When you've been a car journalist for a while, you can tell when a manufacturer is erecting a smokescreen with a new car. Obfuscatory language stands out like a sore thumb; the mantras about the car come off too rehearsed; the first-drive experience feels a bit too curated. It's not hard to hone in on what the carmaker doesn't want to talk about. You can also learn to detect the precise opposite — when a manufacturer knows they have an absolute worldbeater of a new car, especially in a segment where they make big money.
That’s how Acura clearly feels about the new fourth-generation MDX crossover.
How do I know? Acura held a Zoom call for the myriad journalists who would be testing the new midsize luxury SUV. During the video chat, the brand's employees proclaimed the car as the brand’s new flagship, and had engineers spend nearly an hour running through a 60-slide PowerPoint detailing every single thing they improved for the new model.
Acura was so confident about the new MDX, in fact, that they brought me to some of the curviest roads southeast Michigan has to offer (admittedly, they're not that curvy) and invited me to pit against not just the outgoing MDX, but also rivals from Audi, Lexus and Volvo. They were practically daring me to find fault — and truth be told, there wasn't much to be found. The 2022 Acura MDX shows that Honda’s technical precision remains a wonderful thing.
What We Like
The new Acura MDX looks dramatically better than its predecessor. The exterior is sportier and more athletic, stretching 2.2 inches longer and wider alike, but not all in the same places; a long hood means more than four inches has added to the dash-to-axle ratio. Like the new TLX sedan, its profile reads like a rear-wheel-drive-based vehicle.
The interior gets a nip-and-tuck as well, ditching the double screen situation from the last generation. My A-Spec trim managed to pull off red leather seats without any hint of "Dad's trying to look young" vibes, which is a feat in and of itself. And Acura doesn't make you choose between extra seating or captain's chairs in the second row; the middle seat can fold into a center console or be removed entirely.
The MDX made a leap forward on the driving front, too. My tester had Acura’s oddly-but-aptly-named Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which is one of the best torque vectoring systems, period. On top of that, for 2022,Acura upgraded the MDX’s handling, ride quality and body control with a new double-wishbone front suspension, a much stiffer chassis, bigger brakes, wider wheels and tires, and improved electric power steering.
The MDX also uses a new 10-speed automatic transmission that Acura developed in-house, tuned for quicker acceleration than the old unit thanks to a lower first-gear ratio and smarter highway downshift programing.
Put it all together, and you get an three-row family SUV that's ideal for bombing down bendy back roads, but still transitions nicely to the highway driving and school runs you actually use it for.
Watch Out For
Acura gets a lot out of its engine here, but the naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter V6 making 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque over from the previous model. Like most units propelling three-row family mobiles, it's nothing special — though, a bit discordantly, you do get a lusty engine growl in the cabin. (Fortunately, Acura has a hotter Type S model coming with a livelier turbocharged 3.0-liter V6.)
The style and performance upgrades didn't help the fuel economy. In AWD spec, the MDX gets the exact same figures as the 2020 model in EPA testing: 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. In practice, it's hard to meet even those numbers; I averaged around 19 mpg combined over two days, and that was with a lot of placid freeway cruising.
"Luxurious-but-not-opulent three-row crossovers starting around $50,000 with all-wheel-drive" is a crowded segment. Direct rivals for this car include the Audi Q7 (base price: $54,950), the Volvo XC90 ($49,000), the Lexus RX 350L ($48,000) and the Cadillac XT6 ($47,995). The first three, it should be noted, are near the end of lengthy model runs. (Lexus may have a more formidable competitor coming soon, too.)
The Genesis GV80 (starting at $48,900) is all new, and around the same price...but you need to level up to the $65,050 3.5T AWD Advanced+ trim to get third-row seats.
The MDX makes a strong case for itself. If your school run involves a canyon road, it should be on your short list of three-row crossover; if you're all about that VTEC life, have outgrown a TLX and don't mind spending this amount of money on a car, it's a great buy.
There's just one problem: the Kia Telluride. The reigning World Car of the Year is around $15,000 cheaper in every spec; it's arguably just as good looking, feels about as luxurious in top-shelf form, and you can load one up for the same price as a base MDX. That said...it's certainly not as much fun to drive.
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD A-Spec
Base Price: $46,900 ($57,100 for SH-AWD A-Spec)
Powertrain: 3.0-liter V6; 10-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 267 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway