By on February 11, 2021

2022 Acura MDXOne thing I’ve observed in my decade-plus covering this industry is that Honda and its luxury brand, Acura, seem to respond more quickly to criticism than most OEMs.

I note my bias here – I once owned an Accord – but I don’t think my former ownership of a used Honda is throwing me off. My observation, difficult to quantify as it admittedly is, seems correct.

Specific to Acura’s case, the luxury brand was panned earlier this decade for unflattering styling, subpar luxury accouterments for the class, and a slide in performance. Not all of this criticism was fair – a manual ILX is on my “weird cars I’d like to own but probably never will” list, because that thing was spunky – but nevertheless, Acura has seemingly addressed it, and addressed it well, in recent history.

Add the newest MDX to the “take a look at me now” list. Especially if you believe driving a three-row crossover doesn’t mean the end to fun.

We’ve written plenty on the MDX over the past few months – Acura’s PR push has been constant – but for those who need a refresher, the big changes for the fourth generation of this crossover include a digital gauge cluster, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, new platform, double-wishbone front suspension, removable second-row middle seat, and more claimed passenger space. A Type S performance trim is planned for late summer.

2022 Acura MDX

Other news includes the addition of a 10-speed automatic transmission and a new infotainment system touchpad.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 (290 horsepower, 267 lb-ft of torque) and all-wheel drive is available. The biggest change to the engine/powertrain is the addition of a shutter grille. In certain situations, shutters in the lower part of the grille close in order to divert air around the MDX. That reduces drag. When the engine needs more cooling from the air, the shutters reopen.

My test was brief – short loan due to COVID, and I had to work around winter weather that temporarily turned some roads to slush. Once the snow was plowed, I got out for a bit and found the MDX to be delightful to drive, with little sacrifice in terms of comfort and luxury. The double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension help put the “sport” in sport-utility. As does steering that is generally well-weighted and accurate, despite some artificial feel.

Sport is relative, of course, and the MDX handles well for a crossover, but there are limits. An aggressive push on an off-ramp induced a bit of understeer and a little body roll, and at a lower limit than I expected. To be fair, the pavement may not have been fully dry, and it was easy to keep the proceedings under control.

While the MDX handles well – and ride quality is quite pleasant, even in Sport mode – the V6 does struggle a bit with the 4,565 lb. curb weight.

2022 Acura MDX

The cockpit has eye-pleasing materials and neat tricks to its layout (such as a pop-up for the USB port), although the touchpad for the infotainment system has a steep learning curve that infuriates – it’s arguably worse than Lexus’ similar system. To be fair, the system probably gets easier to use over time – this may be one of those things that drive auto journalists nuts during a short loan but owners get used to.

If you want to switch drive modes, a big silver knob is right there for you. The transmission is operated by the now-familiar Honda/Acura push-button shifter, which I definitely have gotten used to over time.

The cabin isn’t perfect, thanks to some hard-plastic touch points, but most of the materials look and feel appropriate for the class.

I wasn’t able to get Alexa to talk to me, but I think that was partly because I pressed the push-to-talk button for the infotainment system, which Acura PR tells me is unnecessary. I also had my COVID mask on, so perhaps my voice was muffled.

2022 Acura MDX

My test unit came standard with features such as digital gauges, touchpad infotainment, satellite radio, Bluetooth, wireless Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi hotspot, built-in Amazon Alexa, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, panoramic moonroof, 20-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, blind-spot information system, heated sideview mirrors, and keyless starting and entry. The $4,700 Tech Package added navigation, ambient lighting, ambient cabin lighting, low-speed braking control, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding sideview mirrors, second-row sunshades, and front and rear parking sensors.

2022 Acura MDX

This tester also came with the $7,050 Advanced Package (requires you to opt for AWD and the Tech Package) that added a 360-degree camera, power tailgate with hands-free assist, head-up display, remote start, 16-speaker premium audio system, 16-way power front seats, sport seats with perforated leather trim, cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, and LED fog lamps.

Buyers get the AcuraWatch suite of driver aids, which includes: Adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist system, road-departure mitigation, traffic-jam assist, and automatic high beams.

The base price of $60,650 balloons to $62,175 with the $500 Performance Red Pearl paint and $1,025 in destination fees.

Fuel economy, for those who ponder such things, is listed at 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined.

2022 Acura MDX

Acura continues to slowly return to form as a luxury brand that also offers up driving fun. The road back to success isn’t perfect – the touchpad infotainment system annoys, the sticker price pops eyes, and the MDX, like most three-row crossovers, is hampered some dynamically by weight – but the MDX shows that Acura hears the cries of the critics and at least tries to fix the flaws.

The MDX also shows that mature people with responsibilities that necessitate the ownership of a three-row crossover can still have fun behind the wheel.

Acura is making strides, and the MDX is further proof of that.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC, Acura]

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59 Comments on “2022 Acura MDX First Drive – Driver’s Choice Crossover...”


  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    Just looking at the top photo with out reading the headline, I was under the impression I was looking at another Mazda CUV. Too much “me too” styling today; teardrop roof lines, angry cat front ends, windshields at 45 degree angles.

    That’s why I like the Ford Bronco SPORT. Boxy is good, boxy has definition which is so lacking with today’s SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      3SpeedAutomatic

      Now I know where I got the impress that the Acura MDX was a Mazda.

      Just 6 articles down is a story on the Mazda CX-30. If you were to remove the logos from the radiator grills, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The minivan driver’s choice [not] SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I was ready to reply to the story about how it compares to a minivan. I see the fuel economy is quite a bit worse, but interior room? Sounds like it drives as well. Towing?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I think Honda has since obfuscated its platforms but when this first came out it was built on a slightly shortened Odyssey platform. In the years since, Honda seems to have one transverse FWD platform it shares for all of its larger cars. The original MDX drove like an Odyssey, I can’t imagine a big heavy thing which can “struggle a bit” per Mr. Healey with a 300bhp V6 drives like anything less than the current Odyssey. But Karen likes to live in delusion that she bought a “SUV” and not mom’s minivan.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Without getting too deep in the terminology weeds, this thing should be called a “crossover” not an SUV. The two major differences between an Odyssey and this are: more ground clearance and availability of AWD. In favor of the Odyssey are sliding doors and better third row seating. I suppose I’m too old to understand the stigma attached to minivans. For their designed purpose, they are excellent. By contrast, whatever the designed purpose of this and other cross-overs is, none of them have any business being on anything more rugged than a gravel road. Confession: other than the pickup in the photo, the family vehicle is an ’08 Pilot. The missus just couldn’t wait to trade the ’02 Saab Wagon. “Too small,” she said even though we had graduated from minivan ownership with 2 of our 3 children having left home.

      • 0 avatar
        N8iveVA

        ” I see the fuel economy is quite a bit worse”

        Actually it’s not

        2022 MDX
        19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined

        2021 Odyssey
        19 mpg city/28 mpg highway/22 mpg combined

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    If I’m paying $60K, I shouldn’t have to put up with AcuraWatch. Nor that miserable infotainment touchpad. Complexity does not equal luxury. The Germans also need to learn this.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’ve never been in an Acura store.
    Is it truly upscale treatment like Lexus and BMW, or just another dealer?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My experience with Acura–when I was looking at a TLX–was that it was a top-notch experience. They had a very nice lounge, they had the car ready when I got there (I scheduled an appointment) and everything was as you’d expect for such expensive cars.

      The car itself was less impressive, but the new TLX sure looks nice…

      • 0 avatar

        New TLX has the most ruined side profile of a modern car. Check the massive front overhang making damn sure you know it’s FWD, and the door handles which are ridiculously misaligned with one another because they follow the style line.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Not sure about the overhang. The door handles do follow the body line up the doors which is kind of weird but weird door handles seems like a troupe these days.

          The exhaust design on the Type-S is nice, SHAWD is well-regarded, and you can get it in gold. Still it’s $50k for a sideways engine car. Might still be worth a test drive.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      I’ve been in multiple BMW dealers. Other than the nice looking building, nothing about the people working there is upscale.

      I have limited experience with Mercedes, but came away with a similar impression.

      What exactly are people imagining is going on at lux dealers? I don’t get it.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Volvo, Mazda and now Acura have gotten very good at giving RWD proportions to transverse-FWD products. I think that what makes this MDX particularly handsome is the fact that the hood line is straight and horizontal, rather than plunging downward.

    Meanwhile, some of the reviews I read on other publications made the MDX to be much worse in terms of hard plastics and exposed screws. And, I mean, maybe that’s the case, but when you consider this to be more of an Enclave/RX L/QX60 competitor, it doesn’t seem so offensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I didn’t see any exposed screws — I’d have noted that — but there were definitely hard plastics on some of the upper touch points. It wasn’t terrible — I’ve seen worse on luxury vehicles — but it was a demerit.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        Tim, having just driven a cx5, crv, and forester back to back, I’d have to say the soft textured panels in the cx5 looked mighty dirty (new 2021) and I couldn’t imagine how the ownership experience would be down the road as it looks like a dust magnet. Also I was driving in 20 degree MN weather. I was thinking it would be melted in Florida/Arizona weather. The harder plastics in the CrV and Forester looked like they would hold up for 20 years at least.

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          The CRV plastics DO hold up well for 20+ years. We have a ’99 CRV with an interior that has held up well for 300K+ miles and it has spent it’s entire life outside in the south east.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Actually that flat horizontal hood is what I didn’t like. I think it’s the Chevy Traverse that’s like that too and this reminds me of that.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    To call yourself a luxury brand and not include ventilated seats and all safety measures (parking sensors, etc) in your base package makes you a wanna-be. Hell, you can get ventilated seats on $25k vehicles these days. How embarrassing.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s *every* luxury automaker, with the possible exception of Cadillac and Lincoln.

      Acura, Audi, BMW, Genesis, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo all charge a premium for them, often bundling them with pricey things like articulating, multicontoured seats or semi-aniline leather. The European brands also mostly charge for safety features that are standard on a base-model Toyota. I wouldn’t single out Acura for that one.

      Also, which new $25K car has ventilated seats?

  • avatar

    I drove the 2019 MDX and was pretty impressed with how spritely it was. The RDX drove much better, but it would given its considerably smaller heft.

    I don’t like the black cladding on this example, and looking at pics it does not seem to be mandatory. Tim, how do you get rid of the black cladding?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You kind of need the cladding to visually disguise how tall this thing is. I don’t see any option in the configurator that eschews the cladding, so you’re probably stuck with it unless and until they release a full Type S variant with a different lower treatment altogether.

  • avatar
    xaocoh

    “Specific to Acura’s case, the luxury brand was panned earlier this decade for unflattering styling, subpar luxury accouterments for the class, and a slide in performance.”

    Pretty astute of Acura to address this criticism in only a year. ;-)

  • avatar

    Remember when “make the logo bigger” was a joke?
    Good times, good times.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I’m trying to understand what this offers over a Passport for the price difference.

    Everyone crapping on a 35K subcompact SUV, but this is a 60K “premium” midsizer.

    • 0 avatar

      Wrong comparison. Passport is a slightly shorter Pilot, and is dedicated two-row.

      The MDX has always been three-row and counterpart to Pilot.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        Owning an Odyssey, I can sorta see his point since they all come from Alabama Assembly Plant, though I wonder why people don’t choose the Odyssey. More versatile vehicle, just as capable in the snow with proper tires (live in MN). 1% of the AWD will ever go off road anyway. Less maintenance with 2wd.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    $62k? Nope, especially not for a dressed-up Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Yeah, for that money I would want something that turns heads everywhere I go, isn’t full of nit picky interior cheapouts and has an engine that is special or at least more than adequate. This ain’t it chief.

      That being said, I have always considered the MDX a competent entry. The Base AWD Models come very well equipped and with regard to the last gen models, had plenty of cash on the hood to get you in the showroom. Wait a model year or so and this one will too. It suddenly becomes much more palatable with a lower MSRP and 5K on the hood. Still, doesn’t really have anything that “wows” in my opinion and is mostly forgettable.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I think this thing will continue to sell, but I also think it’ll continue to hemorrhage sales to the ever-growing pack of pursuers that arguably give more for less, notably the Genesis and the Telluride.

      • 0 avatar
        1st_one

        I can’t find one reason to purchase this over the Telluride.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Resale.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Telluride and Palisade appear to be selling well, which should keep resale values up.

            But time will tell.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Used Tellurides are going for MSRP; don’t think the MDX ever did that.

            While the new MDX seems to be an improvement over the old model in pretty much every category but 3rd row room (hey, have to make sacrifices for that elongated hood), FWD lux crossovers like the MDX are increasingly bring pressured by the likes of the Telluride and the new Pilot.

            But the one that the MDX really has to watch out for is the next Mazda CX-9 as it appeals to the same segment of buyers who want a little more driving enjoyment in their 3-row.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In time you will see why its referred to as Killed In Action.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          1st one, yeah it might be better for a few years. But some scandal will probably hit Hyundai/Kia soon since every other vehicle they has a serious safety issue or mechanical failure. Not sure it will be a car to own for 15-20 years like an MDX/pilot.

  • avatar
    1500cc

    “Honda and its luxury brand, Acura, seem to respond more quickly to criticism than most OEMs.”

    How long did Acura keep making cars with that godawful grille? Yes styling is subjective, but a lot of people hated it, and since it eventually went away I guess Acura came to realize it was disliked as well. It could have easily been fixed in a year or two, but they stuck with it and kept taking criticism much longer.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      My thoughts exactly. The TL saw huge sales declines because of that silly grille.

      And now the MDX has gone back to front double A-arm suspension. You wonder if Porsche will ever learn how to keep up with Honda fanboi received wisdom that double wishbones are the answer to what troubles the world. Think how much better a Boxster would be if it just had that magic ingredient!

      Now — did this MDX have the old 9 speed ZF or the new 10-speed Honda automatic? We do know it has the stupid pushbutton gear selector, which I personally cannot stand.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “To be fair, the system probably gets easier to use over time – this may be one of those things that drive auto journalists nuts during a short loan but owners get used to.”

    No, there’s no excuse for an infotainment system that isn’t easy to figure out. This is not a new problem space, and it’s not like there aren’t lots of examples and obvious ways to do the things people actually do with them.

    Car companies are mostly just awful about software, don’t care, and know people will buy their awful systems anyway, because obviously they will.

    (Also, is it possible to buy an MDX and be a decent driver? It seems about as hard as buying an RX while being competent.

    If I’m behind either one of those in town, I expect the driver to be clueless, and I am rarely disappointed.

    That’s not Acura’s fault any more than it’s Lexus’s, of course, but it seems odd that “luxury midsize SUV” attracts so much utter mediocrity in driving skill.)

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I will reserve final judgement until I drive one, but am skeptical that it lives up to its sporty pretenses. People go to Acura for value. I am actually kind of worried that if Acura tries to raise its prices too much they will end up just like Infiniti: in no man’s land, neither here nor there, and the Germans will win even more bigly.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    This whole glue-an-iPad-to-the-dashboard thing is hopelessly cliche, aren’t there any original ideas out there?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Kudos to Acura for putting a 19.5 gallon fuel tank on their flagship.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I think the largest fuel tank I’ve ever had in a car was the 17 gallon tank in my 95 Accord. The tanks in my Blazer and Aerostar were bigger, but that’s apples and oranges.

  • avatar
    geo

    The requirement the automotive press has for soft-touch plastics everywhere, especially for high-end vehicles, has got to go. Nothing wrong with high-quality hard materials. It doesn’t have to look like a Chevette (or a 2007 Sebring).

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Another chitbox.

  • avatar

    My battered but running 2008 sends regards.

    You’ve always had to push the six, but it responds well. Change the belt every 100 k like the computer tells you and redline is no worries.

    Arguements could be made the older version without stop/start or cylinder deactivation and with only six gears are more reliable.

    The 19 mpg city is optimistic-and if accurate is a lot of complexity for 1 mpg.

    60k plus is extremely optimistic, but that’s why we love Acura. I wish car reviews would be able to quote lease numbers, because leases are the ultimate expression of payment buyer…and a huge percentage of the market. I can’t help but think this is going to be subsidized at the leasing end or with cash on the hood known to the dealer only.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Cylinder deactivation shut off can be installed for $125. Every generation Acura/Honda will have its flaws, and since I buy used, I find the last 2/3 years after a refresh are the most reliable years.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        My first year 3rd gen SHAWD Tech has been flawless for 110K miles now. Tires and oil changes (AWD/auto/tranny).

        Gets 28-29 mpg on the highway and comfortable for all-day trips. Drove our’s 500 miles south and back the next day on a hobby trip. Drove it 600 miles north a few weeks later and back the next day. Set the cruise at 73-75 mph and get comfortable.

        Cylinder deactivation is seldom much more than a change in the exhaust note. Only thing it doesn’t have that I wish it did is automatic cruise.

        We’ve taken several really long four and five people trips in this SUV and hundreds of day trips. It is a highway monster just eating the miles away with no drama. Stereo sounds good, a/c is cold, rides well. Sometimes it drags our little camper along, sometimes it carries a hitch rack, sometimes our bike rack is on the back. SHAWD does well in the snow too.

        If the new version is improved in any way then I say its a win. Am disappointed to see the fuel economy be worse on the new one.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Disagree that Acura has been more responsive to criticism. It took them nearly a decade to get rid of the “Beak” and they are still struggling with a poor information system. Acura is definitely making major improvement across it’s product line but the competition is fierce and Acura is not a standout in performance, value, or reliability anymore.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I just can’t fathom how the engine of a vehicle that can do 0-60 in six seconds is ever “struggling.” Do you mean you expect it to handle driving without ever exceeding 1500 rpm or something?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Seriously disappointed by the lack of a hybrid this time around. I’d probably own one of the previous-gen hybrids if they had appeared a bit earlier in the product cycle; used ones were just a bit too expensive when I bought my current Highlander Hybrid.

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