2009 Acura MDX - Safety


The 2009 Acura MDX continues the MDX's commitment of advancing SUV safety. Standard features include dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, active head restraints for driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags and driver knee bolsters. In addition, the MDX features the Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, designed to disperse frontal collision forces and improve car-to-car collision safety.

Acura engineers term this compendium of safety features as "360 degree safety" as quite literally passengers are completely surrounded with safety features. The 2009 MDX meets the highest crash-test standards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Specific Safety Targets

  • Newly upgraded FMVSS208 frontal and FMVSS301 rear collision standards implemented by the federal government
  • 5-Star* rating in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) NCAP frontal crash and SINCAP side impact crash tests
  • GOOD ratings in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Frontal Offset, Side Impact and head restraint tests
  • Rated as an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK
  • Enhanced crash compatibility with smaller vehicles in a car-to-car collision compared to previous generation vehicles
  • Advanced protection for pedestrians in the event of a collision

*Government star ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program (www.safercar.gov). Model tested with standard side-impact air bags (SABs).


The 2009 MDX passed all National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests at the highest levels. NHTSA tests include NCAP frontal crash, SINCAP side impact, and Rollover Resistance, while IIHS tests include Frontal Offset, Side Impact (also known as SICE), and Rear Crash Protection indexes.

NHTSA test results:

  • NCAP Driver - 5-Star
  • NCAP Passenger - 5-Star
  • SINCAP Front seat - 5-Star
  • SINCAP Rear seat - 5-Star
  • Rollover Rating - 4-Star

IIHS test results:

  • IIHS Frontal Offset - GOOD
  • SICE Side Impact - GOOD
  • IIHS Rear Crash Safety - GOOD


The new requirements for NHTSA's FMVSS 301 include a more severe rear crash test. In the current test, a 3,015 pound deformable barrier sled strikes 70-percent of the vehicle's width at 50 mph. In contrast, the previous FMVSS 301 used a 4,000 pound flat rigid moving barrier that struck the full width of the vehicle at 30 mph. The new test requires that the vehicle absorb more crash energy than before.


As the popularity of small size vehicles has soared recently, so has the risk of these large vehicles colliding head-on with smaller vehicles. The disparity in vehicle mass - as well as the higher bumper height of the larger vehicles - put the smaller vehicles at a disadvantage. For the MDX, however, engineers integrated a more stringent internal vehicle-to-vehicle collision standard to help correct this discrepancy.


Like all 2009 Acura models, the MDX features Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body design. ACE™ more evenly distributes frontal crash forces to help reduce cabin intrusion and deformation as well as to help absorb frontal crash energy forward of the passenger cabin. ACE™ also helps maintain the structural integrity of the passenger cabin during a severe car-to-car offset frontal crash. ACE™ does this by distributing forces through multiple load paths during the crash, thus allowing more uniform energy absorption and less cabin intrusion.

If the MDX should collide head-on with a smaller and lighter vehicle, ACE™ helps provide good engagement of the small vehicle's frame. This helps reduce the risk of intrusion while simultaneously helping to disperse the crash energy across a wider area at the front of the vehicle. The upper portions of the ACE™ front structure also improve cabin protection.


The 2009 MDX achieves a "GOOD" rating in the rigorous IIHS Side Impact Crashworthiness Evaluation (SICE) evaluation, which measures how well a vehicle withstands intrusion from a large SUV in a side collision. The MDX's high-strength steel safety cage and the use of high-strength side door beams help make it resistant to intrusion.


The 2009 MDX is fitted with active front head restraints designed to help reduce the likelihood of neck injuries in the event of a rear impact. The head restraint is mechanically linked to a lumbar plate located inside of the front seatback. In a rear impact, the passenger's body pushes against the seatback, causing the head restraint to move forward in a carefully prescribed arc. This motion helps equalize the impact forces transmitted to the head, neck and spine as the occupant's head moves backward during the collision. Effectively managing and dispersing this energy is critical to help reduce the likelihood of injuries.


Acura's safety interests extend beyond care for vehicle occupants. The MDX hood area is specially designed to deform if contact is made with a pedestrian. Underneath the hood are energy-absorbing supports and hood hinges, the windshield-wiper pivots are a breakaway design and the front fender brackets are also designed to bend if a collision with a pedestrian should occur. Research shows that features such as these dramatically improve a pedestrian's chance of survival if struck by a moving vehicle.


Both of the MDX front seat belts have an automatic tensioning system with load limiters to help protect the driver and front passenger in a collision. Research has shown that seat belts that are snugly secured around the occupants provide better protection, so in the first few milliseconds of a collision the tensioners - powered by a pyrotechnic device - automatically tighten the front seat belts. Then if the deceleration forces rise above a predetermined threshold, the load limiter releases a small length of seatbelt webbing to reduce the pressure on the occupant in a controlled manner. This helps reduce the injuries that seatbelts can cause in a severe high-speed collision. In addition, the driver's seatbelt has a dual-stage load limiter. This provides a higher initial load, then steps down to a lower load after a certain amount of belt spools out. It is specially designed to prevent too much forward driver movement, given the close proximity of the steering wheel.


Dual-stage airbags are provided for the 2009 MDX driver and front passenger. These airbags are designed to maximize protection for the head and chest during a moderate to severe front collision. Each airbag inflator has two stages that can be deployed at different times instead of a traditional single inflation stage. Combining dual-stage and dual-threshold technology with technology that detects if the occupants are belted or unbelted, the airbags are deployed in a sequence based on crash severity.

Dual-Stage, Dual-Threshold Airbag Parameters

  • Airbag deployment characteristics are finely controlled depending on the severity of a collision
  • The dual-stage, dual-threshold strategy applies to front airbags only and does not affect operation of side airbags or side curtain airbags

The MDX airbag system uses a seat weight sensor to assess the weight of the front passenger. The front passenger airbag is shut off if the weight sensor indicates that a small child or a baby carrier is occupying the front seat. A seamless instrument panel cover fully conceals the passenger airbag. The driver's seat has a seat position sensor. If the seat is in a more forward position, where the occupant will be close to the airbag, the airbag is fired with a longer delay to reduce the chance of any injury caused by the airbag itself. The driver-side airbag is located in a small steering wheel mounted housing.


To help prevent injuries to the driver or front passenger's legs in a frontal collision, the 2009 MDX has energy absorbing knee bolsters. They are designed to help dissipate collision forces if the driver or front passenger's legs should contact the lower instrument panel during a frontal collision. In addition, the driver's side has dual-density knee bolsters that are designed to provide additional protection to small-stature occupants who have to sit close to the steering wheel.


Side airbags mounted in the outboard area of each MDX front seatback are designed to provide upper torso protection in the event of a severe side impact. In addition, the front passenger's seat is equipped with Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS), an innovative system designed to deactivate the side airbag if a small child (or small-stature adult) leans into the side airbag deployment path. When the passenger returns to an upright seating position, the side airbag reactivates so it can deploy to help protect the occupant in a side impact. This unique system utilizes sensors in the passenger seatback to determine the height and position of the occupant, and determine if it is safe to deploy the side airbag.


In a sufficient side impact or rollover, the MDX's side curtain airbags deploy from roof-mounted modules to provide head protection for all three rows of seating. Side curtain airbags effectively cover the side window area from the front seats all the way to the third-row seat. Tests show that the g- forces acting upon an occupant's head are far lower with side curtain airbags.

In the 2009 MDX the side curtain airbag system includes three satellite sensors and a main unit that work in concert to detect a crash within 5-7 milliseconds. Even though the latest MDX is projected to offer better rollover stability than the previous MDX, the system includes a rollover sensor and performs solidly with a 4-Star* rating in the NHTSA rollover category.

*Government star ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) New Car Assessment Program (www.safercar.gov). Model tested with standard side-impact air bags (SAB).


The 2009 MDX includes a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child-seat mounting system for the second-row seating positions. LATCH features built-in lower anchors and ready-to-use tether attachment points that allow compatible child safety seats to be installed without using the vehicle's seat belt system. Additionally, the LATCH system simplifies child-seat installation when using a LATCH-compatible child seat.


The MDX's 21-gallon fuel tank is positioned in front of the rear body-deformation zone to minimize the risk of damage in a collision. Locating the fuel tank in this protected area optimizes vehicle balance by moving the weight of the fuel tank farther forward. Thus, handling characteristics are minimally affected whether the fuel tank is full or near empty.

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