- P​hotos: Kurt Bradley

T​he 2022 Acura MDX Makes You Look Like A Cooler Parent Than You Are

B​old new styling is just part of what makes Acura's flagship SUV good.

3w ago

Since its introduction in 2001, Acura's big SUV has been a hit. I​t's a little-known fact that the Acura MDX is the best-selling three-row SUV of all-time, shipping over 50,000 units in 14 of its 21 years in existence. With the RLX sedan being discontinued, the MDX is now Acura's flagship. You may have noticed that Acura completely skipped having a 2021 model year MDX, and went straight to the 2022.

Going from being the reliable seven-seater that parents adore to the model that has to establish itself as the top-end yet sporty model in a lineup can be a bit of a challenge, but Acura has put a ton of effort into making this all-new MDX stand out. Competing with the Lexus RX350L, Audi Q7, Genesis GV80, and Volvo XC90, the MDX has some strong rivals.

Over its lifespan, the Acura MDX was not the coolest SUV option, and would not help you improve your coolness when you picked up the kids at soccer practice, but Acura is working to change that image. Insisting that it's as performance-focused as it is a premium car, I wanted to see if this new MDX was hitting its marks.

The All-New Specs

L​ike the Acura TLX I reviewed recently, the 2022 MDX is treated to Acura's stunning new styling language. The 2022 MDX is built on Acura's new light truck platform, which improves rigidity and collision safety while incorporating a new front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension to make it more fun to drive. Inside, the new MDX is substantially upgraded over the 2020 model, with a full slate of new infotainment and connectivity features.

U​nder the MDX's hood is a 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft (362 Nm) of torque. Hooked up to a new 10-speed automatic transmission--2020 had a 9-speed--that's built in-house, Acura offers the MDX with either front-wheel-drive or its optional Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. Acura claims the updated SH-AWD system in the 2022 MDX provides 40% more torque to the rear wheels when launching from a stop, and has quickened torque response time by 30% versus the 2020 model. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19/25/21 (city/highway/combined).

B​ase price for the 2022 MDX with front-wheel-drive starts at $46,900, and adding all-wheel-drive is a $2,000 upgrade. Go for Acura's $4,700 Technology, $3,500 A-Spec, or $7,050 Advance Packages, and you can sneak up to $60,000. My Liquid Carbon Metallic tester was shipped with the Technology Package--which adds Sat Nav, rain sensing wipers, ambient cabin lighting, low speed braking control, power folding mirrors, second row sunshades, and extra parking sensors--and A-Spec Package--sportier interior trim with red leather and Alcantara seats, 20-inch Shark Gray wheels, ELS Studio 3D audio, sport pedals, ventilated seats, and LED fog lights--and had an MSRP of $58,625.

T​he Refined Errand Runner

Acura's efforts to make the 2022 MDX more enjoyable to drive are immediately apparent. The new chassis is tuned to handle like a performance SUV rather than a boring utility appliance, and the amplitude reactive dampers give the MDX fantastic smoothness during daily driving while still being quite responsive. The variable gear ratio electric power steering is great, with a surprisingly low amount of input needed at low speeds, which made moving and parking the 4,534-pound (2,057 kg) MDX simple. 290 horsepower isn't a lot for a car of this size, but it's a sufficient amount of power for parents that are buzzing around the city on errand and school runs.

When you slip into the 2022 MDX's front seats, there's the sensation you're in a sport sedan. The belt line is high with a long dash-to-axle length, and the sporty proportions outside translate to a great cockpit. The MDX's new cabin is cool but still intuitive. If red leather seats aren't your thing, you can get the A-Spec package with black leather, and while still having the cooler materials and trim throughout the Acura's spacious interior.

O​n the tech front, the 2022 MDX gets standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless mobile charging, in-car WiFi hotspot with over-the-air updates, Amazon Alexa built-in, AI-driven smart infotainment shortcuts, and a 12.3-inch screen. I​f you're toting around a big group, the 2022 MDX can confortably fit seven passengers. Though Acura gave the third row seat about half an inch more headroom and over two inches more legroom, the passenger duo you stick back there better be kids if you're taking a longer trek. Smart of Acura to include USB ports back there if you opt for the Advance package.

Should you not need the third row seats for seating, hit the button to power fold them away, and take advantage of a massive cargo area that also includes a big flip-up storage compartment under the floor. As you expect from Acura, the cabin is loaded with usable cupholders and tons of places to safely stash away your things.

H​ow Well Does It Play?

Throwing a kitchen sink of enhancements at its chassis, Acura definitely made the 2022 MDX more fun to drive on any road. With a new double-wishbone suspension up front, Acura's three-row SUV gets a setup that helps maintain compliance in the corners while increasing the tires' contact patch. I also like the smaller and thicker steering wheel that Acura swiped from the NSX's parts bin. When toggled into the sport drive mode, you notice just how much work Acura put into giving the MDX sportier behaviors. Body roll is minimized with help from the adaptive suspension, which is also helped by the three-row MDX only weighing 4,500 pounds.

Opt for the MDX's SH-AWD setup, and you'll be treated to a revised torque vectoring system that can shove 70% of the MDX's torque to the rear wheels while allowing for up to 100% of that torque to be distributed to either side for peak cornering capability. I appreciate that Acura gives the MDX this much tech to target more competent handling. While its Lexus and Volvo competition is more concerned about a disconnected and refined ride, the MDX is actually good to drive on a twisty road.

I set up the individual mode to be in the comfort engine setting while everything else was in sport when I was cruising around town, because despite being the firmer setup, the MDX was still remarkably smooth and compliant. Acura's dynamic mode control knob is prominently place in the center stack, with a polished metallic knob that has a central button to quickly engage the individual mode.

If you pretend you're in a sport sedan, you'll be happy that Acura gave the 2022 MDX's braking system big upgrades too. With 30mm larger front discs--now 380mm from and 300mm rear--that increased heat capacity by 17%, there's a new electric brake booster to quicken response and reduce braking distances. Bridgestone's new Alenza all-season performance tires are great for a daily driver, and still offer some good grip when you're having a responsible amount of fun, with an increased contact patch stiffness while reducing rolling resistance.

T​he High Points

The obvious upgrade for the 2022 MDX is in the styling department. Getting the new look that I also liked in the Acura TLX sedan, the design language carries over exceptionally for the MDX. In previous years, it was easy to overlook an MDX in a crowd of cooler SUVs. Rather than being a bloated SUV package, Acura made the 2022 MDX sharp and mean looking. Stretching the MDX's proportions, the cabin opened up nicely. Even though there's a high belt line and swept roofline, the interior is spacious. I love how well the MDX's seats feel on longer highway drives while still being sporty in appearance.

C​ar audio tech has benefitted from tons of upgrades over the years, and Acura's ELS 3D Studio system is wonderful. If you happen to have some proper 5-channel music available, you'll be stunned how clear and robust the MDX's surround sound system is. The machined metal speaker grilles are a nice touch too. Ambient lighting is common among premium cars now, and I like that Acura set up the MDX with lighting themes that are synced to the different drive modes.

A​cura's new digital instrument display is cool and easy to read while providing a ton of information. The 12.3-inch screen is clear, and has a couple display options depending on your drive mode. One really cool detail is that the MDX displayed on the bottom of the screen matches the color of your car, and will light up the brake and taillights to indicate exactly what your MDX is doing outside.

N​ot So Wonderful Bits

D​espite the performance designation expectations on luxury marques, Acura's A-Spec Package is more focused on appearance than performance. I wish there was a mild performance upgrade coupled with ticking for the A-Spec option box on the 2022 MDX, as my driving style and demands are not a rare, wishing it could offer more power.

As I mentioned before, 290 horsepower is fine for the responsible parent who's toting the kids around, but every now and then a little fun is allowed. At the time of writing this review, I have a Genesis GV80 as my tester, and the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 stomps with 375-horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque. To be more fun, the MDX needs at least an extra 50 in the horsepower and torque columns. Thankfully there's Type-S model in the pipeline, which should be much quicker, but is going to command a price premium.

T​he MDX's trackpad-driven infotainment system takes some getting used to, but Acura has good intentions. No other manufacturer incorporates this absolute relation between your fingertip and the cursor, so you've got to teach yourself how to make effective use of it. Once you're adjusted, it's easy to operate the infotainment system knowing that your fingertip is actually hitting the correct section of the display without having to actually reach forward to touch the screen--mainly because Acura's system doesn't use a touchscreen with that big 12.3-inch display.

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I​f you don't like H-Town rap, we can't be friends.

Acura Is Nailing It Lately

A​cura has quietly been a consistent seller, but the cars don't really stand out on paper. It knows its buyers are more pragmatic than emotional, and gears its product planning around that driver that enjoys building spreadsheets to decide which car to buy rather than caring about sexy stats. In the case of the 2022 MDX, Acura has delivered an SUV that not only ticks several boxes for parents, but also wraps it up in a seriously attractive package.

T​he MDX may not have a sporty reputation like the Audi Q7, might not be as luxurious as the Lexus RX350 or Genesis GV80, but it does many things exceptionally. As a total package, the 2022 MDX is a great value, is as safe as you'd expect from Acura, now offers damn good looks, and is loaded with all sorts of good tech that its buyers demand. I like this new path Acura is headed down, and the 2022 MDX might even make other kids and parents think you're cool.

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