By: Scott Wasser
Seeing a 2022 Acura MDX roll into my driveway for a week-long evaluation, it felt like I’d finally reached the front of the line at a favorite Disney attraction. I’ve been an MDX fan since it debuted as a 2001 model and couldn’t wait to test the totally redesigned 2022.
How about a show of hands if you remember 2001? That was way back when all vehicles like the MDX were called SUVs, not crossovers. Acura, by the way, still calls the midsize MDX an SUV.
But I digress. Two decades and three generations of MDX have passed since the first one was introduced. The company recently stopped to take a breadth – no doubt a labored one due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply issues – before delivering the fourth generation. The break lasted a full model year. The fourth-gen MDX debuts as a 2022. There was no 2021. The third generation covered model years 2014 through 2020.
The wait for a new MDX was worth it. It has been a while since I drove a Gen 3, but from what I remember of it the 2022 seems incrementally better in dozens of ways. For example, it’s roomier, more luxurious, and has more gadgets and safety features. It seems to ride and handle better, which I expected given all the structural and engineering changes Acura made to the all-new MDX.
Automakers toss around the term “all-new” like Boston pizza joints fling dough, but in this case the description seems well-deserved. Acura cites a slew of changes implemented to improve the MDX’s handling while giving it a more comfortable and composed ride.
These include larger and more powerful brakes, a new variable-ratio steering system for better road feel and feedback, and extensive structural strengthening said to increase torsional rigidity by 32 percent. The front and rear suspensions have been totally reengineered: There’s a first-for-MDX double-wishbone system up front and a completely revised multi-link setup in the rear.
I mentioned these structural changes to my daughter, who recently bought a 2022 MDX to replace the 2018 she had been driving. She looked at me as if I’d just explained Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
“I don’t know about any of that, and I don’t really care,” she said. “Well, I guess I care that it’s more comfortable, because I noticed that as soon as I drove it home from the dealer. It seems quieter, too.
“But the handling? That’s not something I think about. I don’t drive it on a racetrack. It feels better on the curves than my last MDX, but what matters most to me is I’ve got plenty of room for both of the kids and all their stuff. And I can bring along a few of their friends, too.”
The MDX’s third row provides plenty of room for my two granddaughters, 5 and 8, and/or their friends. It’s roomier than the back row of the third-gen MDX; most significantly sporting 2.4 more inches of legroom.
Yet adults still aren’t going to be happy if they’re stuck back there for longer than, say, an hour or so.
Adults like me might not be too pleased with the infotainment system, either. The system features a larger (12.3 inches), sharper screen than before and artificial intelligence intended to anticipate driver requests.
But it’s not a touchscreen. The system responds to voice commands about as well as any car I’ve tested – better than most – but the primary interface is a touchpad in the center console. These interfaces have in recent years been proliferating like proverbial rabbits.
Why? They’re unintuitive and can be frustrating to use because it often takes multiple gestures to do what touchscreens typically accomplish in a single poke. My daughter thinks the MDX touchpad is cool but admitted after further review she rarely uses it.
Two features she couldn’t live without are related to the second-row seating. One is a removable center section similar to the one introduced years ago on Honda’s Odyssey minivan and enables the second row to be configured as either a three-passenger bench or a pair of captain’s chairs separated by a nearly 14-inch aisle.
It’s the perfect solution for kids squabbling over the same doll, coloring book, or videogame … which, of course, my granddaughters never do.
The center-row seats also feature another great Honda/Acura innovation: One-touch, pushbutton access to the third row. Press a button and the second-row seats automatically fold and slide forward.
My daughter also loves the MDX’s versatile new cargo floor behind the third row. Reversible and removable, it is carpeted on one side and covered in durable plastic on the other. When it’s in place, it provides nearly 2 cubic feet of hidden storage space beneath it.
That’s more than enough for my daughter’s large purse, a few pairs of flip-flops, and some beach towels. When the towels are wet and the flip-flops covered in sand and mud, my daughter flips the cargo floor and leaves the mess on top of the plastic side.
To better accommodate bulky cargo like strollers and bicycles, the floor can be totally removed. In that configuration, the MDX provides 18.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row, 48.4 behind the second, and 95 behind the front seats. Those dimensions are 1.5 to 3.5 cubic feet larger than the third-gen MDX.
“I definitely notice the extra room,” my daughter reports. “I can carry everything.”
Well, I doubt she can transport her family of four and all their bicycles, but I appreciate her enthusiasm. I get a kick out of people who love their vehicles, and my daughter definitely fits that description. Some of her other favorite new MDX features are:
- 12.3-inch, customizable digital instrument display
- 10.5-inch, full-color head-up display
- Wireless phone charger and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity
- CabinTalk, a PA system that lets front-seat passengers broadcast over the MDX speaker system to second- and third-row occupants (my daughter calls this her “voice-of-god” feature).
- Built-in Amazon Alexa digital assistant, which helps MDX owners avoid the touchpad by performing many automotive functions through voice commands. It also can be used to operate Alexa-enabled devices in the home, so you can turn on the lights or turn up the heat or AC right before you get home.
Those features are all standard on the top-of-the-line MDX Advance model. That’s the same one I tested and that my daughter owns.
All four trim levels of the MDX benefit from a beefed-up structure and increased collision protection. The new generation earned top marks for safety, notching a five-star rating from the feds (NHTSA) and a GOOD+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There also are a slew of automatic collision avoidance features that enhance the peace of mind I have about the vehicle my daughter drives.
When I was behind the wheel, I also appreciated the MDX’s new 10-speed transmission. It delivered smoother and more responsive shifting than the nine-speed in the last MDX I tested. It can downshift up to four gears at once, which Acura says greatly improves highway passing performance.
A new sport model is on the way, but all four of the current MDX trim levels get the same, familiar 3.5-liter V6 that has been a staple of Acura and Honda vehicles. Acura said it has been tweaked a bit to be smoother and quieter while reducing emissions.
Rated output is 290 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque, which makes it feel quite capable, if not necessarily pulse-quickening. Zero-to-60 times of 5.7 seconds have been reported for AWD models, which is more than a half-second quicker than the previous generation MDX.
EPA mileage ratings are 19 city/25 highway/ 21 combined MPG for AWD models. Front-wheel drive versions rate one MPG better in highway and combined driving.
MDX starting prices range from $47,200 for a front-drive base model to $60,950 for an Advance Package. All-wheel-drive is standard on the A-Spec ($57,400) and Advance models and a $2,000 option on Base and Technology versions.
The test car’s window sticker had a standard equipment list that included all of the features mentioned plus a couple of dozen more, including ventilated and heated leather seats and genuine wood and aluminum trim. In fact, the only option on the test car was its dazzling, $500 Performance Red Pearl paint. The bottom line on its window sticker was $62,175.
At that price, the MDX feels very competitive in a brutally competitive class that includes the likes of BMW’s venerable X5 and the relatively new Genesis GV80. And I know at least one owner who totally agrees.