I’ve always been a fan of Honda and, its luxury arm, Acura, due to their inherent sportiness. Honda has one of the greatest motorsport pedigrees of any automaker and that motorsport know-how has often made its way into its cars, including many Acuras. So when I had the chance to drive the all-new, entirely redesigned 2022 Acura MDX, I was very excited.
Having not driven an Acura in many years, I was excited to go into the drive with a complete blank slate; not having a clue as to how it would drive. After spending a week with it, I came away surprised — both pleasantly and unpleasantly. One thing’s for certain, though, the new MDX is the most luxurious Acura ever made.
First thing’s first — the new Acura MDX is huge. I still remember when the first MDX debuted, and it was a big SUV for its time, but it was still small enough and sporty enough to take on its rivals at the time, such as the BMW X5. This new car, though, is massive. It’s a big, hulking three-row luxury SUV that isn’t shy about being a big, hulking three-row luxury SUV. This is not your dad’s Acura MDX.
Despite its gargantuan dimensions, its design isn’t anywhere near as brash. It’s smooth, sophisticated, and reserved. The newest evolution of Acura’s large grille is its best yet, its headlights are slick and modern looking, and it has just enough crisp lines to make it look premium. It’s a handsome SUV, the MDX, even if it’s a bit too reserved. In its defense, my test car lacked the kick-ass looking A-Spec sports package and was wearing a relatively boring shade of gray.
Step inside, though, and you’re met with a very premium, very luxurious cabin, especially for the price. Not only is the cabin extremely spacious but it features a tech-forward design that also prioritizes practicality. There are cubby spaces everywhere, there’s a great wireless charging tray for your phone, a little pop-out hub for some charging ports, and a massive infotainment screen. It makes a good first impression, no doubt.
Though, some of the interior starts to fall apart, figuratively (build quality is excellent), once you start poking around. For starters, the ergonomics are a bit of a mess, with random-sized buttons throughout and no real logical sense of placement. The auto-start/stop button was a particular point of curiosity for me, as it’s placed so randomly on the console, ahead of the infotainment controls, and is oddly enormous for no reason at all. It’s not a problem, it’s just bizarre and seems a last minute detail.
Then there’s the infotainment system itself. It works a lot like Lexus’; with a touch-sensitive track pad controller, similar to a laptop, and it features four quadrants to make moving around the screen a bit easier. However, it’s difficult to use while driving because it really requires you to avert your attention from the road to the screen, to ensure your finger movements are correct. The menus are also confusing and unnecessarily complicated. It’s better than Lexus’ system but that’s not really saying much, as it’d be easier to diffuse a nuclear bomb while driving than use Lexus‘ setup. However, the MDX does feature wireless Apple CarPlay, which is fantastic, works really well, and is what I used during my entire week with it.
It’s not all bad inside, though. The seats are superb; immensely comfortable yet still shockingly supportive. I’d like to rip the driver’s seat out and use it as an office chair, it’s that cozy. The materials are mostly really good; everything you’re realistically going to touch feels great; there’s plenty of space, even in the third row for kids, and the ELS Studio 3D sound system is absolutely killer.
But you probably want to know what it’s actually like to drive, right? In that regard, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I was both impressed and disappointed with the MDX after my week.
To be fair, my disappointment stemmed from what little expectations I had for the car. In my eyes, Acuras are supposed to be sporty vehicles. You buy a Lexus if you want luxury, you buy Acuras if you want to properly drive. That’s how it’s always been, that’s what I’ve always remembered Acuras to be, so that’s sort of what I expected going in. However, the new 2022 Acura MDX is not a sporty vehicle and it only takes driving a few feet to realize it.
That’s not an insult, mind you. It feels as if the MDX wasn’t designed to be a properly sport SUV in the way a Porsche Cayenne is. Instead, it prioritizes comfort and luxury before sharpness and handling. The ride is pillowy, its steering is light and slow; requiring more steering lock than I’d anticipated; and its cabin is quiet at speed. The new MDX might not be the sporty Acura of yore but it’s an incredibly refined and relaxed SUV to travel in.
The engine — a 3.5 liter naturally-aspirated V6 with 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque — was sadly a bit of a weak spot. Honda/Acura’s 3.5 liter V6 is a great engine in a car but not in a three-row SUV. It just never felt as if it had enough grunt to move the MDX with any sort of enthusiasm. It’s smooth, refined, and makes a good enough noise but it lacks the low-down punch of its turbocharged rivals.
Also, ten speeds is just way too much for an automatic gearbox. I say it each time I drive the Lexus LC500 and I’ll say it here. Ten speeds is just too many gear ratios, so the transmission is always hunting to find the right gear in the MDX, which causes delays when you put your foot down to pass another car. It caused several moments of frustration during my time with it. Though, I’m admittedly a, let’s say spirited driver, so maybe it’s fine with a more relaxed approach.
Acura has also been making it a bit of a point to mention its SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) system. It’s a clever all-wheel drive system with a trick rear differential that will overdrive the rear wheels, for better performance. While I’m sure that’s true, and I’m sure it works very well — all SH-AWD Acuras have been fantastic in the past, so I have no reason to doubt the system now — I never really had a chance to test it. The MDX is just too big, too heavy, and too soft to hustle hard enough that I’d notice a rear-biased system such as SH-AWD. I’d love to test it on sportier Acuras, but I just couldn’t in the MDX.
The Acura MDX is a good car, it really is. It’s comfortable, luxurious, and packed with good (if sometimes frustrating) technology. It has a great all-wheel drive system, space for seven passengers, tons of cargo capacity, and good looks. There is one catch, though — price.
Typically, Acura offers a budget alternative to the premium Germans; giving customers the same levels of build quality and technology as Zee Germans, just at a lower price point. However, the Acura MDX isn’t that much cheaper than the equivalent Audi Q7, which is also a three-row SUV as-standard.
As-tested, my Acura MDX was around $62,000, which isn’t exactly cheap. Sure, the MDX starts at just under $48,000 but if you want all the tech goodies and badass sound system, you’ll need to spend north of $60-grand. At that point, the Audi Q7 55 TFSI Premium Plus, with mostly the same levels of tech, is $63,800 to start. The Q7 also has more power, more torque, and better performance — thanks to its 3.0 liter turbo V6 — all-wheel drive, and seven seats. So the MDX starts to lose its value proposition, especially when the interior quality, tech, and ergonomics in the Q7 are better.
The new 2022 Acura MDX is a car I really wanted to love; as I said, I’ve always had a thing for the brand and I love an underdog; but it never really sold me. It has great bones, is packed with impressive luxury, and a ton of great pieces but it never really came together to be more than the sum of those parts. Maybe a sportier-spec car would change my mind but, as far as my test car is concerned, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.