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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The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 comes to a dealership near you later this quarter.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the V8-powered Wrangler y'all have been asking for. Now we know how much 470 horsepower under the hood will cost you - $73,500 - and that's before taxes, fees, and any dealership markup.

With typical Wrangler Rubicon looks on the outside, the Rubicon 392's big selling point is its engine. The 6.4-liter V8 can get from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep is equipping the Rubicon 392 with a 21.5-gallon fuel tank to help with the thirsty engine's range. To save on fuel, the Rubicon 392 uses cylinder deactivation to switch into four-cylinder mode when the V8 isn't needed.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

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The noise out back is courtesy of a two-mode performance exhaust. A functional air scoop feeds the engine and keeps it cool.

All that power requires a stronger frame than the typical Wrangler has. It gets upgraded frame rails, improved cast-iron steering knuckles, and beefier front upper control arms. Stopping power comes from the SUV's larger-than-usual brakes - the Rubicon 392 has 14-inch rotors instead of the Rubicon's typical 13.4-inchers. A 2.0-inch lift is standard.

Jeep has given the model an Off-Road Plus button that lets you lock the rear of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 while it's in four-wheel drive high gear. This functionality will prove especially helpful to desert trekking enthusiasts who get slippery sand under the tires but have to keep up their forward motion so they don't sink and get stuck.

It's also Moab-ready. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 doesn't have the Rock-Trac transfer case that's in the typical Rubicon, but it makes up for it with the availability of low-end torque courtesy of the new V8. Add in the standard Select-Trac transfer case, locking rear differentials, and front sway bar disconnect and adventuring on rocks just became more manageable.

The entire rig rides on 33-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires that sit at all four corners one 17-inch beadlock-capable tires.

Jeep has given the SUV 11 features that are normally options on Wrangler, nine color choices for buyers to pick from, and bronze colored accents. At the center of the dashboard is an n8.4-inch infotainment screen that allows Jeep Off-Road Pages to be viewed.

Mopar will offer factory-based accessories with the model.

The new Jeep is expected to arrive at dealerships in the first quarter of this year.

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The Land Rover Defender has gotten a beefier engine option for the 2022 model year.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The new generation of the Land Rover Defender came to U.S. shores last year with a heaping helping of anticipation from buyers. With initial orders fulfilled, the company is upping the ante to bring an improved and more powerful Defender to North America for the 2022 model year.

The additions will mean that both the 2022 Land Rover Defender 90 and 2022 Land Rover Defender 110 will have nine grades available for purchase. The Defender 90 and Defender 90 S are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Land Rover Defender The Land Rover Defender has a long history of V8 engines.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Moving up to the Defender 90 X-Dynamic S, X-Dynamic SE, X-Dynamic HSE, or X will get you a 395-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter mild-hybrid six-cylinder engine that achieves 406 pound-feet of torque. The new supercharged 5.0-liter V8 gets 518 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque in the V8 and V8 Carpathian Edition models.

The same engines are available in the larger Defender 110 and have the same power. The Defender 110 and S trim levels have the turbo-four. SE, X-Dynamic SE, X-Dynamic HSE, XS Edition, and X have the mild-hybrid under the hood. The V8 and V8 Carpathian Edition have the V8.

Land Rover has also upgraded the SUV's Pivi Pro infotainment system. It's now available in a 11.4-inch screen option that features curved glass and with new operating system touch screen optimization to make interacting with the screen easier. Wireless device charging is now standard.

2022 Land Rover V8

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

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The new V8 engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can get the Defender 90 from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 149 mph. Opting for the V8 gets buyers the new Dynamic drive mode within the SUV's Terrain Response system. Models equipped with the power plant also get anti-roll bars and a unique electronic active rear differential with yaw controller. V8-powered Defenders also get their own induction and exhaust systems that are designed to enhance the vehicle's soundtrack.

Each of the V8 models is available with a Carpathian Grey, Yulong White, or Santorini Black paint job. The grey and white-colored models have a contrasting Narvik Black roof.

The interior of the vehicles features seats trimmed in Ebony Windsor Leather with Mike Suedecloth and Robustec accents. The cross car beam has a satin black finish and the steering wheel is finished with an Alcantata rim. Leather is wrapped around the airbag housing and gear selector. V8-scripted treadplates complete the look.

2022 Land Rover Defender XS Edition

2022 Land Rover Defender XS Edition 110

The 2022 Land Rover Defender XS Edition replaces the Launch Edition in the company's lineup.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The new Defender XS Edition replaces the First Edition for the new model year. It has body-colored lower cladding, lower wheel arches, and 20-inch Satin Grey contrast diamond-turned alloy wheels. Buyers can choose their model with either a Silicon Silver, Hakuba Silver, Gonwana Stone, or Santorini Black paint job.

XS Edition models also get 12-way heated and cooled seats finished in Ebony Grained leather and Robust Woven Textile. The cross car beam features a light grey powder coat while leather extends throughout the cabin and illuminated metal treadpates compete the look.

Buyers also get a stand electronic air suspension, Terrain Response drive modes, tri-zone climate control, cabin air ionization, adaptive cruise control, rearview mirror, and a 10-speaker Meridian sound system.

2022 Land Rover Defender V8 Carpathian Edition

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

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‚ÄčThe flagship Defender V8 Carpathian Edition is unique not just because of some badging and extra supple leather. It also has a bespoke chassis settings designed to deliver new levels of engagement and agility on- and off-road.

The model is only available in Carpathian Grey with a Narvik Black roof, hood, and tailgate. It wears bespoke badges, has Satin Black tow eyes, and is adorned with Carpathian Gloss front and rear skid pans, front grille bar, and Xenon Blue brake calipers.

The interior of this model is the same as the traditional V8 offering.

Land Rover is also offering a number of new packages to enhance the model. The Bright, Extended Bright, and Extended Black Packs feature unique exterior design touches. A Defender with the Bright Pack wears Noble Chrome front and rear skid pans, and a Noble Chrome grille and badging. The Extended Bright Pack adds Ceres Silver to the lower body cladding and wheel arches. A gloss black finish on those components comes as part of the Extended Black Pack.

Prinvg for the 2022 Defender 90 and 110 will be announced at a later date.

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