|✓ Styling, both inside and out||☓ Adequate V6 power, but nothing outstanding|
|✓ Excellent handling||☓ Slightly worse fuel economy than the old MDX|
|✓ Larger, roomier||☓ Touch pad can still be a bit finicky if you aren’t used to it|
|✓ Type S performance variant on the way|
2022 Acura MDX: Overview
Over the past two decades, Acura moved over a million MDX crossovers. That makes the brand’s flagship family hauler its best seller to date, and one of its most important models to sustain its momentum. To that end, the old model in production since 2013 is out, and a brand new MDX is in. The 2022 Acura MDX is a comprehensive overhaul, and at the moment rides on an Acura-exclusive platform not shared with the current Honda Pilot or the TLX sedan. This is the new version of the company’s “light truck” platform that will underpin future models, but kicks off right here with this fourth-generation MDX.
If there’s one word I want you to carry in your head for the next few minutes, it’s handling, handling, handling. Acura engineers made several changes under the skin that contribute to what is, overall, a (mostly) fantastic driving experience against the old car and most of Acura’s competition in the segment. The new 2022 Acura MDX is physically larger than the old model in virtually every dimension, but its dash-to-axle ratio has changed to give it a more planted stance. Couple that with sharper exterior styling, a thoughtfully designed interior and a new standard 10-speed automatic transmission, and this latest offering is tough to fault.
At first glance, casual observers may not tell the new MDX apart from the old one at first. Of course, there are notable changes to consider, like the revised front and rear fascias. More than just a facelift, though, that greater dash-to-axle ratio (by 4 inches over the old car) is more noticeable when you look at the car in profile. The shoulder line is well-defined in this generation, making the sides look much more muscular than some of its rivals’ flowing curves. The old model wasn’t offensively ugly by any means, but because it was relatively inoffensive, it failed to really stand out on looks alone. This car, like its smaller RDX sibling, certainly does.
Step inside, and you’re treated to a thoroughly modern makeover there as well. A 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument cluster — a first in Acura’s stable — presents all the useful information you’d expect to the driver. In the standard “Comfort” mode, it carries a more utilitarian layout like the Honda Pilot. Switch it over to Sport mode through the center-mounted drive mode dial, though, and that layout changes the prominent information on the screen. In that mode, for example, the tachometer shows itself horizontally across the top section. Acura also included some thoughtful touches, like showing the brake lights and turn signals on the little MDX in the center when you use them.
Interior comfort and convenience
With a new steering wheel, sharp-looking seats and a large 12.3-inch infotainment screen, the 2022 Acura MDX ditches the clunky (by modern standards) look and feel of the last generation. Spec the ELS Studio 3D audio system, and you can also get 710 watts of power. Other notable features include a power liftgate that closes when you walk away, a 360-degree camera system, remote start and wireless charging. To get those, of course, you’ll have to look into the Technology Package with remote start, and the Advance Package for those other features.
Overall, most of the controls are thoughtfully laid out, where you’d expect them to be. The new steering wheel also feels more purposeful for spirited driving than the old MDX. If anything, the only real gripe you may have with the interior is the touchpad. Acura’s True Touchpad interface does feel more responsive in this application, and they’ve included videos showing how it works. What you need to learn, more or less, is that Acura’s system is a 1-to-1 touch interface with elements on the screen. That means you don’t necessarily use it like a traditional touchpad. Instead, you just touch the part of the pad that corresponds with whatever you want to press on the screen. It takes some getting used to, and it does work decently well once you get the hang of it.
If you were expecting the 2022 Acura MDX to pack turbo power, we’re not there yet. The base models still pack a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine. As before, you get 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the TLX there’s no 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in the mix. What you do get, though, is a new 10-speed automatic transmission replacing the old 9-speed gearbox. It did help launch the MDX off the line, as it has a lower first gear. Once you start working your way through the rev range, though, you can tell the car’s 4,500 pound mass taxes the old mill a bit. Of course, driving the MDX over a mile above sea level contributes to that lack of oomph, but even then the power isn’t earth-shattering compared to the MDX’s chief rivals.
That said, Acura does have an ace up their sleeve this time around: the Type S. That MDX will pack a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine under the hood. Power rises to 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque when that engine hits the scene this summer. If you’re looking for the best performance out of Acura’s flagship, waiting for that should be well worth it. Once that comes along, I’ll likely retract my (admittedly small) complaint about power here. If any of you are curious about a new hybrid, it’s not completely off the table yet. That said, the company made no specific claims that it’s coming back, or when that may happen.
Handling and fuel economy
Then there’s the magic sauce with the 2022 Acura MDX: handling. In short, Acura engineers fitted a new multi-link suspension system with double wishbones at the front. They also fitted new bushings, revamped the electric rack-and-pinion steering, used a rigid-mount steel subframe and fitted larger wheels, tires and brakes to make this car a joy to handle through the bends. Yes, I know it’s still a crossover. But with these changes, I can put my hand on my heart and say this is one of the best handling cars in its class. Mind you, this class also contains cars like the Audi Q7.
Acura’s SH-AWD system is just as awesome as it’s ever been, shuffling up to 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels when necessary. Of the rearward torque, up to 100 percent can go to a single wheel. Thanks to the torque vectoring design, wider tires and longer wheelbase, you have to try tremendously hard to unsettle the new MDX. Despite that, the car still feels reasonably comfortable, albeit a bit firm, when you’re driving around normally. On that last point, adaptive damping isn’t available like it is on the TLX. Mainly, the drive mode dial changes the steering and throttle response, and sends more power to the rear wheels.
Fuel economy is 1 mpg worse than the old car, which Acura says is down to the new styling. Front-wheel drive models manage 19 City / 26 Highway / 22 Combined mpg, according to official EPA ratings. Spec the SH-AWD system, and that goes down to 19 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined mpg.
Verdict: An impressive improvement all around
Every time I’ve been in an MDX over the past few years, the first thing I felt was that it’s getting up there a bit. Fortunately, the 2022 Acura MDX nails those complaints with surprising vigor. It’s still a comfortable, luxurious three-row family hauler, but it has even more zest — a sign of the brand’s lean toward performance and handling prowess. Prices start at $47,925, which is a marked increase over the previous model. Still, it still meets or undercuts its rivals, while SH-AWD is a $2,000 premium.
If you want a sportier look, you can still go for the A-Spec trim. The top-spec Advance, on the other hand, tops out at $61,675. Pricing for the Type S isn’t available just yet, but expect that to run somewhere around that $60,000 range.