2022 Acura MDX: What's It Like to Live With?
What's our final verdict after living with the 2022 Acura MDX after 20,000 miles?
|Miles Driven||Average MPG|
Final Takeaways (last updated 09/16/22)
- The MDX is one of the most well-rounded luxury SUVs on the market
- Utility, comfort, handling and value are the MDX's biggest strengths
- Acura's True Touchpad Interface could be a deal-breaker for some people
- We struggled to match the EPA estimates for the majority of our test
- Check out our Road Trips section to see a pair our MDX's last rides
- Read each section for more detail
What do you want to know about?
What We Bought and Why
• Our test vehicle: 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance
• Base MSRP: $46,900
• MSRP as tested: $62,175
When it comes to family-friendly transportation, SUVs are still the popular choice. The Acura MDX has been a consistently strong player in the luxury SUV segment due to an attractive mix of accommodations, features and affordability. The previous third-generation MDX currently ranks second among all three-row midsize luxury SUVs Edmunds has rated to date. This all-new model promises to be better in almost every way.
The new MDX rides on an all-new platform, the stiffest SUV platform that Acura says it's created to date. It also gains a new double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension. And together they help create a better-handling and more comfortable-riding vehicle. And speaking of comfort, there's more space in both the front and third rows, and the cabin features richer materials, including premium Milano leather and open-pore wood. This is the level of luxury Acura should've offered from the beginning.
What Did We Get?
The new MDX comes standard with front-wheel drive and is available in the usual range of Acura trims: base, Technology package, A-Spec package and Advance package. And for the first time Acura will be offering an even more performance-focused Type S model powered by a 355-horsepower turbocharged V6 — we likey.
Since the Type S was not yet available when it came time to order our MDX, we went for the next best configuration: the fully loaded Advance package trim with Liquid Carbon Metallic exterior paint and an Espresso brown leather interior. The Advance trim comes standard with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD is a $2,000 option otherwise), which helps to improve the MDX's agility in dry conditions as much as it provides added stability and boosts the driver's confidence when road grip is in scarce supply.
Acura bundles options into trim levels, leaving only the accessories, mostly, as à la carte items. While this helps simplify the configuration process, it also means you might have to jump to a higher trim if you want a specific feature. We'd make that near $14K jump up the trim ladder primarily for the 360-degree surround-view camera system, which makes it really easy to maneuver through tight spaces, and the ultra-comfy 16-way adjustable heated and ventilated front seats. But at the Advance package level, you also get things like a fantastic 16-speaker premium ELS audio system, a hands-free foot-operated power liftgate, a 10.5-inch head-up display and 20-inch wheels, just to name the highlights.
If none of the features above are on your must-have list, the new MDX comes with a surprising amount of standard equipment even on the base trim. Its 290-horsepower direct-injected V6, for instance, is the standard engine — the 10-speed automatic transmission is also standard. You get a panoramic moonroof, 19-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a power liftgate, heated front seats, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a large 12.3-inch central display with touchpad controller, and a full suite of the latest advanced driving aids including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and rear cross-traffic assist. That's a lot of stuff, and more than most of its pricier competitors offer.
Why Did We Get It?
With all the improvements Acura has made to create this new MDX, it's the best three-row midsize SUV it's made to date (and the currently the best-seller in its segment). The MDX has always offered a good mix of performance, features and comfort for the money, but it has fallen short of our top spot for a few reasons.
One of those reasons was an inherently problematic nine-speed automatic transmission. That transmission has been replaced by a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which we assume won't share the clunky characteristics of its predecessor. The other reason: It lacked the more upmarket interior feel that many of its competitors offered. There was little the previous MDX did to separate itself from its mainstream counterpart, the Honda Pilot. This new MDX is convincingly more luxurious, though we are admittedly suckers for anything trimmed with open-pore wood.
Beyond the aesthetics, we're also looking forward to seeing how much of a difference the stiffer body structure and new double-wishbone suspension makes over the long haul. We're also excited to check out the new fourth-generation SH-AWD system, which should make the MDX more responsive and agile by diverting more power to the wheels that need it.
Has Acura finally done enough with the MDX to win us over? We're going to find out over this next year.
What Did We Learn?
After roughly a year of ownership and 20,000 miles, we are thoroughly convinced the 2022 MDX is the best MDX Acura has built to date. Is it everything we hoped for? Not quite, but it is a pretty darn well-rounded three-row SUV. The previous-generation MDX held the second-highest spot in Edmunds' midsize three-row luxury SUV rankings, and that's exactly where this new MDX slots in, just behind the Audi Q7 and ahead of the Lincoln Aviator. But based on your specific needs, we could easily imagine it floating to the top of the list should you want a bit more utility or a better bang for your buck.
The 2022 model's elevated interior design delivers the most convincing argument for the MDX's genuine luxury-level status, and we found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable place to be over the last year. We particularly liked the seats. In the words of Senior News Editor Cameron Rogers, they "strike an ideal balance between being supportive and cozy, and there are a solid number of adjustments so you can dial in just the right configuration. It also helps that the upholstery is buttery-smooth leather." We also loved how quiet the cabin was on the road, save for the time our steering column motor started to fail. (See maintenance section for details.)
The MDX's V6 engine, carried over from the previous-generation model, proved to be trouble-free and mostly adequate during our ownership. The 10-speed automatic transmission that replaced the older and clunkier nine-speed gearbox is definitely smoother and easier to live with. But it still doesn't deliver the response we crave, nor was able to mask the engine's lack of low-end torque, outside of driving in Sport mode all the time (not a reasonable solution). We also struggled to see anything resembling the EPA fuel economy estimates for the longest time, hovering around the 18 mpg mark for most of our time with the MDX. A couple of our team members finally logged some extended road-trip highway miles in our final months with it, which brought our lifetime average into the 20s, though still shy of the 21 mpg the EPA says we should be getting overall.
The comprehensive tech features in the MDX functioned well for the most part but weren't totally gremlin-free. We experienced a few odd system warnings, and the road sign recognition software managed to find a few "100-mph streets" at some point. The biggest point of contention, though, wasn't any sort of bug, but Acura's True Touchpad Interface. Before you move forward on any Acura product, we'd encourage you to devote some real time interacting with the system, switching back and forth between Acura's native menus and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. If you're in the camp that doesn't mind its operation, then we bet you'll probably be pretty happy in your MDX ownership journey.
What's the Bottom Line?
Our extended time with the MDX didn't really change any of our initial impressions of it. Its standout qualities remain its nimbleness, enhanced by its SH-AWD system, pleasantly upscale cabin, excellent cruising comfort, generous cargo accommodations and relatively approachable price. We'd probably recommend springing for the turbocharged Type S if the budget allows, but there are few midsize luxury three-row SUVs that are as well rounded as even the standard MDX.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
2022 Acura MDX: Real-World Fuel Economy
The 2022 Acura MDX retains the V6 engine of the previous generation, but it gains an extra gear in its automatic transmission for an even 10 speeds. Despite that extra gear, the MDX gives up 1 mpg in both its EPA highway and combined estimates. Here's how it played out in the real world.
Average lifetime mpg: 20.3
EPA mpg rating: 21 combined ( 19 city / 25 highway )
Best fill mpg: 27.2
Best range (miles): 461.3
Current odometer: 20,016
Below, Jonathan has covered our early fuel economy woes. We are happy to report that after a long road trip, we have a new single-tank mpg record. Reviews Editor Ryan ZumMallen tops the podium for now at 27.2 mpg. We're at least within rounding-up distance of the EPA's estimated highway figure.
With a fair amount of miles and fill ups under our belts, including some highway-only tanks, we've come to realize that the MDX just isn't able to hit its EPA mpg estimates. Our best tank still stands at an underwhelming 23.8 mpg, below the MDX's highway estimate of 25 mpg. And I know that tank was achieved on the highway and without an passengers on board. We've seen accounts of other MDX owners online that have experienced the same. — Jonathan Elfalan, senior manager, vehicle testing
A couple modest road trips right of the bat got us off to a decent start. But now with more short trips around town, we're beginning to see a dip in our lifetime average and have dropped below the EPA city estimate. It's a good thing this MDX is a willing long-distance traveler. — Jonathan Elfalan, senior manager, vehicle testing
2022 Acura MDX: Maintenance
When it comes to maintenance, the MDX helps keep you on top of things with an onboard maintenance minder. The maintenance minder tells us what kind of service our MDX needs based on our driving habits and distance traveled. That aside, Acura recommends a yearly oil change if no maintenance notifications pop up within that timeframe. Below is our service experence with the MDX.
|Total routine maintenance costs||$121.64|
|Additional maintenance costs|
|Scheduled dealer visits||1|
|Unscheduled dealer visits|
|Days out of service||1.5|
|Breakdowns stranding driver|
|Total body repair costs|
We alerted you to the groaning noise our MDX's steering wheel made when retracting and protracting; and that distinctly unhealthy noise prompted us to take the SUV to an Acura dealer in Tustin for inspection. I kept the MDX in easy-exit mode (which, as Mike described below, moves the steering wheel and seat in and out for a more generous entry and exit) for show-and-tell purposes.
I started up the MDX for our service adviser, Cristian, and he called over a tech so we could go through the process again. That was all it took to get the vehicle checked in to the service bay. Five hours later, we got the news: The MDX needed a new steering column because the motor that powered the protracting and retracting motion was failing.
Cristian said this was the first repair of this nature he had seen on this generation, though it was occasionally a problem on 2019 and 2020 Acura SUVs. He also said they used to have problems with motors on seats and that was a much heftier repair (presumably because it's a larger piece and because there are more motors to replace). The dealer was able to overnight the steering column and install it by end of day, putting the MDX out of commission for about 36 hours. I was set up with a loaner car (a 2022 ILX with 130 miles on it), which helped ease that pain point considerably.
The repair was covered by our warranty, so the only cost was our time. — Jake Sundstrom, editorial assistant
I started the MDX this evening and was greeted with a loud groan as the steering column extended toward me. It had been in easy-exit mode, where the seat and wheel both slide away from the driver when the car shuts off. Otherwise, I may not have noticed it right away. — Mike Schmidt, senior manager, vehicle testing operations
"Our first maintenance notification popped up just after we passed 6,000 miles. It was an A1 service, which recommends the basics: an engine oil and filter change, tire rotation and multi-point inspection. Total cost of the service came out to $121.64 and didn't reveal any surprises." — Jonathan Elfalan, senior manager, vehicle testing
Some quirks we encountered
"Some weird 'Brake System Error' popped up (see photo below). I drove around the parking lot to test it out to make sure it didn't have any issues, then reparked the car and then restarted it. Poof! The alert is magically gone. Still, I'd like to get this checked out at some point. Those things don't just pop up ... unless electronic gremlins. Which is entirely possible." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle test technician
Recalls performed on this vehicle
The are currently no active recalls for this vehicle
2022 Acura MDX: Performance
The MDX's standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that outputs 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Sounds decent on paper and, frankly, at wide-open-throttle, too, but it doesn't pack as big a punch as many of its competitors do.
The MDX's steering and handling are its best dynamic qualities. Accurate and natural-feeling steering feels perfectly tuned for everything from curvy roads to long, straight hauls on the interstates. Its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive helps with wet-weather traction yet allows the MDX to rail through turns like an SUV half its size.
Here's how this kind of performance comes into play in the day-to-day.
We Californians admit we have it easy when it comes to inclement weather. But there are times and places where our vehicles' all-wheel drive systems have to contend with more than a passing rain shower. On a trip up to Mammoth Lakes, California, we actually encountered some snow! The MDX's stock Bridgestone Alenza Sport A/S all-season tires are able to handle a bit of light snow and did just fine up in the mountains. But we felt even more at ease with Acura's SH-AWD system backing us up. Normally we lean on the system's talents to help us rail through a dry freeway ramp with unnatural ease, but here on the snow-dusted mountain roads it delivered a nice amount of added assurance, saving us from breaking out the cumbersome tire chains. — Jonathan Elfalan, director, vehicle testing
The MDX's lack of turbocharging in standard spec (only the Type S is turbocharged) sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb in this day and age. Turbocharging is so commonplace now that you really feel the absence of that extra help at low engine speeds. In the standard MDX, the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 needs a lot of revs to produce meaningful push, which means that hitting openings in traffic requires pressing the gas pedal down quite a ways, hoping the 10-speed automatic downshifts in time, and then hoping you don't have to lift off because you got more power than you needed. It's an imprecise tool, whereas the smaller and cheaper Acura RDX, for example, with its standard turbocharged engine, enables you to press lightly on the gas and squirt forward on a wave of low-end turbo torque. More to the point, the MDX's European rivals are pretty much all turbocharged, too. With the looming EV revolution, all gasoline engines are about to be dinosaurs, but at least the turbo ones can provide easy thrust without dramatic downshifts and engine-revving. In this respect, the new MDX frankly just feels old. — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy
"An electronically adjustable or adaptive suspension is becoming more common nowadays. Many luxury SUVs are equipped with them to offer a way to dial in a softer ride on a bumpy road or firm up the handling for a more spirited driving experience. Our MDX's Integrated Dynamics System allows drivers to choose from a number of preset drive modes that alter different aspects of the vehicle to suit various roads conditions or driving moods. There's also an Individual setting to mix and match your own preferences. One of the settings you can play with is "suspension" which offers "comfort", "normal" and "sport" modes, leading someone to believe the MDX has an adaptive suspension. Only, it doesn't (though the MDX Type-S does). What this setting does is alter the behavior of the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system which affects the handling of the car in the way it shunts power between wheels, but has nothing to do with ride comfort.
All that said, the MDX's passive amplitude reactive dampers offer a pretty superb balance of comfort and performance. We don't dislike the suspension, we'd just prefer if the system represented its functions more accurately." — Jonathan Elfalan, director, vehicle testing
"When I told Car Czar Mike Schmidt that I'd like some wheels to get to Vegas, he quickly offered up the Acura MDX. It's not the most exciting car in the fleet, but after a few weeks in our Mustang GT 500 — which included a drive from LA to San Luis Obispo — I was ready for something with a little more seat and suspension cushion. Man, did the MDX deliver.
First, the front seats are so comfortable that I suspect that Acura must have cut a backroom deal with Nissan and snuck their Zero Gravity seats [link to https://www.nissanusa.com/experience-nissan/news-and-events/zero-gravity-seats.html] into the MDX. The seats strike an ideal balance between being supportive and cozy, and there are a solid number of adjustments so you can dial in just the right configuration. It also helps that the upholstery is buttery smooth leather. I'm sure that the base MDX with premium vinyl feels just fine, but there really isn't a substitute for a high-quality example of the real stuff.
The ride is similarly cushy. Whether traversing over broken pavement on the highway or pothole-ridden city streets, the MDX's suspension soaks up road irregularities without issue. That said, I don't know if my experience is applicable to all MDX variants, as our Advance model has adaptive dampers.*
Over the course of my 500+ mile round trip, the MDX delivered a consistently comfortable driving experience. Next time I go on a road trip, I'm sniping the keys to this big cruiser."
*Editor's Note: The dampers are not actually adaptive. More on this later. — Cameron Rogers, Senior News Editor
I drove 600 miles in the MDX this weekend, going back and forth to Nevada. It was comfortable, quiet, and an excellent chariot for the road trip. While I wasn't a fan of the center-stack controls at first, they became second nature after just a few hours. The thing that stood out to me the most was just how quiet and isolated I felt inside. Even in heavy crosswinds, the MDX was settled and serene. It's an excellent pick for anyone that wants to take the family on long trips and be comfortable along the way. — Travis Langness, Reviews Editor
"My first impression once I drove off in the MDX was, "wow, this thing rides really well." And even after a couple of hours driving around various types of roads (freeway, pockmarked roads off of Pico, etc.) I was genuinely surprised at how well it handled them all. Not once did I think "ouch, that was rough". Nice job, Acura." — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle test technician
"The interior of the MDX is quite roomy. Comfortably roomy. 4 people have so much room that rear passengers can stow groceries around you along with a couple of large purses. Ha!" — Rex Tokeshi-Torres, vehicle test technician
2022 Acura MDX: Technology
Acura has branded itself as a forward-thinking company when it comes to technology. A central piece of Acura's new tech in the MDX is the infotainment system using Acura's True Touchpad Interface. The position of your finger on the rectangular touchpad corresponds directly to the position on the screen, functioning like a remote touchscreen.
It's proven to be a bit controversial — some don't mind it, while others despise it. This section talks about our experiences living with this new tech, as well as all the other ways Acura continues to push the envelope.
It appears as though Acura is in a race with Lexus...to the bottom. This in in reference to the touchpad interface they both use for their infotainment systems. Quite simply, I think they're worst interfaces in the industry. They're difficult to use when you're parked and aggravating when you're driving because it's extraordinarily difficult to control when the car is in motion. Mercedes' MBUX system went with a swipe method to move between on-screen "buttons" and it works perfectly. Take notes, Acura and Lexus, because I consider the touchpad with its more computer mouse-like control, a dealbreaker. — Mark Takahashi, senior reviews editor
"On two different occasions this week (one in the city, one on the highway) the MDX did a very strange thing. The head-up display, which shows speed, navigation prompts, and driver-aid status, showed the speed limit as 100 miles per hour. I disconnected my iPhone to make sure it wasn't an apple CarPlay issue, and sure enough, the posted speed limit of 100 mph showed up on the HUD. There was no rhyme or reason to it, but I'm guessing that the MDX's cameras picked up a road sign, tried to read the speed limit, and clearly did it wrong — especially since the highest speed limit on any road in the United States is 85 mph." — Travis Langness, senior reviews editor
"After driving the MDX for a month, I finally — finally — was able to use the touchpad interface without tearing out what remains of my hair. It's far from the most intuitive way to interact with a infotainment system, and certain actions, like switching between radio presets, is still challenging.
Now, it's the malfunctioning smartphone interface that's drawing my ire. Roughly once out of every 20 times I start the car, the system won't properly connect to my smartphone. That means I can't play audio via Bluetooth or wireless Apple CarPlay (the virtual button for AC is greyed out and inaccessible). Plugging in my phone likewise does nothing either through AC or the USB audio input option. Every now and then I even get an unhelpful "Unfortunately, com.windriver.ipod has stopped." message. We'll need to have this looked at when we take our MDX in for next first service." — Cameron Rogers, senior news editor
"I am actually in the camp that doesn't hate the True Touchpad Interface. Yet. I have no issues navigating the menus and I like the little secondary side pad for the ancilliary menu. I would still prefer a standard touchscreen over this system, finger smudges and all. Some others have also complained about lag time, which is something I really haven't had an issue with so far." — Jonathan Elfalan, senior manager, vehicle testing
"I dig this wireless phone charger set up. The large, rubberized pad can accommodate some pretty large smartphones, and surprisingly the phone doesn't slide around even during dynamic driving. Wireless CarPlay allows this setup to feel sleek and well integrated.
"My one gripe so far, though, has to be switching between my phone media and radio stations. Often times the radio stations won't have any volume when first switching, so I'll have to switch bands (like from XM to FM and back) to get it to play. This was a constant issue on my 10-hour round trip drive up the California coast." — Jonathan Elfalan, senior manager, vehicle testing
If I'm being honest, minivans will always be the superior form of transport when it comes to moving people and cargo in the most efficient manner. But for people that can't stand the idea of minivan ownership, the three-row SUV can be a close second
My family and I took a long-weekend trip up to Mammoth Lakes, California and found the MDX to be mostly adequate for our heavy cargo load. We had the third row folded and a car seat installed in the center. The photo you see above you is four-days-worth of stuff for four and a half people. A roof-mounted box is probably a good idea for winter items like snowboards or skis, though. — Jonathan Elfalan, director, vehicle testing
A long road trip took our MDX off into the sunset; how did Brendan and like the respective journey?
First up was Senior Director of Video Content Brendan Thomas' trip to Yosemite, which included a jaunt through the The Greater Bay Area. We'll let him, and his incredible photos, speak for themself.
"I was given the MDX for 8 days to drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite and then on to San Francisco and back to LA. I know that Acura is Honda's luxury brand, but I'd never driven an MDX before so didn't know what I was in for," he said.
"First impressions, it's a good-looking SUV. I like the wheels and body styling, although the fake air intakes on the front bumper are a little lame. If you're going to go to the trouble of molding the shape of an air intake, make it functional. Overall, as a visual package, it works. It's not over-styled, the exterior chrome trim is used effectively, and it has the presence of a luxury SUV without being ostentatious.
"In the driver's seat, it's comfortable! Leather and soft materials on all the high-use touch points and after 6 hours of driving the seats held their comfort," Brendan said. "There's also plenty of storage for your drink bottles and I like the wireless charge pad for your phone. One thing I didn't like is the piano black used on the center console. By the end of the trip, it was covered in dust and it showed. Looks fancy when it's clean, but not so much after eight days of traveling.
One issue we did have was with Apple CarPlay. The system kept randomly disconnecting, which is a little annoying, to say the least. Also, the A/C worked and was fine but didn't seem to get as cool as some other cars I've been in."
"We had three adults on the trip and a whole lot of luggage, which wasn't an issue for the MDX. With the third row down (which folds flat), the luggage capacity in the MDX could easily accommodate all our groceries, suitcases, cooler, and exercise gear without an issue," Brendan said. "At one point I had to transport six adults, which put the MDXs three rows to the test. The two people in the third row were between 5'6" and 5'9" and there were no complaints... maybe because I couldn't hear their screams from up in the pilot's seat."
"There are some very minor things that annoyed me, but they aren't deal breakers," Brendan said. "I have to say, I'm not a fan of Acura/Honda's gear selector design or arrangement. Every time I put the car in Park, Drive, or Reverse I had a split second of hesitation. I'm not sure why, but there's something about the design that momentarily makes me question which button to push. I also did not like the park brake button. Most park brake buttons pull up to engage the park brakes and push down to release, on the MDX it's the exact opposite which to me is counterintuitive. As I said, they're minor grievances, and maybe just isolated to what I find intuitive. All-in-all I enjoyed my time with the MDX and found it to be a solid performer in its class."