In 2017 the Acura MDX sees lots of significant changes — not the least of which is a new hybrid drivetrain.
First, let's look at the cosmetics: The "diamond-pentagon" grille is something new, and will soon be a signature spotting feature across the Acura lineup. Behind it, the MDX gets a new front fascia, LED headlights, front fenders and hood. The rear fascia, including the taillights, have also been restyled, and the MDX gains chrome rocker sill accents. Safety features that were once optional are now standard, and other updates include more USB ports and a capless fuel filler.
The MDX's best attributes have been left intact. The MDX is well regarded among buyers for its faultless build quality, impressive reliability record and strong resale values. We like it because it's fun to drive: Acura's sophisticated Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system helps to make it one of the sportier luxury SUVs on the market, though the ride is a bit firmer than other luxury SUVs (but not firm enough to bother us). And from the perspective of practicality, the MDX is one of just a handful of midsize luxury SUVs that offer the convenience of a third-row seat.
Unfortunately, the only elements we really don't like — a nine-speed automatic transmission that often makes gear selections, an adaptive cruise control system that is a bit harsh on the brakes, and a subpar touchscreen stereo and navigation system — remain unchanged.
We think the hybrid system will greatly add to the MDX's appeal. The system is similar to the one found in Acura's RLX Sport Hybrid, which employs a 3.0-liter V6 engine and three electric motors, one as part of the powertrain package and one turning each of the rear wheels. The hybrid also replaces the badly behaved nine-speed automatic with a better seven-speed unit. Total system output is 325 horsepower, 35 more than the standard 3.5-liter V6. The EPA fuel economy estimate for the hybrid is 26 mpg combined (25 city/26 highway) — compare that with 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway) for the conventionally powered all-wheel-drive MDX. Acura also offers a more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive version, and both FWD and AWD non-hybrids can be had with an optional auto-start-stop feature (part of the Advance package) that bumps fuel economy by around 1 mpg.
Acura offers the MDX in a single well-equipped model; there's a Technology package that includes more electronic equipment and driver aids, and an Advance package that provides more creature comforts. Let Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Acura MDX for you. 2017 acura mdx sport hybrid first drive
Hybrid technology typically works best in the fuel-efficient domain of small hatchbacks, but it's making an important appearance in the new 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid. By borrowing technology from the Acura's RLX Hybrid and NSX sports car, Acura promises that the MDX Sport Hybrid will have superior performance and efficiency compared to a regular MDX. And to a large extent, it delivers.
For performance, the all-wheel-drive MDX Sport Hybrid gets its power from a 3.0-liter V6 paired with a lithium-ion battery pack and three electric motors. There's a twin electric-motor setup in the rear and a single motor up front. Put all that together and the MDX Sport Hybrid produces a maximum of 321 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. That's a decent gain compared to the standard MDX, which provides 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque.
But there's extra heft associated with the batteries and electric motors. The MDX Sport Hybrid weighs over 200 pounds more than the standard MDX. According to Acura, the Hybrid is no quicker accelerating from zero to 60 mph. And you can forget about towing. The standard MDX is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, but for the Sport Hybrid, towing is simply not recommended.
Hmm. So, it's not any quicker and you can't tow with it. Kind of lame, right? But there are other, less obvious performance benefits. The Hybrid is definitely more enjoyable to drive. The extra torque provided by the MDX's electric motors makes for a smoother driving experience both in the city and on the highway. At multiple points during our test drive of the MDX Sport Hybrid, the 3.0-liter V6 cut out, the MDX switched over to the battery power, and the transition between electric and internal combustion power was seamless. The seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission in the MDX Sport Hybrid is also significantly more refined than the nine-speed automatic you'll find in the standard MDX. It provides smoother shifts when you hit the gas pedal to execute a passing maneuver.
We also like the way the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid handles and drives. It has adaptive suspension dampers and four selectable driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport or Sport+. These modes adjust steering effort, suspension stiffness and throttle response, and Acura has even gone to the trouble of pairing the preferred driving modes to specific keys. This means that different drivers in the same family can select their default mode for whenever they're behind the wheel and the drive modes (other than Sport+) will remain selected even after the vehicle is turned off. All of this probably sounds pretty standard if you're in the market for a sports car, but for hybrid, three-row crossover shoppers, this certainly isn't the norm. The Sport Hybrid is surprisingly capable, and you'll feel confident driving it around corners.
When it comes to fuel economy, the MDX Sport Hybrid now sits right near the top of its class. Granted, there aren't a lot of luxury, three-row, hybrid crossovers available (especially ones with "Sport" in the name), but what the MDX can do is still impressive. The standard MDX is rated at an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway). (In our long-term test of a 2014 MDX, we found those numbers to be more than achievable.) This MDX Sport Hybrid is rated at 27 mpg combined (26 city/27 highway), which puts it up there with the all-wheel-drive Infiniti QX60 Hybrid (26 mpg combined) but still less than the two-row Lexus RX 450h (30 mpg combined).
On the inside, the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid has lovely wood grain on the dash and soft but supportive leather seating surfaces. It's muffled and quiet over broken road surfaces, and it comes with a lot of safety equipment such as forward collision warning and mitigation and lane departure intervention. What's more, the Hybrid doesn't lose any space in the back, still providing 68.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats.
The controls are still all regular MDX, however, including the dual-screen infotainment system. This system can be distracting to use, with a steep learning curve for the basic functions that control audio and navigation. It also looks out of place in a seemingly premium vehicle.
Overall, though, we like the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid. Just the name itself may seem a bit strange, even a bit oxymoronic to some, but it is significantly more efficient than a standard MDX and surprisingly good to drive, succeeding on both fronts and ultimately improving on an already first-rate family vehicle.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.