2022 Acura MDX Will Have More Performance, Luxury, and Style

From Car and Driver

  • The 2022 Acura MDX will go on sale early next year offering more standard features, a more luxurious interior, and improved performance.
  • Next summer, the MDX Type S is coming; it will have a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with an estimated 355 horsepower.
  • Acura’s new flagship has a standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, and an upgraded suspension.

Acura will introduce an all-new version of its best-seller early next year. The 2022 Acura MDX will be packing more size, performance, luxury, and standard features than the popular SUV ever has before. Now the self-proclaimed “performance division of Honda,” Acura, is riding high on the strong sales of the RDX and the positive reception of its recently redesigned TLX, but it’s the fourth generation of the MDX that’s most important to its future.

Last year Acura sold about 50,000 MDXs, which was nearly a third of its total volume. (Acura’s skipping the 2021 model year, by the way, and calling this a 2022.) The company has sold over a million MDXs in all since its debut as a 2001 model. That not only makes it the best-selling Acura of all time but the best-selling three-row luxury SUV in history. In spite of all that success, Acura is now attempting to reposition its largest SUV in the increasingly competitive luxury-SUV landscape. “We’re changing the direction of the MDX,” says Art St. Cyr, Acura’s VP of automobile operations. “It’s going upmarket.”

Upmarket means moving it closer in price, features, and performance to the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-class, and Audi Q7. Until now, the MDX has lived in the heart of the segment with the Lexus RX, Infiniti QX60, Cadillac XT6, and the soon to be introduced Genesis GV80. “The heritage of the MDX was at risk,” says the Acura’s global development leader, Tom Nguyen. “The vehicle was dangerously close to becoming mainstream. We had to go big.”

That’s big as in better, not big like Escalade, although the SUV is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor. Built on an all-new light truck platform, it also has a three-inch-longer wheelbase, wider tracks, and sheds its strut front suspension for unequal-length control arms with more travel and improved geometry. Its rear subframe and independent rear suspension have also been redesigned, and for the first time its front damper houses are aluminum, so they’re lighter and more robust.

Spring and damping rates are increased, anti-roll bars are stiffer, and the MDX prototype’s 21-inch wheels and tires will make production. The SUV wears all-season Continental CrossContact tires sized 275/40R-21. According to Acura VP and brand officer John Ikeda, for now summer tires aren’t in the plan. Even the MDX Type S, which will reach dealers next summer, will wear all-season rubber.

The new front suspension also allowed the designers to lower the hood. They’ve also increased the SUV’s dash-to-axle length by 5.9 inches, so it’s proportioned more like its German targets. Nguyen says weight is up slightly but has been moved rearward for better overall balance.

Up front is the latest take on Acura’s three-dimensional Diamond Pentagon grille, which is deeper and more intricately detailed than it is on other models. It’s flanked by LED headlamps. The C-pillar is now athletically upswept, and the tailgate flows elegantly into a flush rear bumper, which is fitted with a mild diffuser and two big-mouth exhaust tips. All the trim is understated satin chrome. It’s used tastefully, but we question the small spear that extends from the mirrors onto the front fenders. It seems forced. The prototype’s matte-finish Liquid Carbon paint may make production, but for now the copper detailing on its wheels and the white brake calipers are just for show.

Under the hood will be the same 290-hp 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6 as last year, but the nine-speed automatic transmission is history, replaced by a new 10-speed with a shorter first gear, which should help acceleration. Front-wheel drive will be standard, while the fourth generation of the brand’s all-wheel drive system will allow 70 percent of the engine’s torque to reach the rear wheels.

All-wheel drive will be standard on the Type S, which will get the turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 from the TLX Type S. In the sedan the engine makes 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, but Acura has hinted those ratings may increase. Either way, it will be the most powerful Acura SUV ever. The Type S will also benefit from a rear-mounted battery, which should improve its balance and handling.

On the Inside

Although we haven’t yet driven the 2022 MDX, we have sat in it, and its new cabin makes radical advancements in comfort, features, and design. The dash is now hand-wrapped with French-stitched leather and trimmed with low-gloss open-pore wood, highlighted with subtle metallic sprinkles. The console has quite a bit of piano black, and there are ornate aluminum speaker covers on the doors. The conventional shifter has been replaced with a push-button unit, and it shares the three-spoke steering wheel of the TLX, which is heated and has paddle shifters. Drive settings including Normal, Sport, and Individual allow the driver to adjust the ride, handling, steering, and powertrain.

The complicated two-screen design is out, replaced by a single extra-wide 12.3-inch unit, which will be the largest in the brand’s lineup. It isn’t a touchscreen. Instead there’s a well-placed touchpad on the console, along with a substantial wrist pad, a real volume knob, and a standard wireless phone charger. Also standard will be Acura’s first digital gauge cluster, which will have two configurations, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and we counted six USB ports, including two in the third row.

The MDX’s new 16-way power adjustable sport seats have long seat bottoms for extra thigh support and a fair amount of bolstering. They’re also heated, cooled, and offer nine massage settings. All three rows are covered in perforated leather with contrast stitching and piping. Diamond stitching has become practically ubiquitous in this class, so Acura has gone in a different direction, a design it calls “curvilinear quilting.” An optional 25-speaker premium audio system puts six speakers up in the headrest and six carbon-fiber woofers throughout the cabin. LED ambient lighting offers 27 different lighting schemes.

We still don’t have the specs, but Acura says legroom is improved throughout, while some rear-seat headroom has been sacrificed for the standard sunroof. There’s seating for seven. The sliding second row is split 40/20/40 and the center section is removable, leaving two captain’s chairs and improving access to the third row, which is still best for kids.

Cargo volume is up as well, and there’s an impressive amount of storage under the load floor. “Customers told us their baby strollers didn’t fit in the back,” says Nguyen. “Now they do with the third row up.” Another cool touch is the reversible cargo floor panel that’s carpeted on one side and features scratch-resistant plastic on the other for dirty stuff.

AcuraWatch, the brand’s driver-assistance suite, will be standard and includes adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking.

“Flagships used to be sedans,” says an Acura rep. “But times change. The NSX is our halo vehicle, but the fourth-generation MDX is our new flagship.” It will also be the brand’s most expensive SUV ever. Acura doesn’t want to talk numbers just yet, but it increased the base price of the redesigned RDX and TLX by about 5 percent. We expect the price of the MDX to go up at least that much, possibly more, over the $45,525 starting price of the 2020 model.

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