2022 Acura MDX Luxury SUV Preview

Jon Linkov
·10 min read

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Acura is repositioning its redesigned 2022 MDX with sporty driving dynamics in mind to differentiate the SUV in a crowded and ever-growing field.

Like the RDX SUV and all-new TLX sedan, the 2022 Acura MDX will come with a variety of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) as standard equipment. It also features Acura’s new infotainment system and control panel.

The MDX has always been a functional, family-friendly luxury midsized three-row SUV that focused more on passenger comfort and amenities than outright performance. But the redesigned 2022 Acura MDX's new platform includes a double-wishbone front suspension that the automaker says will endow it with improved handling without sacrificing ride comfort.

When it goes on sale in spring 2021, the 2022 MDX will face competition from traditional luxury nameplates such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Volvo. And it will be challenged by three-row midsized SUVs that can be outfitted with luxurylike interiors at decidedly nonluxury prices, such as the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride.

In addition, Acura will offer a high-performance Type S version with a unique higher-output engine. It's aimed at the exclusive performance options from some automakers, such as the Audi S and BMW M lines.

The MDX accounts for nearly a third of Acura's annual sales in the U.S. So the automaker incorporated performance and technology features that it hopes will keep loyal MDX owners satisfied enough to buy the new one, plus attract those who have never owned an Acura. And with the demise of the RLX sedan, the MDX is now Acura’s flagship.

CR's Take

The 2022 Acura MDX appears to be upgraded on just about every count. It's a stylish-looking model that's still easily recognized as the MDX. Acura says it's roomier inside, with more head and cargo space, but the unintuitive Acura infotainment system might be a deal breaker for some buyers. The MDX has performed well in our road tests and been popular with Consumer Reports members. But recent versions have subpar reliability, and owner satisfaction scores have dropped. So Acura needs to balance what has made the midsized three-row SUV a success with its desire to make it a sportier, more technically advanced model that appeals to a wider audience.

Outside

It looks as if Acura sent the current MDX to the gym and an exclusive stylist, then wrapped it in designer duds. Even with some bulking up here, along with nips and tucks there, the new look makes no attempt to mask that this is an MDX.

Acura’s big pentagon-shaped grille is even larger than the current MDX’s, and it's bracketed by two slim LED-filled headlights and daytime running lights. The SUVs body sits lower, has grown 1.4 inches wider at the front and rear, and the edge of the dashboard is set 6 inches farther back from the front axle than in the current model.

The SUV's increased width is accentuated by large scoops and ducts on the side of the nose, with small fog lights sitting toward the bottom of the bodywork.

Acura says the 2022 MDX's wheelbase is 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing model, and the additional space has been used to increase passenger and cargo room.

The windows taper toward the rear, meeting at a sharp point on the rear roof pillar. It gives the SUV a coupelike appearance in profile but, according to Acura, third-row headroom has increased. The rear of the SUV is highlighted by LED taillights and stylized tailpipes. In most versions the windows are framed with chrome, with the A-Spec trim using gloss black trim.

The high-performance Type S will feature a different grille, four exhaust outlets at the rear, and gloss black trim.

Inside

Acura took the interior styling of the RDX and all-new TLX sedan and applied it to the larger cabin of the MDX. A few elements dominate the cabin. The very wide center console between the seats houses the Acura True Touchpad, which is how the driver interacts with the infotainment system.

The MDX is the third model to feature this system. It has a large 12.3-inch display screen at the top center of the dashboard, where all media, navigation, and vehicle settings are displayed. In both the RDX and TLX we've found the system’s controls to be extremely distracting to use. Even after a number of software updates, the touchpad continues to be very sensitive and jumpy. It forces drivers to divert their attention from the road too often and for too long.

It's also the only way to use the system, because the screen itself isn't touch-capable. Even the addition of a volume knob and rocker switch to change audio stations doesn’t do much to lessen the driver’s distraction and frustration. The system can also be interacted with via voice commands.

The redesigned 2022 MDX also gets the same large, snoutlike Drive Mode dial that's found in the RDX and TLX, as well as the NSX supercar. This prominent element takes up a huge space where the center console blends into the lower dashboard. We haven't seen many advantages of the various driving modes in our tests and evaluations of recent Acura models.

Given all the new features in the center of the front cabin, it wouldn't be surprising if shoppers overlooked the all-digital 12.3-inch gauge cluster. Acura has replaced the physical gauges with a customizable display it calls the Precision Cockpit.

The MDX has rich-looking leather seats with detailed stitching for all three rows, along with leather-trimmed doors and armrests. The standard seats feature 12-way adjustments, three-level heating, and three memory positions. Models with the A-Spec package get front-seat ventilation (cooling); the ones with the Advance Package get adjustable side bolsters and an extendable thigh cushion, for a total of 16-way power adjustment.

The second row features a standard multiconfigurable center seat. In seven-passenger configuration it can be left in a raised position for three-across seating, while lowering the seatback reveals a center armrest with cup holders for the outboard passengers. The center seat can also be removed from the MDX entirely, turning the second-row seats into individual captain's chairs and creating a walk-through to the third-row seat. Seating is limited to six passengers in the last two configurations.

Acura says the third-row seat sits 2 inches higher from the floor than in the outgoing model, a move that may improve leg support. In addition, headroom in the rearmost seat has increased by 0.4 inches and legroom by 2.4 inches.

Device connectivity and charging is almost as important as on-road performance to some buyers, and on paper the new MDX should meet the demands of most families. Upfront are the new USB-C and older USB-A (square plug) charging ports, along with a standard Qi-compatible charger. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, as is Amazon's Alexa Built-In system. In addition, the AcuraLink system will allow for over-the-air software updates and access to emergency roadside assistance services.

Passengers can download an app to access CabinControl, a system that lets them control music, audio settings, rear climate controls, navigation, and the panoramic moonroof's sunshade. Beware parents!

According to Acura's data, cargo room has increased by 1.5 cubic feet with the third row raised, 2.2 cubic feet with the third-row lowered, and 3.0 cubic feet with both the second- and third-row seats lowered. We will do our own measurements in our tests, which focus more on the largest rectangular object that can fit through the cargo opening.

What Drives It

Acura will offer two engines in the 2022 MDX. Most versions will get a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 that's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The base MDX and versions with the technology package will be available with front- or all-wheel drive, while MDX's with the A-Spec and Advance Package will come only with AWD.

In an effort to improve fuel economy, Acura has employed active shutters with the new 2022 MDX, which can automatically close to lessen aerodynamic drag and reopen when there's a need for cooling air.

Acura says that front-wheel-drive versions have an EPA fuel-economy rating of 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. The AWD versions are rated at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined.

In our tests of the outgoing MDX with AWD, we got 21 mpg overall.

There will also be a performance-oriented MDX Type S version that, like the Type S version in the redesigned TLX, will feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine. Acura estimates it will produce 355 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, and notes that it's the most powerful engine ever offered in an Acura SUV. It comes standard with AWD, 21-inch wheels with 275-series tires, and larger brakes with Brembo four-piston front brake calipers for improved stopping performance.

Like the new TLX, the 2022 MDX uses a double-wishbone front suspension. This is a more complicated and expensive design than what was used in the last MDX, and its main advantage should be improved handling without sacrificing ride comfort.

Improvements in this area are warranted, because the outgoing MDX lacks driving pizazz. In our tests we found that although the MDX "handles competently and securely, it has no sporty pretense [and the] steering is short on feedback." The SUV can't match the Audi Q7 and BMW X5, or even the less-expensive Mazda CX-9, in terms of handling agility—even though it boasts a "super-handling AWD" badge on its rump.

Safety and Driver Assist Systems

All versions of the 2022 MDX will come with the AcuraWatch system of safety and driver assist features as standard equipment. The system includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control.

In addition, Acura told us that blind spot warning will also be standard. We applaud this move by the automaker to make BSW standard on all versions of the MDX, which also means that the MDX will be eligible to get full safety points in its Overall Score when we test it.

Acura says that the AEB system will be able to react quicker thanks to an electronic brake booster, which should reduce stopping distances from 30 mph by 12 feet.

The AcuraWatch system on the 2022 MDX includes a few new functions, including pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, traffic jam assist, and a driver attention monitor. According to Acura, the traffic jam system will keep the MDX "in its lane and at a set interval behind a vehicle detected ahead."

MDXs equipped with the Technology package will get a new low-speed automatic braking system that uses sonar-based parking sensors to sense nearby solid objects. The system will initially warn the driver and then, if it determines a collision is imminent, apply the brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of impact.

The MDX also uses a new airbag design for the front-seat passenger that's intended to cradle the person's head in an impact.