Besides exhibiting the typical strengths of its class, previous MDX generations offered impressive value for the money — something that can't often be said of its competitors. With updates to ride quality, interior room and all-around styling, plus a high-horsepower Type S model on the horizon, the 2022 Acura MDX is again one of the more compelling picks for a luxury SUV.
How does the MDX drive?
Acura seemingly did some magic wand-waving over the MDX. It handles curves with confidence yet floats over bumps like a helium balloon. But behind the magic are a host of engineering refinements. The 2022 MDX is longer, wider and stiffer than before, which increases your feel of stability on the road.
Less impressive is the MDX's base engine. It's the same 3.5-liter V6 engine as before, and it makes 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. The only difference is that instead of a nine-speed automatic transmission, the 2022 models will come with a 10-speed. The engine is a little sleepy in the Normal and Comfort drive modes but perky enough in the Sport mode. It's a competent engine, but it's loud when you're on the pedal and a little underwhelming in comparison to the turbocharged six-cylinder engines found in rival European SUVs.
The current Sport Hybrid model will not return for 2022. But if you want more people-moving power, Acura will offer a new Type S model. It has a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. The turbo engine will be paired with Acura's SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) system, which is a $2,000 option on other trim levels. Add in the wider tires and more powerful brakes, and the MDX Type S should be sporty enough to deserve its initial. It's coming in the summer of 2021.
How comfortable is the MDX?
Acura has improved the MDX's interior space in all three rows. There's more legroom and increased headroom for the first and third rows. Second-row headroom is about the same, though that's largely because the panoramic sunroof is now standard. It's worth it for the extra light, which makes the MDX cabin feel more like a sunroom than an SUV.
The seats are soft and supportive, even in the third row. Another benefit of the new chassis is a rear suspension redesign that allows for a lower floor in the third row, which equals more legroom and a more comfortable seating position. From front to rear, everywhere you'll put your hands is nicely padded. Short drivers may find that the MDX's center console layout leaves the armrest portion too far back when the seat is far forward, but in general, adjustability and seating positions are good both for comfort and visibility across a range of driver sizes.
How's the MDX's interior?
The new MDX's interior is significantly improved from a functionality standpoint. Acura has also upped the luxury quotient, improving the MDX's interior with high-end materials such as open-pore wood, stainless steel speaker covers, and a bevy of available upholstery selections. The MDX does stack the deck toward the front of the cockpit, though, with less flash in the second row. Passengers there get regular old plastic speaker covers.
Acura is joining the trend of offering colors both for exterior and interior. Its Phantom Violet Pearl looks fabulous, as does the bright Apex Blue Pearl that's specific to the A-Sport trim. Interior colors aren't quite as flashy, with the usual black and gray, but there's also a dark brown, a lovely if impractical cream color, and for the A-Spec, a red-and-black combo. Combined with the wood and metal trims, you can put together a real standout.
New for 2021 is an intriguing second-row seating concept that allows for folding or removing the middle seat. This configuration is standard on all MDXs and allows three-wide bench seating by default. You can fold down the middle seatback to create a wide center console with cupholders and additional storage for captain's chair-style seating. Or remove it altogether to leave a walkway from mid to rear. This is quite a handy feature if you've got more than one child car seat in place and regularly need access to the third row, and removing the middle seat is easy.
How's the MDX's tech?
We've faulted the MDX in the past for a frustrating infotainment system and a non-intuitive dashboard design. Acura makes notable interior improvements for the new MDX. There's a new 12.3-inch central display screen and touchpad controller, plus wireless capability for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The new infotainment touchpad controller is easier to use than the previous MDX's dual-screen setup, but it takes a fair amount of practice to operate.
Also new for 2022 is an optional full-color head-up display. Available on models with the Advance package, the head-up display shows vehicle alerts as well as phone and text message information. It's a large display — almost distracting at times — but you'll find controls to dim it within easy reach.
How's the MDX's storage?
This is one of the roomier midsize luxury SUVs around for holding cargo. With the third row folded, there's plenty of space for hauling all the stuff from your Costco run. There's also a hidden compartment under the floor in the far back of the cargo area. The covering is reversible to offer an easy-clean plastic surface on one side, so you won't get muddy fishing gear or potting soil in the carpet. You can also use the compartment area to help secure grocery bags.
Acura publishes two sets of cargo capacities, so you might see different numbers floating around the internet. Maximum capacity with the second and third rows folded is either 71.4 cubic feet or 95 cubic feet. The first number is based on an official standard automakers can use, while the second is a more generous interpretation that Acura says is more comparable to the max cargo specs other automakers use.
More important than the raw numbers is how easy it is to fold down the seats. The third-row folding release is manual, but the handle for doing so is large and well balanced and it makes one-handed operation a snap. Another neat feature is an available walk-away function for the power liftgate. If you have the key on your person, you can press a button inside the hatch, and the tailgate will stay open until you've gathered your belongings and moved away from the car. Then it closes and locks. It's a genuinely helpful feature. No more putting grocery bags on the ground to free up a hand for the tailgate button. Just press it first and walk away like a boss.
How economical is the MDX?
More transmission gears typically translate to improved fuel economy, but the 2022 Acura MDX is actually a little thirstier than the previous model. Front-wheel-drive models with the 3.5-liter V6 get an EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway), which is a decrease of 1 mpg across the board. All-wheel-drive models with the 3.5-liter V6 are now at 21 mpg combined (19 city/25 highway), which also represents a 1 mpg drop. Further hurting the MDX's eco cred is the absence of the Sport Hybrid model, which got an 27 mpg combined.
What are the MDX's trim levels?
The 2022 Acura MDX offers four trim levels (also referred to as packages): MDX, Technology, A-Spec and Advance. The base and Technology trims come standard with front-wheel drive and offer all-wheel drive as an option. The upper trim levels come standard with AWD. Feature highlights include:
Starts you off with:
- 290-horsepower V6 engine
- 10-speed automatic transmission
- 19-inch wheels
- Panoramic sunroof
- Keyless ignition and entry
- Power liftgate
Interior and tech features include:
- Simulated leather upholstery
- Power-adjustable, heated front seats
- Reclining and sliding second-row seats with removable center seat
- Digital gauge cluster display
- 12.3-inch central display with touchpad controller
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Nine-speaker audio system
- Wireless charging pad
- Onboard Wi-Fi
You also get AcuraWatch, a suite of advanced safety features that bundles:
- Forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
- Lane keeping assist (steers the MDX back into its lane if it begins to drift over the lane marker)
- Adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the MDX and the car in front)
- Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change or while reversing)
- 20-inch wheels
- Parking sensors
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Leather upholstery
- Rear window sunshades
- Customizable interior ambient lighting
- Navigation system
- 12-speaker sound system
Has a sportier exterior look plus:
- Simulated suede seat inserts
- Cabin intercom system (allows you to broadcast your voice to rear passengers using the speakers)
- Ventilated front seats
- 16-speaker premium audio system
The top-level MDX, the Advance comes with the A-Spec's extra features as well as:
- Hands-free liftgate
- Surround-view camera system (gives you a top-down view of the MDX and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
- Head-up display
- Upgraded front seats with premium upholstery
- Heated steering wheel
- Remote start from the key fob
The 2022 Acura MDX is a refinement of an SUV that's already one of the best in its class. We like the improved interior quality and sharper handling that go along with the MDX's traditional strengths of roominess and value. But the base V6 is a little underwhelming, so you might want to wait until the more powerful Type S comes out later in the model year.