We're looking at replacing our 2002 Acura MDX with a more fuel efficient vehicle. We commute ~75 miles daily for work and the 20mpg we're getting with it just isn't enough. I split the time with my 07 Infiniti G35S which nets me 25mpg on premium.

My g/f really wants a Prius and we feel we could live with the reduced space going from an MDX to a Prius. It is a hatchback with decent cargo room. However, after reading about the 09 FEH/MMH updates, we're really considering it. Some of the advantages are: Fed tax credit (for the time being), more cargo room, SUV functionality, better brakes, better bad weather driving, mild offroading support for when we go camping, better looks.

The MDX is AWD which we like for when it rains and the few icey/snowy days we get, but in reality it's not a requirement. However, since the FEH/MMH has it as an option, it could be the feature that makes the FEH/MMH that much more appetizing.

Late last year we almost pulled the trigger on a Nissan Rogue AWD but decided against it because of the lack of automatic climate control (yeah pretty lame but we require it). With gas prices where they are, we want something even more economical than that so it's basically a hybrid or 35+ mpg car for us.

Anyways, my questions are:

1. Why is the EPA hit so significant with AWD on this vehicle. On every other CUV there's no more than a 1mpg hit city and hwy yet on the FEH/MMH it's 4/3. Please do not respond with the obvious like it's extra weight, extra mechanical load, etc. Every other car has that and my understanding is the FEH/MMH runs in FWD most of the time anyhow. Take a look at SUVs with way more significant AWD/4WD offerings and see that no more than 1-2mpg hits are being seen (example: Jeeps, 4Runners, etc...).

2. This is somewhat related to question #1, but my reading shows that the AWD system on the FEH/MMH works as follows: It runs in 100% FWD until it detects slip. Once slip is detected it routes power back as necessary. This system is essentially identical to the one found in the Honda CR-V and in my opinion not anywhere near as good as the systems found in the other CUVs where there's some predictive measures in place. Example: My MDX has VTM-4 which runs in FWD but with enough throttle or turn in it sends power back (before the slip). The Rogue is pre-programmed to start in AWD mode and use AWD when cornering and then dial back to FWD. Both of these examples will continue to send more power back when slip is detected. If the system is not predictive and is like the Honda CR-V's then it's not as good in my opinion. The CR-V is the worst off-road capable SUV/CUV around and could not get up a relatively trivial off-road hill in one of the big magazine tests. I know the FEH/MMH is designed for light off-roading which is more than sufficient for us, however, I personally can't stand systems that wait for slip. The Nissan Rogue's system is VERY nice.

Finally, our requirements for AWD are more for rain/snow/light mud then rock crawling or any of that stuff, but I can't stand waiting for traction control systems to come into play, etc.

All that said, I don't understand how such a basic AWD system can penalize the FEH/MMH so much. The RX400H is 27/24 FWD and 26/24 AWD and it has a more sophisticated AWD system than the FEH/MMH. So that covers an AWD hybrid offering and says it's not something related to AWD and hybrids. I'm really perplexed and have not been able to find a reasonable explanation.

Between the significant mpg hit and the relatively lightweight AWD system, I think I'd have to consider FWD.

Any insight from owners/non-owners is welcome.