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Acura MDX prototype previews a far more premium 3-row SUV

This MDX prototype is a thinly veiled look at Acura's next-generation three-row SUV.

The sharper styling really looks great.

Acura

Acura revealed its new MDX on Wednesday and while it might technically be a prototype for now, this SUV gives us our first look at the company's next-generation three-row crossover, due to go on sale early next year. Additionally, the MDX prototype sets the framework for an even hotter MDX Type S, which is expected to arrive next summer.

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Lower, wider, longer, sharper

The MDX builds on the strong styling foundation of Acura's Precision Concept and indeed, the link to the RDX crossover and TLX sedan is clear. The new MDX is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor and the overall look is much sharper and a lot more refined. We dig the slim LED headlights and the vents below them are actually functional, channeling air through the fascia and out along the body sides.

From the profile view, you really get a better sense of the MDX's new proportions; it's morphed into more of a tall wagon than an upright SUV. There's a new light truck platform underneath the MDX that will go on to underpin future Acura products and the wheelbase is 3 inches longer than the old model, with a dash-to-axle space that's 6 inches longer than before. The prototype rides on 21-inch wheels with totally rad bronze inserts, but obviously, the production model will be available with smaller rolling stock.

A word about the prototype's matte gray paint: Acura says it's not planning to offer this on the production MDX at launch, but the automaker is investigating this and other flat hues for some models. NSX? TLX Type S? We'll see.

A far more premium interior

Inside, the MDX still offers seating for seven and Acura says all three rows will have more legroom than before. The second-row bench will have a center section that folds down with cup holders and a storage compartment in lieu of proper captain's chairs while Acura's one-button tilt/slide feature for the outboard seats carries over, making it easy to get in and out of the way-back. Will an adult be comfortable back there? Probably not. But kids shouldn't have too much of a problem.

Overall, Acura's made huge strides inside the MDX; the cabin is far, far more premium now. In fact, Acura is referring to the MDX as its flagship, so it's got to come packed with the company's best materials and technology. The MDX should set the standard for future Acura vehicles.

With beautiful accent stitching and high-quality materials, the MDX's cabin is far more luxurious than before.

Acura

The Milano leather, open-pore wood, French detail stitching and quilted seats are all top notch. Acura will even fit the MDX with a greater range of ambient lighting options, as well as heated and cooled seats with nine different massage programs. Sounds comfy.

Sitting inside the MDX prototype at Acura's headquarters in Torrance, California last week, the first thing we noticed was a greater attention to detail than we've seen in any previous Acura. The two-tone, leather-wrapped steering wheel is something normally reserved for higher-end luxury cars and while Acura says that bit isn't necessarily intended for production, it's at least a good indication that the company's on the right track. (Acura, please, offer this. It's so good.)

New for the Acura, the MDX will have a 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster -- the sort of thing we wish were in the TLX sedan. There's a second, 12.3-inch display atop the dashboard, running Acura's latest infotainment tech, controlled by the company's love-it-or-hate-it True Touchpad Interface. A 25-speaker ELS premium audio system will also be available and should really pump out the jams.

Acura's infotainment system is housed on a 12.3-inch touchscreen. That's also where you'll find the seat massage controls.

Acura

Standard V6, Type S on the way

When it launches, the MDX will be available with a familiar engine: Acura's 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated V6. This is essentially the same engine as what's offered in the current MDX, producing 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, though the next-gen SUV will use a 10-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive will be standard and Acura's excellent Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive will be available as an option.

It seems a little strange that Acura wouldn't use the new 2.0-liter turbo from the RDX and TLX, which makes 272 hp and 280 lb-ft. Then again, we've never had much reason to complain about the 3.5-liter V6, so why fix what isn't broken? The MDX currently offers a hybrid option, too, but it's unclear if a gasoline-electric powertrain is in the cards for the new SUV.

When the MDX Type S arrives next summer, it'll use the same 3.0-liter turbo V6 as the TLX Type S, with an estimated 355 hp and 354 lb-ft. The MDX Type S will come standard with SH-AWD tech.

Acura's chicane-shaped LED running lights look great on the MDX's rump.

Acura

Pricing and on-sale date

The current MDX starts at $45,525 (including $1,025 for destination), but we expect the new SUV to command a slightly higher price. The TLX got a similar price hike when the 2021 model launched, but considering how much nicer the new sedan is, it makes sense. If our brief time checking out the MDX prototype is anything indication, Acura is definitely closing the gap between rivals like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, all of which start well above $50,000.

We'll have all the final details when the production-spec MDX makes its debut later this year, ahead of hitting dealerships in early 2021. We definitely like what we see with the MDX prototype and have no reason to believe the final SUV will be any less compelling.