Better looks and more tech keep the Acura MDX at the top of its game.
The Acura MDX has been around for more than two decades, making it one of the brand's top-selling vehicles. These days, Acura's largest SUV faces some seriously stiff competition, but thanks to a new platform, improved technology and sleeker design, this fourth-generation 2022 MDX is more compelling than ever before.
The new MDX is bigger than its predecessor in nearly every dimension. The wheelbase is 2.8 inches longer, overall length has been increased by 2.2 inches and the MDX is 0.6 inch taller. Still, the SUV's proportions are great, with a long hood ending in Acura's sleek Jewel Eye LED headlights. Compact foglights also use LED bulbs and the grille has a diamond-burst pattern that looks like you're accelerating to warp speed on the Millennium Falcon. There's a tasteful amount of chrome trim, and the only things I don't like are the fake vents up front. All in, the MDX is a handsome and tidy package.
Under its skin, the 2022 MDX has a new double-wishbone front suspension setup with a multilink rear design -- just like what Acura debuted on the 2021 TLX. The MDX rides on a new light truck platform that's stiffer and lighter than before, and my loaded Advance tester has the latest version of Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive tech with a torque-vectoring rear differential. SH-AWD can send as much as 70% of the engine's torque to the rear axle and then shift 100% to the left or right as needed. All of this makes the MDX sharper and more composed while driving on winding roads.
The fixed dampers don't quite match the rest of the sophisticated suspension, however. Driving in Sport mode on my favorite canyon road, the MDX is like two cars at once. On the one hand, I have an SUV that's happy to dive into corners, the 3.5-liter V6 engine's 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque providing ample thrust for exiting turns. On the other hand, the dampers make for a floaty ride, tossing my head around over undulations and causing me to slide around on the leather seats.
Unlike the fully loaded TLX Advance, the MDX Advance doesn't have adaptive dampers. Switching between the Snow, Comfort, Normal and Sport driving modes only varies the SH-AWD torque distribution. It's a pity -- the 10-speed automatic transmission is nicely tuned for sporty driving and the AWD tech is one of the best in the business. I suppose the truly enthusiastic drivers will have to wait for the upcoming MDX Type S.
That said, for daily driving, the MDX is comfy and quiet, and there are a whole bunch of standard driving aids. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are fitted to every MDX, and my Advance tester has extras like traffic sign recognition, pedestrian detection and Acura's Traffic Jam Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping tech.
Stepping inside, the MDX's available cabin tech includes a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, 12.3-inch central screen, a head-up display, standard wireless charging and plenty of USB-A, USB-C, 12-volt and AC outlets to keep all your devices full of juice. The 2022 MDX also has a version of Honda's Cabin Talk voice amplification system, so you don't have to yell to tell little ones in the third row to knock it off.
Acura's tech game is strong, but the infotainment interface continues to be a bit of a bugaboo. The MDX has the same True Touch Interface as the RDX and TLX, with one-to-one mapping between the touchpad and screen. If you want to access satellite radio in the top right-hand corner of the screen, you tap the top right-hand corner of the touchpad. This is imperative knowledge to have before you start, lest you think it's a regular touch pad and then yell in frustration when literally nothing works. (Ask me how I know.)
The infotainment icons are fairly large so you'll have a better chance of getting your touchpad placement right, but it's still difficult to select something placed near the middle of the screen. The trickiest bit is learning how to swipe to a second or third page; it's more of a flick than a swipe. Be prepared to spend some time with the owner's manual and prepare yourself for some initial irritation, but as I've discovered with our long-term TLX sedan, this tech gets easier to use over time.
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but once you start using these smartphone-mirroring technologies, the touchpad's absolute positioning doesn't work. Here, it works like a standard swipe pad, so if you plan to switch between Acura's native system and Apple/Android tech, be prepared for a few hiccups. The fact that the touchpad doesn't work the same way for every application is pretty frustrating.
The cabin's design is great, with some cool aluminum accents and available open-pore wood. The seats are incredibly comfortable and the ambient lighting looks cool. There are 27 different lighting schemes inspired by all sorts of destinations, like the Vegas Strip, Suzuka race track, Pacific Coast Highway and more.
There's plenty of legroom in the second row, and the 29 inches of third-row legroom is enough for kids, but might be tough for adults. The middle part of the second row can be flipped down for cup holders and storage, or you can remove the whole thing, but the result isn't the same as having separate captain's chairs, as there isn't an armrest in sight. However, in my top Advance trim, those outboard second-row seats are heated. The whole interior feels more open and airy thanks to a standard panoramic moonroof.
Cargo space gets a boost this year with 18.1 cubic feet behind the third row, 48.4 cubes behind the second and 95 cubes when both rows are folded. That's more than the Genesis GV80 has and way more than the BMW X5.
One cool new available feature on the MDX is a Walk Away Close tailgate. There is nothing worse than having your hands full and having to negotiate pressing a button to close the liftgate. The MDX solves this with an interior button you can press before you gather up all your groceries. Then just walk away and the door automatically closes and all doors lock after 30 seconds.
If you plan on hauling cargo via a trailer, the all-wheel-drive MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Front-wheel-drive models can only handle 3,500 pounds.
The 2022 MDX starts at $48,245 including $1,045 for destination. A $4,700 Technology Package adds a whole bunch of niceties, like perforated leather seats, ambient lighting, rain-sensing wipers, an ELS premium audio system, navigation and parking sensors. Both the A-Spec ($3,500) and Advance ($7,050) packages require the addition of the Technology upgrade, and while the former goes for a sportier appearance, the latter is a bit more focused on luxury. A fully loaded MDX Advance comes in just shy of $62,000.
As for rivals, the Genesis GV80 is arguably the toughest competitor, with its great design, excellent interior and cool technologies like a 3D-effect digital gauge cluster. The Lincoln Aviator is another good option, and of course, there is always the traditional trio of German options: the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.
The MDX is less expensive than these rivals, but it's in no way cheaper. Just as it's been for the past two decades, Acura's three-row SUV remains a compelling alternative to the segment stalwarts.