opinionated at any speed

Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 1:15pm

This Performance Red Metallic clear-coat paint helps our 2022 MDX make a brilliant first impression. Even the crew at the boatyard zeroed in on it—three of them were admiring the vehicle when we got back to shore. 

The sheer presence of the new MDX, Acura’s three-row SUV, makes a statement, too. It’s high, wide and handsome, as the saying went, with subtle details. This is the fourth generation of what Acura claims the best-selling luxury SUV of all time. When it debuted, back in 2001, it wasn’t a luxury vehicle, and the Europeans might get sniffy about that distinction even today, but there’s no question that the MDX now belongs in the yacht-club parking lot. 

There’s no doubting the luxury of its spacious, 7-seat cabin, either, with attractive leather, suede, wood and aluminum. The beauty is more than skin-deep, too. From the ergonomics of the driver’s cockpit to the adjustability of the rear seats and the accessibility of the child-seat tethers—plus the headroom and sightlines, the backup camera coverage, the processing power of the computer, the volume of the cargo bay and more—seemingly everything has been evaluated and improved. 

The new MDX is tech-heavy, but sophisticated enough that it’s relatively simple to use. If you’ve got Alexa at home, here in the car she can plug a destination into the nav system, tune the radio, check the weather or call the kids. Or we can say, “Alexa, tell me about the new 2022 Acura MDX!” 

She might begin with the 290-horsepower V-6, a new, seamless 10-speed Sportshift automatic transmission and Comfort, Normal and Sport drive modes. With the optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, the MDX offers 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. Alexa might not mention our disappointing 17 MPG fuel efficiency, but she might tell us that a Type S MDX will soon be available too, with a 355HP turbo Six and AWD standard.

Alexa could also point out that the MDX’s structure has been stiffened and re-shaped, and its bonding strengthened, for better handling and crash protection. (The size, shape and placements of some of the airbags have advanced also.) Then the brakes, wheels and tires grew larger, and the suspension was upgraded to suit. Each improvement drives a host of others downstream. 

One result of all this is that the MDX can be placed precisely on the road, more like a sports sedan than a large SUV. The steering feels spooky light at first, but it is quick, direct and accurate, and acceleration and braking are tuned to match, for responsive driving, especially in Sport mode.

The active safety features are now more active and safer, too: Collision warning and braking assist, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control and the various monitors have been refined for better performance with less annoying intrusion. For example, up to 6 MPH, the brake assistance (which works going ahead or in reverse) will override the throttle if the driver hits the wrong pedal by mistake, and the Collision Imminent! warning is less likely to cause a heart attack. 

The computer screen is large and clear and the display can be customized. In addition to Alexa, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus navigation, a WiFi hotspot and an inductive smartphone charging pad. One new feature that could use further tweaking is the computer touchpad, which is both too sensitive and sometimes balky; there’s a learning curve. 

The power liftgate has been fussed over as well. Like many others, it can be opened with a foot, when one’s arms are full of bags, but it can also close automatically too, when scooping those bags up again. The warning buzzer is quieter and less annoying now, and the opening height of the gate is adjustable.

The MDX needed an overhaul to stay competitive, and it got a good one. Our example, a top-of-the-range model with the Advance and Tech trim packages and all-wheel drive, lists for $62,175. The Type S should cost a few grand more, but the base model dips to $48,000, with Technology and A-Spec trim levels filling in between it and our Advance model.

Silvio Calabi has been reviewing cars since Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels from the White House. He lives in Camden.