No one goes to a dealership to buy a midsize SUV and expects to get into something that’s fun. Fun went out the door when you decided to get a three-row SUV. Hey, sacrifices are sacrifices for a reason. If you want something that can seat up to seven and not be a complete pain to drive and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of six figures, you’re looking at the BMW X5 or going downstream to the Mazda CX-9. But, with the 2022 Acura MDX, shoppers now have one more sporty SUV to choose from that won’t make you pull your hair out on a daily basis if you’re used to something that’s more enjoyable.
The Acura MDX is fully redesigned for 2022. It’s better looking, more spacious, more tech-forward, and, this is the important bit, more enjoyable to drive. Recently, Acura’s been floundering in the water. Genesis has been slowly building its case as the bargain-basement South Korean brand that can throw punches with the Germans. Japanese automakers, like Lexus and Acura are still working on their footwork, others and dealing knockout blows.
That changes with vehicles like the Acura TLX and, as oddly as this sounds, the MDX. Acura is really looking to its past for inspiration and has made the decision to focus on sporty cars. The main change comes in the form of a double-wishbone front suspension, a true return to form for Acura. It’s hard to say that a car is good because of its suspension, but the suspension is just one part of what makes the MDX feel that much more special.
Compared to the outgoing MDX, the 2022 model has grown in size, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from a simple glance. Acura’s managed to hide the MDX’s midsize stature behind sharp lines, jagged edges, and gorgeous Jewel Eye LED headlights. The rear taillights are also majestic, triangular and perfectly proportioned.
The A-Spec model that Acura let us test for a week came with some sweet 20-inch Y-spoke wheels, a more aggressive body kit, and Jewel-type LED fog lights. Usually, I’m not a fan of Acura’s A-Spec package, but it really does make the MDX look radically different from there rest of the lineup. The available Performance Red paint job is also well worth the extra $500 to shoppers that prefer bright vehicles.
Over time, the majority of luxury brands moved toward having simple, high-end designs instead of in-your-face-sporty ones. From that standpoint, the MDX looks fantastic. Whether it will age as gracefully or appeal to as many people as the X5 is another story.
It’s always easy to spot when engineers have taken a lot of the budget from a vehicle. The interior is usually the first thing to suffer, as money is poured into the chassis, engine, suspension, and brakes. The driver’s seat is positioned relatively low in the body, the thick steering wheel has a nearly flat bottom design, the pretty instrument cluster has driver-focused gauges, and shift paddles come easily to hand.
The MDX isn’t nearly as opulent as some of its competitors and it won’t coddle you in opulent luxury. You’re not getting cutting-edge tech features, either. But that’s not to say that the MDX’s interior is boring or lackluster.
The MDX has a modern design with a free flow center console layout. The dashboard and instrument cluster converge in the center before flowing directly into the transmission tunnel and center console. It’s a gorgeous design element, but it’s surrounded by a finger-print magnet black trim. The massive dial for the Dynamic Mode, which feels like it’s been plucked directly from the NSX, will fill the inner child in you with giddy every time you use it. The push buttons for the shifter aren’t as easy to use as a traditional shifter, but they help with the streamlined design.
The seats, which have perforated Milano leather and Ultrasuede upholstery, are both comfortable and supportive. Heated and ventilated seats are included with the A-Spec package, while the seats offer 12 ways of adjustment, plenty to get comfortable. Adults will find the second row of seats to be spacious, but it’s a traditional bench seat, which makes getting to the child-friendly third-row a chore. With the two rear rows of seats folded down, the MDX offers up to 71.4 cubic feet of cargo space, which is a strong figure for the luxury class.
Other luxurious midsize SUVs in the class attempt to save any hint of athleticism for the range-topping models with seriously powerful engines and ludicrous price tags. This isn’t the case with the MDX, as even the base model is surprisingly athletic. The steering is direct, while managing to not feel overly quick, and the updated suspension really does aid in bringing handling to the forefront of the SUV’s highlights. Then, there’s Acura’s SH-AWD system, which improves upon the MDX’s agility and handling capability, even when the road is dry.
If there’s one weak area with the MDX, it’s the SUV’s standard 3.5-liter V6 engine. The motor is rated at 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and comes paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The transmission handles shifts well enough and the V6 emits a throaty sound, but with something that can corner this well, we’re left wanting some extra oomph. For most people, the V6 will be a fine engine for daily use.
For those looking for something that really lights your pants on fire, we recommend waiting for the upcoming MDX Type S. Based on how good the regular MDX is, we suspect the MDX Type S will be outstanding.
The 2022 Acura MDX isn’t as luxurious as rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Genesis, Volvo, or Audi, but it does feel like a noticeable upgrade from the mainstream brands. So, it’s a good middle point. For a base trim, it’s also one of the more driver-focused SUVs in the segment. Saying that a midsize SUV is a family hauler for drivers sounds like a paradox, but Acura’s managed to do something that a lot of people thought was impossible. If you’re really looking for a driver’s SUV, the MDX’s frustrating infotainment touchpad and tame acceleration are easy to overlook.