Behind the Wheel

2022 Acura MDX Review: Evolution turns this flagship into a performance-focused win

Acura has completely redesigned the MDX for the 2022 model year.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has a fresh flagship. The redesigned 2022 Acura MDX is a three-row SUV that crams comfort, convenience, performance, and style into one not-very-cramped package. It's truly a job well done, but for more reasons than it looks good and drives well.

The luxury arm of Honda has turned toward a more premium design for the MDX and it shows, starting with the face where the SUV's long hood and elongated dash-to-axle ratio give the MDX a sophisticated look when paired with the vehicle's athletic stance. The look is bolder and more upright, but also more sculpted than the previous generation model, accented with slick LED light signatures on either side of the grille.

2022 Acura MDX A-Spec The rear of the car is stylish and in keeping with the design hallmarks of the RDX and TLX.Photo courtesy of Acura

2022 Acura MDX A-Spec

Powering the MDX is an enhanced version of the company's 3.5-liter V6 engine. It produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Despite being a carryover, the engine is now quieter than before thanks to some engineering improvements. Honda's 10-speed automatic transmission seamlessly works up and down to complete the powertrain.

Standard with two-wheel drive but tested with all-wheel drive, the SUV's fuel economy numbers were more expected than impressive with the Comfort drive mode yielding the highest fuel economy while Sport proved the least efficient option.

Acura has built the 2022 MDX on its new light truck platform. It's developed for sporty Type S performance (an Acura MDX Type S is planned for later this year) but also does the job of making this version of the MDX a more pleasurable drive, with its rigidity combined with the new double wishbone front suspension and improved multi-link rear suspension.

Body lean and sway has been significantly cut down in the new model. The MDX is agile, but drives the same size as its footprint. Putting it into a parking space is significantly easier than it is with some competition set SUVs.

There are four standard drive modes in the Acura MDX with all-wheel drive. Individual customization is available.Photo courtesy of Acura

The SUV's electric power steering delivers connected results with even its Comfort drive mode acting more in tune with the driver's on-road responsibilities than any modern BMW Comfort setting has ever allowed. Switch to Sport mode and the accelerator is eager to deliver as smooth acceleration as is possible while removing stop/start engine idling without having to press any other button.

Normal mode puts the drive dynamics halfway between Comfort and Sport while Snow mode aims to boost the driving confidence of customers in the top half of the U.S. A customizable Individual mode allows drivers to customize their engine, steering, suspension, idle stop, lighting, and gauge cluster experiences.

Braking is smooth and connected, without the issues that have been the thorn in the side of the Acura RDX since its current generation debuted.

Wider tires (Bridgestone Alenzas) and wheels (20-inch on most models) help make the cabin of the MDX a serene place to be.

The dashboard area of the Acura MDX is very similar to what is in the fresh TLX sedan.Photo courtesy of Acura

If the interior of the MDX looks familiar to you, that's because it should. It's basically an adapted version of the TLX's interior, at least up front. This means that the design allows for a feeling of spaciousness and organization. There's plenty of buttons and knobs yet the space doesn't feel dated.

The 12.3-inch high-definition infotainment screen is set back into the dashboard so that it's easier to see while driving. Nearly every function of conducting day-to-day life in the vehicle is made easier by this sight line. But, because of its distance, the screen isn't easily reached.

Enter: touch pad control. If you have the Lexus track pad in your mind, forget about it. Acura has done a marvelous job engineering the touch pad to be more like an iPad and less like a typical mouse. In that way, selecting things on the screen is a one-touch, one-selection choice rather than dragging and scrolling. Once you get the feel for it, the pad is easily able to be used.

The true test of how how well laid out a center console and head unit are is to attempt to control a vehicle's key infotainment, climate, and charging functionality on the go, in the dark, with as little in-cabin light as is possible to achieve. The MDX setup passes this test with flying colors, even with only an hour or so behind the wheel prior to conducting this test.

Access to the third row is easy either via a space between the seats or the one-button press fold and slide operation of the captain's chairs.Photo courtesy of Acura

The materials inside the MDX also pass the test. Real aluminum accents, Milano leather, contrast stitching, and real open-pore wood make the SUV seem far more luxurious than its price point would allow you to believe it is.

This goes for the fully digital instrument display as well. It's easy to read at all times of the day and puts the information you don't use very often, like the odometer, current music selection, and compass, off to the side in a crisp and easy-to-read area, but in small sized characters.

The previous generation MDX was comfortable and the new MDX takes that comfort up a notch. Its front row seats are better than anything its German rivals offer and the one-touch multi-function second row seats easily flip forward to make room for incoming third-row passengers. There's more space in the third row in this generation but adults likely won't want to spend much time back there.

Acura has also improved the cargo capacity for the new generation. The two tier floor offers 80 percent more usable under-floor cargo space. This means that a typical grocery run, sans a high quantity of toilet paper and paper towels, is able to fit without having to utilize above-floor cargo space. A power tailgate with hands-free capability is available.

The MDX makes wireless Apple CarPlay available. Switching between the CarPlay screen and traditional Acura infotainment system is quick and painless.Photo courtesy of Acura

Over-the-air infotainment system updates are possible in this new model thanks to its standard Wi-Fi hot spot. Amazon Alexia is built in and the system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. Using the wireless Apple CarPlay system proved challenging at times as the connection would dip in and out, though the issue wasn't problematic enough to switch to using a cable. Third-row USB ports are available.

Parents will enjoy the ability to use Cabin Talk to chat with passengers in the rear of the vehicle without having to shout. This feature debuted on the Honda Odyssey and has been brought over to Acura's flagship for the new model year.

Nesting a smartphone in the wireless charger puts it out of mind, but not out of sight. There's an arm rest segment that goes over the charger serving as a spot to rest a wrist while using the touch pad and keep the phone from leaving the charger in the event of a quick stop. Win-win.

Upgraded versions of the MDX get an ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio system. The sound from it is crisp and powerful, something an audiophile can appreciate and someone who simply likes singing along to Lizzo while on the road can enjoy.

There is 80 percent more under-floor cargo room behind the MDX's third row of seats in the new generation.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has given the MDX gobs of safety technology, but it's all fully manageable. Unlike what you'll find in many brands, you can take the adaptive cruise control but leave the lane keeping technology if you don't want it by simply failing to press an activation button on the steering wheel. This is particularly helpful in areas with a string of potholes or highway construction zones where multiple lane lines are present.

Traffic sign recognition, a driver attention monitor, expanded pedestrian detection capability, and traffic jam assist have been added for 2022 joining the collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation.

Blind spot monitoring alerts are elegantly placed at the junction of the side mirror and A-pillar, inside the car, and are hard to miss when making a lane change.

There's safety improvements for those surrounding the MDX as well. The company's engineers have made the face of the vehicle better able to protect pedestrians in the event of a crash by making crash zone areas more deformable and able to take on the impact of a crash, and protecting the lower half of the body by having a flatter nose.

The SUV's touch pad takes some getting used to, but it's easy to use.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has also installed the latest airbag technology in the MDX, which, when deployed, is able to reduce brain tissue injury by 75 percent over the previous generation of airbags.

The 2022 Acura MDX starts at $46,900. That's a sweet spot, rivaling the starting price of the Cadillac XT6, Genesis GV80, Lexus RX-L, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, and Audi Q7. Acura tops out the MDX just over $60,000, which doesn't seem unreasonable given the cost of the competition.

If I wanted a premium three-row crossover, would I buy the Acura MDX? In. A. Heartbeat. It drives better and has a nicer interior than the Cadillac XT6 and Lexus RX-L. It drives better than the BMW X5, has a better infotainment system than the Volvo XC90, and is more attractive than the Audi Q7. Plus, it's priced right.

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What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTS My SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTS The pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTS I'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

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The Type S gets a 355-hp V6.

Acura

The Acura MDX is a sharp three-row SUV that shares its roots with the Honda Pilot. The similarities between the two stop at the platform, however, as the MDX is more upscale, more engaging to drive, and more sharply styled. Acura skipped over the 2021 model year for the MDX, instead opting for a refreshed model in 2022. The new SUV is more of all the good things that it predecessor was, with the addition of new technologies and features. Acura recently announced that production for the higher-performance MDX Type S has begun, meaning we're about to see the hotted-up SUV in the wild.

2022 Acura MDX Type S Interior finishes and features are all high-end.Acura

While the standard MDX gets a 290-hp V6, the Type S receives a massaged version of the engine with a turbocharger that produces 355 horsepower. Beyond its significant power advantage, the Type S also gets adaptive air suspension, Brembo front brakes, and 21-inch wheels. Acura says the Type S is the most luxurious MDX it has made to date. To prove it, the automaker added nine-way massaging front seats and a 25-speaker Acura ELS Studio sound system to the Advance Package trim.

2022 Acura MDX Type S Massaging seats are available for the top Advance Package trim.Acura

Unsurprisingly, the Type S carries a notable price premium over its standard counterpart. The SUV's starting price is $67,745 including destination. The top MDX Type S with Advance Package starts at $73,095. The 2022 MDX was designed, tested, and developed in the United States. It's joined by the standard MDX in production at Acura's East Liberty facility in Ohio. The NSX supercar is also built in America, by hand, in Marysville, Ohio. Additionally, Acura notes that all of its 2022 model-year vehicles sold in the U.S. are built in the U.S. using domestic and global parts.

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