Acura’s driver-focused reboot is off to a strong start with its compelling new TLX sports sedan. But to be successful in today’s SUV-crazed market, the brand’s recipe for handling prowess also has to work on a hulking, three-row utility vehicle. Fortunately for the redesigned 2022 MDX—which has outsold the TLX roughly two to one in recent years—it does.
The fourth-generation model’s athleticism is surprising considering it’s about two inches longer and wider than before and has a wheelbase that’s 2.8 inches longer. The curb weight surges by 200 to 300 pounds, depending on the configuration. Despite that bloat, the new platform is also stiffer and features a switch from a strut front suspension to a control-arm setup that sharpens its manners and handling. Combined with direct but not overly quick variable-assist steering, the result is a reassuringly positive feel from its front end when turning into corners, regardless of the selected drive mode.
A revised multilink rear suspension and adaptive dampers add to its nimble composure, as does a torque-vectoring rear differential on versions equipped with the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. Base models get 19-inch wheels, but most trims wear 20s shod with 255/50R-20 Bridgestone Alenza Sport A/S all-season tires. Ride quality on the big rollers is taut but never harsh. While road isolation is not as comprehensive as that of, say, an Audi Q7 or a Volvo XC90, the MDX has a responsiveness that’s uncommon for a seven-seat vehicle nearly 200 inches long.
Power continues to come from a throaty-sounding 3.5-liter V-6 good for 290 horses, which now mates to an automatic transmission with 10 speeds, up from the previous nine. Gear swaps are smooth and well-coordinated. But given the MDX’s sportier character, we’d like quicker responses from the 10-speed’s paddles on the steering wheel. Still, we expect a respectable 60-mph run in about six seconds.
A longer hood helps the MDX’s handsomely creased bodywork more closely mimic rear-wheel-drive proportions. Inside, drivers will appreciate the standard front sport seats and smaller diameter, thicker-rimmed steering wheel. Technophiles will dig the bright 12.3-inch gauge-cluster and infotainment displays, although we maintain that, despite some updates, Acura’s touchpad interface is no replacement for a well-executed touchscreen. Aluminum accents and open-pore wood trim combine with ambient lighting to give the MDX’s cabin a rich, high-tech vibe that’s commensurate with the $61,675 ask of the top Advance SH-AWD model we drove. Prices start at $47,925, a $2400 increase over the outgoing model.
Additional highlights include an available head-up display, 16-speaker ELS audio system with 710 watts, and a removable second-row center console/seat that can convert the middle bench to captain’s chairs. Rearmost riders benefit from easier access to an enlarged third row plus raised bottom-seat cushions, but adults still won’t want to sit back there for long. On the utility front, the MDX still tows up to 5000 pounds when properly equipped, and its aft cargo hold swallows 16 cubic feet behind the third row, an increase of one.
That the MDX’s driver-centric evolution has brought any uptick in versatility is impressive. As with the TLX, this SUV’s upcoming Type S model will get more interesting thanks to its 355-hp twin-turbo V-6 and larger brakes, wheels, and tires. But even in standard 290-hp form, the MDX’s heightened connection with its pilot reinforces Acura’s new direction.
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