NEW YORK – American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s Acura brand unveils the production version of the RDX small cross/utility vehicle here at the New York auto show, as well as a concept version of its larger MDX CUV.

As Ward's first reported in the fall of 2004, the RDX is set to go into production at Honda’s Marysville, OH, plant. Production will begin in June, with sales starting in July.

The RDX will be powered by Acura’s first turbocharged and intercooled engine, a 2.3L 16-valve inline 4-cyl. making 240 hp and 260 lbs.-ft. (325 Nm) of torque, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

To achieve the performance of a 6-cyl. and fuel economy of a four, Honda uses a new variable turbo-flow system, resulting in an unusually broad powerband with little or no lag in throttle response, the auto maker says.

The variable-flow turbo, coupled with Honda’s intelligent variable valve timing and lift control (i-VTEC), provides the RDX with strong performance attributes and “excellent fuel economy and very low emissions,” Honda says.

Preliminary fuel economy for RDX is 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km) in the city and 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) on the highway, the auto maker says.

It will be equipped with Honda’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, already available on the RL sedan, as well as standard paddle shifters and Honda’s ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure.

Honda is targeting first-year sales of the RDX at 40,000 units, but John Mendel, American Honda senior vice president-automotive operations, says the auto maker’s flexible manufacturing system could accommodate higher volumes.

Pricing for the RDX will be announced closer to the on-sale date, Mendel says.

Honda is aiming the RDX at “high-energy urbanites that spend the workweek in the confines of the city, and then decompress on the weekends by getting away from it all.”

Wheels and tires are a standard 18 ins., an Acura first.

The MD-X concept also unveiled here hints at the all-new MDX CUV slated to go on sale this fall in the U.S.

It will be the first full revision of the MDX, which went on sale in 2000 as an ’01 model.

Mendel says it isn’t a certainty that the vehicle will be built at Honda’s Alliston, Ont., Canada, plant, which assembles the current-generation MDX.

“We could do a number of different things. We’re pretty flexible with manufacturing,” Mendel says production potentially could be shifted to Honda’s Lincoln, AL, facility, which builds the Odyssey minivan and Pilot CUV.

The auto maker is not predicting a large increase in MDX sales, but Mendel is hopeful higher volumes will be seen. “We continue to do very well with the current MDX and we’d like to think we’ll increase that, but we’re targeting to really replace the volume that the current MDX is doing.”

Last year Honda built 68,000 MDXs and Mendel pegs annual production volume for the ’07 model at 60,000-70,000 units annually.

Pricing for the MDX will increase slightly, he says, reflecting the amount of new technology and features that will be added.

They include Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive; hands-free link; DVD Audio system; and real-time traffic information via XM Satellite Radio’s NavTraffic service.

The MD-X concept’s surface lines were modeled on a high-powered mega-yacht, Honda says.

“The smooth lines and sleek shape of the MD-X Concept challenge the conventions of SUV design,” chief designer Ricky Hsu says. “Our goal was to create the image of a sports sedan while maintaining generous interior volume and utility of an SUV.”

Styling cues include a large, 5-sided grille with a solid aluminum face; narrow Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights; integrated rear hatch flush against the bumper; and light-emitting diode taillights that wrap around the cargo hatch.

The production MDX will be equipped with a class-leading V-6 engine, the auto maker says. It was track-tested at the famed Nurburging, Germany, track

Honda says the ’07 MDX was designed, engineered and built in North America.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com