four dozen standard features on our tester). This seven-passenger unit with a GPS-linked tri-zone climate control system also offers excellent cargo capacity (up to 103.5 cubic feet with second- and third-row seats down), and just plain creature-comfort driving and handling.