Acura MDX gets a major upgrade for 2022
By Jim Bray
Acura's new flagship SUV, the MDX, is back with an all-new set of clothes in what the company says is "a quantum leap forward with a bold exterior design coupled with a sophisticated and elegant new interior featuring the most high-tech and advanced cockpit in the brand's history."
And it's all true, though I'm not as ready to heap praise on the "most high-tech and advanced cockpit" part.
Still, as someone who hasn't had a lot of nice things to say about Honda and its higher end division for several years now, I will tell you that this new MDX (and the new TLX that'll be the subject of my next car column) is a great vehicle to drive, has lovely styling outside and, mostly, inside, and (since it's Japanese) will probably last long enough to hand down to your grandkids when the time comes.
Click on the image at left to open a slideshow.
My angst with most things Honda-related has stemmed from design and execution choices that beggar logic – things such as removing the volume and tuning knobs from the audio system, overly obtrusive nannies that holler at you verbally or via flashing lights, a weird shift selector, and styling (on some models) so horrid that you have to approach the vehicle backwards so as not to be forced to look at it.
Improvements have been made over the years. For example, the volume control is back – but not the tuning one, which is actually the more important of the two unless all your favourite radio stations are saved in presets, a process that would be a true pain in the buttocks to perform here.
And I noticed with this new MDX that you can shut off the most annoying nannies and they'll stay off. Hallelujah!
But, undoubtedly in an attempt to prove that some people just can't be pleased, they've now put a damn trackpad on the centre console, and it's even more fussy to use than the ones I already hate in Lexi.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, this is a really nice vehicle!
The new styling really works and it makes this fourth-generation model, in my never humble opinion, the most handsome MDX ever.
And, in an age when engines are shrinking from the hot V6 to supposedly even hotter turbo fours, Acura still lets you have their 3.5 litre V6, and it's a peach, torquey (267 lb.-ft.) and rated at 290 horses. And it sounds fantastic!
Alas, all those ponies have to prance through a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is at least two speeds too many because it defaults to upshifting quickly to save fuel (as if anyone buys an MDX for its fuel savings), so it also has to downshift through too many gears to get back into the power band when you want it there.
At least there are paddles and they work reasonably well.
Acura isn't alone here; it's a response to government mandates – er, persondates – designed to force folks into behaviours the powers that be deem necessary in their fight to prevent citizens from making up their own minds. All this, in a supposedly democratic society!
Anyway, all Canadian-spec MDX's come with Acura's Super Handling All-wheel-drive (SH-AWD), which not only sends torque to the front and rear axles, but also from side to side when torque is needed there. There's also an integrated dynamics system standard on all MDX's.
Acura Canada's sample was of the top-line Elite persuasion, so it came with pretty well anything you can get on an MDX and, other than some things that can't be changed, like the nannies, trackpad, etc., you'll probably want all of it because it makes for a very nice package.
Nineteen-inch wheels are standard, but the Elite comes with 20's – which is nice to look at and nice to drive with, but made the vehicle a tad more difficult for my short legs to handle. This is common, of course, and not a dig at the MDX.
Helping those wheels do what they do best is a new, double wishbone front suspension, the stuff of racing cars. Couple that with the independent rear suspension, SH-AWD and all the rest of the stuff of which this vehicle boasts, and you have a big SUV that handles better than you might think it should.
I took it onto some of my favourite mountain roads and, while it's no Porsche, it ate up everything I threw at it and came back looking for more. I was surprised pleasantly.
You can partake of various drive modes, from "boring" to "pretty darn cool" (okay, those are my titles), and there's an Individual mode with which you can tweak the performance to your personality. That's the one I liked best here, and in the TLX that was up next.
The interior is comfortable and luxurious, not surprisingly, and other than the (power/heated/cooled – with a nice "automatic" setting for the bun warmer/cooler) driver's seat being just a tad narrow for the size of my buttocks, it's a very nice place to spend time.
Front seating is quite flexible, too: you get 12-way power adjustments for both front seats, including four-way power lumbar support. And there's memory, too, of course. Even better, I suppose is the Platinum Elite's seats, which are 16-way adjustable – so if you can't find a good driving position it's probably your own fault.
The second-row seats are also heated (outboard) and they're quite supportive. They also move out of the way pretty easily to give you access to the small third row (thanks to its "One-Touch Smart Slide Walk-In"). I didn't spend a lot of time back there, not having a death wish, but it's reasonable for smaller (and thinner, alas…) folk, especially if you're only doing short jaunts. And of course, the third-row folds down to increase your hauling space.
Acura's ELS audio system is, as usual, first rate, though it no longer plays high resolution discs (or any discs, in fact), and I missed that. I'm probably the only one who does, though, so I can't really dump on Acura for following the trend away from optical discs to streaming, etc.
I did try playing some high-resolution audio files via USB, but the MDX told me to pound sand. Nicely, of course. Could have been operator error or file incompatibility, but it made me cry.
I could do without the cute little tune that plays when you fire up the MDX and shut it down again but, once again, this is Acura merely doing what others have decided (stupidly) to do. I'd rather see less fluff and more substance – such as no trackpad, a better shifting mechanism, etc. – but what can you do?
One fly in the ointment was an app that kept crashing, or at least claiming to have crashed. Multiple times, when I'd fire up the MDX, it would tell me the Sirius XM app had crashed, despite the fact that the system was playing just fine. It wasn't a big deal, but it was weird.
All in all, however, the 2022 Acura MDX is a great vehicle, a very nice step forward in the marketplace, and a very nice vehicle both to drive and to be in.
The base MDX starts at $56,405CAD, and there are two other trim levels (Tech and A-Spec) before you get up to the sample's Platinum Elite starting price of $67,405. That's getting a tad pricey, but if you compare the MDX with the top-line, three row Lexus RX 350 (probably its main competitor) at $73,500, it's quite competitive.
It's also a heck of a lot nicer to drive.
Other models in this range include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and the brand-new Genesis GV80, the latter of which has also been named 2021 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year by my compatriots at AJAC.
That's pretty good company, and the MDX definitely belongs in this crowd.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray