2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid First Drive | Edmunds

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid First Drive

A More Efficient and Better-to-Drive Three-Row Crossover


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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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).

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

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.

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