If there’s one brand that’s working hard to reboot itself right now, it’s Acura. Honda’s luxury brand, it’s been cranking out impressive new products for the last year or so, starting with the excellent RDX and even more impressive TLX sedan. Of course, the big money currently is in the 3-row SUV segment, so when we got the new MDX to test we were excited. Let’s see if Acura keeps those fires burning!
Bold New Style
Like the RDX and TLX, the MDX is sharp, aggressive, and eye-catching. It looks bigger and more powerful, sitting on a wheelbase that’s 2.8-inches longer and 1.4-inches wider than before. It starts with a much angrier front end, featuring Acura’s Diamond Pentagon grille with a 3D look that really grabs the eye. Acura has always loved multiple headlight designs, and the new four-element Jewel Eye LED headlights with “Chicane” daytime running lights give it a fresh, but instantly recognizable Acura look.
We like that the grille has not taken over the entire front end but left room for a sculpted section that blends into intakes on the side and slides nicely down to a lower intake and nice LED fog lights. It’s a crisp clean look that we think will age well.
The profile really sets it apart from the previous model with a much longer, more pronounced hoodline, aggressively cut-in contours in the lower door panels, and a sweeping contour line towards the back. Our favorite part has to be the massive, Shark-Gray 20-inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels. Really fills out the wheelwells and gives a sporty look.
The rear is cohesive with the front, with blade-like rear taillights – again with a Chicane pattern, a deep contour that runs between the lights, and wide-set dual exhaust pipes. Our tester in A-Spec Trim, looked great in Platinum White Pearl – an excellent way to show off those sexy new contours!
Inside is as stylish as the outside. Being an A-Spec model, the first impression comes from the bright red leather seats with contrasting black panels and two-tone red and black dash. Everywhere you touch are soft, quality materials – you know you’re in Acura’s flagship SUV.
Sit down in heated and ventilated front seats and you’ll find a sporty D-shaped, flat bottom steering wheel greeting your touch. There’s a 12.3-inch digital dash that Acura calls their Precision Cockpit that lets you choose between Advanced and Crafted displays. You can call up a variety of info as well including navi, trip computer, AWD status – even a G-meter!
A matching full HD 12.3-inch (Acura’s largest ever!) info-tainment display serves up all the other pertinent information on a big gorgeous screen, which we loved. We were less enamored with the touchpad interface – Acura’s is better than Lexus, but it is still fiddly and hard to get to exactly where you want on screen. At least there are plenty of traditional controls with it, including volume and seek control, so you can get around without being too frustrated.
Like most Acura and Honda, the transmission is pushbutton controlled, and it makes sense, but in such a sporty ride, we’d like a shift lever. That said, paddle shifters are there for your driving pleasure. We do like the simple layout of switchgear and controls, and the wireless charger that slides under the resting pad for your palm is pure genius.
Communication is all up to date with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in Amazon Alexa, and the 16-speaker Acura ELS audio system simply sounded superb.
Seating is excellent, while we always prefer being in front, Acura has given a lot of thought about how families live. The second row features a very clever, first-in-class, multi-function seat with a removable middle section. Traditional bench for 3 across, middle seat folded for captain’s chairs style seating with a convenient armrest, or removed for easy pass-through to the third row – you decide. It’s a great feature where the competition makes you choose bench or captain’s chair models. With the MDX you get it all in one. Very smart.
The third row isn’t a place for adults for trips of any length, but Acura has done their best to make it hospitable with more legroom, headroom and a seating position 2 inches higher off the floor. With the 3rd row up, you have 16.3 cubic feet of storage (1.5 more than before), and the rears fold down for easily for more room. Drop the 2nd row and you have a massive cargo hold great for that next trip to the home improvement store.
Another smart idea, there’s ample under-floor storage, with a floor panel that drops into the cargo well for added room. The panel is even carpeted on one side and has an easy-to-clean hard side for dirty, muddy or wet gear.
Spec out the A-Spec
Stylish, luxurious, and thoughtful will get you far in the SUV world. But it wouldn’t be an Acura without an engaging drive. Under the hood is Acura’s familiar 3.5-liter V6, pumping out an impressive 290 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. Honda/Acura knows how to build engines that love to rev, and the MDX gets with the program and sounds nice and throaty doing it. For the new model, there’s a 10-speed automatic (previously 9) that really snaps off the gears quickly, and it’s a joy to play with via the paddle shifters. The A-Spec is quite quick, but for those who want more, a 355-hp turbo V6 type S model is coming. We can’t wait.
There’s an all-new chassis here, and like the RDX and TLX, it’s aimed at providing a sharp, sporty experience. Like those other models, the MDX feels light on its feet and agile. The steering is precise and responsive – yes this is a big SUV, but it is a ball to drive hard and throw into corners. Acura has its Mojo back!
How much Mojo you want is easily accessed by the large knob on the console that dials in the Integrated Dynamics System. Snow, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual settings are there – we stayed in Normal most of the time and enjoyed Sport when that chassis got the better of us.
Helping us get the most out of the above is the optional Super Handling AWD system, which provides great grip and features torque vectoring that helps the big guy turn in quickly and give you a sport sedan feel when you are enjoying the twisty bits.
In its other life as a daily driver, the MDX is notably smooth and quiet, with a comfortable ride – even with those massive 20-inch wheels and tires – excellent seating position, and all the safety goodies you’d expect, with the AcuraWatch suite. On top of the expected, Acura now adds Traffic Jam Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Pedestrian Detection and Driver Attention Monitor. You feel confident and you know your tribe is well looked after.
Big is More?
Since the RDX took a major step up, we expected the MDX to cost a bit more. The base MDX with front wheel drive starts at $46,900 vs. $44,500 for the previous model. We’d say that’s money well spent. Step up to the Technology trim at $51,600 and you get leather seating, ambient lighting, a 12-speaker Audio system and more. Add $2,000 for AWD on either model.
Our A-Spec was one fully-loaded MDX, and including standard AWD, starts at $57,100. If we were in the market for an MDX, it’s the one we’d go for – we love the looks and that red interior! Add $500 for the Platinum White Pearl, and destination charges, and we rang the bell at $58,625.
Competition would include the Volvo XC90 at $64,495. And the BMW X5 at $68,800. So, against the Europeans, it’s a bargain. Value conscious buyers should also look at the Mazda CX-9, at $48,475. Stylish and a great drive in its own right.
We love the all-new 2022 Acura MDX. More style, luxury, and a big heaping spoonful of Acura performance, it’s a 3-row SUV that any driver would be thrilled to own!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.