2022 Acura MDX Review: Chasing Alpha
Seeking big returns, Acura makes necessary investments in its popular MDX.
There are two kinds of luxury SUVs. The first type can go just about anywhere and is ready to travel well off the beaten path on your way to adventure. The second type is made for daily driving to excel on pavement and help you get home safely when the snow starts to fly.
The redesigned 2022 Acura MDX is the second type of luxury SUV — it provides three rows of seats and room for up to seven passengers. When equipped with its optional torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, it’s a blast to drive on pavement.
Though it is completely redesigned, the 2022 MDX is philosophically unchanged. It still comes with a V6 engine and in standard specification with available Technology, A-Spec, and Advance equipment packages.* Acura drops the Sport Hybrid version but adds a performance-oriented Type S model with a turbocharged V6 and a big bump in power ratings. Prices range from the high $40,000s to the low $60,000s. You can expect the MDX Type S price to come in closer to $70,000 when it goes on sale.
Historically, its combination of enjoyable driving dynamics, SH-AWD, roomy and comfortable interior, and the reliability expected from the Acura brand made the MDX one of the most popular luxury SUVs in America. But now, the new 2022 MDX faces more competition than ever. It replaces a popular but technologically aged version of the model, so Acura needs to get this fourth-generation MDX precisely right.
To assess its performance, Acura loaned us a 2022 MDX A-Spec with SH-AWD and extra-cost Liquid Carbon Metallic paint. The price came to almost $60,000, including the destination charge to ship it from Acura’s Ohio factory.
Comfort and Quality Characterize a Transformed Cabin
Inside and out, the new 2022 MDX adopts design cues first introduced on the latest Acura TLX sedan. The new MDX has a more balanced and athletic appearance with its taller, longer hood and a greenhouse pulled back on the platform.
The MDX’s cabin draws heavily on the design and layout first seen in the TLX — rendered in high-quality materials to emphasize both performance and technology. Available Iconic Drive ambient lighting* presents color themes named after famous race tracks and legendary driving roads.
A 12.3-inch digital instrumentation panel is standard. It pairs with a 12.3-inch infotainment display screen, the largest one the company has offered to date. Together, they represent a giant leap forward in technological sophistication compared to the previous MDX.
However, the True Touchpad Interface (TTI) user interface is not the most ideal. The MDX’s infotainment screen is not touch-sensitive. Instead, the driver and front passenger must use the TTI, a touchpad on the center console that provides what Acura calls “absolute positioning”. This means that the spot where you place your fingertip on the TTI pad directly corresponds to the same location on the infotainment display.
Although absolute positioning is a better approach to this type of user interface than what competitors like Lexus used, it is also different from how a laptop computer trackpad works. You may need to rewire your thinking every time you get into the MDX. After a week of test-driving, the TTI caused occasional frustration.
As was true before, the new MDX offers exceptionally comfortable seats and a low-slung, sporty feel from behind the steering wheel. The front seats offer 12-way power adjustment and standard heating with ventilation available*. Advance trim adds 16-way power adjustment and a heated steering wheel.
The new MDX’s second-row seat works as a bench for three people, or as captain’s chairs for two including a center console with cupholders and a storage tray. To make this transformation, you simply fold the center seat down. You can also remove the entire center section of the seat to provide a pathway to the third row. A standard panoramic glass sunroof extends over the second-row seats, and heated outboard seat cushions are available* with the Advance package.
With this redesign, the MDX’s third-row seat adds headroom, legroom, and the cushion sits higher off the floor for improved comfort. The MDX also offers more cargo space than before. There is up to 18.1 cu.-ft. of volume behind the third-row seat, up to 39.1 cu.-ft. behind the second row, and with both rows folded down the MDX supplies a maximum of 71.4 cu.-ft.
It’s worth noting that storage space in the front-center console is significantly reduced compared to the previous-generation MDX.
Substantial Tech Upgrade Arrives Just in Time
One of the most glaring shortcomings of the previous-generation MDX was its technology. From its infotainment to its driving assistance, the MDX simply wasn’t keeping up with competition — this is no longer the case for the 2022 model year.
Aside from concerns about TTI functionality, the MDX’s new infotainment system is impressive and represents a substantial upgrade over the older MDX.
Standard features include:
Wireless smartphone mirroring and charging
Cabin Control: a smartphone app allowing passengers to control various aspects of the interior
Cabin Talk: Broadcasts the the driver’s voice through the stereo speakers to address rear passengers without yellowing
Next-generation connected services (including a Wi-Fi hotspot, emergency assistance, and more)
Over-the-air updates to improve the technology over time
Acura restricts remote engine starting to the Advance package.
The infotainment system’s natural voice recognition works well, and Acura offers nine-speaker, 12-speaker, and 16-speaker sound systems in the MDX. The tested A-Spec trim includes the 16-speaker setup with Acura/ELS Studio 3D premium audio components — it sounds terrific. Acura also offers an available 10.1-inch head-up display for the new MDX.
Acura Watch is the name of the standard equipment of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). For 2022, the base MDX now includes a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert.
Acura also introduces improved versions of:
Lane-keeping assistance technology
The driver attention monitor
Low-speed braking control to prevent bumping other vehicles or obstacles when parking
A traffic sign recognition system is also standard, as is a new Traffic Jam Assist system. It works with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance technology to make daily commuting easier.
In use, the MDX’s new ADAS is more accurate, refined, and sophisticated than the previous version of the SUV. However, it’s not quite as transparent in operation as some of the best systems. In any case, you’re more likely to use it now because of its improvements in functionality.
Additionally, the new MDX’s underlying structure gets a redesign that Acura says will reduce the intrusion of crash forces into the cabin. The MDX also debuts a new front passenger airbag designed to reduce head injury in offset frontal-impact collisions.
Based on crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these safety-related updates are successful. The IIHS gives the redesigned 2022 MDX a “Top Safety Pick+” rating for its ability to avoid a collision and protect occupants in the case of a crash.
Acura Focuses on Paved Road Performance Instead of Off-road Prowess
Though “overlanding” is an increasingly popular trend among SUV buyers, Acura sticks to its “precision crafted performance” guns with the new MDX to great effect.
Acura carries over the MDX’s excellent 290 hp, 3.5L V6 engine for 2022 with numerous updates to improve fuel economy. A 10-speed automatic transmission is new, and a next-generation version of SH-AWD is available*. Acura says it responds to driving conditions faster than before and provides greater handling benefits when you’re driving the MDX with enthusiasm.
An Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) takes center stage on the MDX’s dashboard. The large knob gives the driver access to Comfort, Normal, Sport, Snow, and Individual settings. During testing, we used Normal most of the time and Sport on twisty mountain roads, netting 19.4 mpg. That’s less than the official rating by the Environmental Protection Agency, which says the MDX SH-AWD should return 21 mpg in combined driving.
Acura is now using a new double-wishbone front suspension, paired with an improved multi-link design in the back. With more responsive variable-ratio steering, enhanced brakes, upgraded tires, and a more rigid underlying vehicle architecture, the collective changes result in a better driving SUV.
Traveling back roads from suburban Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, the MDX A-Spec certainly was enjoyable to drive. The V6 engine, with an Active Sound Control enhanced note, supplies plenty of accessible power. The new transmission behaves as expected depending on the IDS setting you choose.
Moreover, though the MDX has always settled among the more athletic SUVs in its segment, the redesigned 2022 model feels even lighter and more graceful when the road ahead turns sinuous. Between the quicker and more direct steering, improved response from the new front suspension, feeling of greater grip in a corner, and more noticeable torque-vectoring effect from the SH-AWD, the MDX cements its credentials as a sport/utility vehicle — with the emphasis on the sport part of the equation.
More of What MDX Buyers Love, But Where is Electrification?
Styling can make or break a vehicle. Acura gets it right with the new MDX while simultaneously bringing the SUV into the modern age with the kind of technology you expect in a luxury vehicle. Comfort levels remain high, utility improves, and the MDX can still put a smile on a driver’s face. There is little doubt that the upcoming Type S will not disappoint and provide similarly deep satisfaction.
What’s missing here is electrification. With the Sport Hybrid model dropped from the lineup, the MDX doesn’t offer a mild-hybrid 48-volt electrification, let alone a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicle option.
Given the rapid shift to electrification that is currently underway, this could seem like a step backward.
*Availability is subject to specific trim level selections