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>Is this because the underlying ACR profile on the D40X undersaturated?
I have observed that the ACR profiles for D40,D50, D70, and D40x lead to severely underexposed and undersaturated images, even if you expose correctly. For those cameras you have to do significant editing to get reasonable results or simply use the camera matching profiles which correct this. No idea why this is the case but you can see in the DNG profile editor that the camera-matching profiles for those cameras have very steep curves that clearly boost exposure by quite a bit.
true, the tone curve is boosted by about 0.4ev on the camera matching profiles but that seems to be because Nikon in their wisdom apply it to their own picture styles on these cameras. the result is the jpegs from the camera (for which the pictures styles aren't available) appear exposed correctly (as does ACR) but the nikon picture styles are overexposed. From what I can see the camera matching profiles for the D200, D80 and D60 have the same boost, so should have the same under/over exposure behavior.
Not sure that this is connected with the undersaturated images, but it does make the profiles difficult to compare and use.
Duncan, an easier way to compare profiles (taking exposure/tone curve differences out of the equation) is to use presets. That is, set up a D40X image using Adobe Standard, adjust the tone curve and/or exposure the way you want, then create a preset. Do the same for Camera Standard, or whatever other profile you want. Create another preset. Then if you want to compare, just toggle between the two (or more) presets.