2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)

2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance

The latest version of this bestselling luxury SUV turns it into a real driver’s car.

Acura has been honing its MDX since the model debuted in 2000, and the flagship has been a great success for the brand. The company claims that it has sold more than one million of the vehicles, and it’s the bestselling three-row luxury SUV of all time. With the wonderful NSX supercar established as its halo model, the Japanese automaker has refocused on adding sportiness to the rest of the line, and for 2022 it aims to raise the bar for its most popular model, turning it into a real driver’s car without sacrificing luxury or utility.

 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)

To that end, Acura built the vehicle on an all-new light truck platform that’s not shared with parent company Honda’s Pilot model. This allowed the engineers more freedom, and you can see the most obvious benefit of that in the car’s athletic proportions. The new-generation MDX looks lean and handsome, thanks to its longer hood, broader stance, and sharper body lines. If Acura had shrunk the huge badge on the grille and avoided using faux intake grilles below the headlights, it would have been even better but those are quibbles.

The MDX’s new platform boasts 32 percent better torsional rigidity and a new suspension setup to take advantage of that. You’ll find double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in the rear. This aims to improve road holding and handling by maximizing the tire contact patch on the ground in corners, while still allowing compliance for comfort. 

The ride is taut but the suspension can soak up large road imperfections without feeling harsh. Responsive variable-ratio steering and strong brakes help round out the package. Acura’s “Super-Handling” all-wheel-drive system does something that most AWD systems don’t: it uses torque vectoring to rotate the car in corners by sending power to the outside rear wheel, minimizing understeer. On twisty roads the MDX is fun to drive and reminds me more of a sport wagon than a typical SUV.

Acura has retained the 3.5-liter 290-hp, 267 lb.-ft. V6 engine from the last generation MDX but has paired it with a new in-house 10-speed automatic transmission. The result is smooth, tractable power under normal driving conditions, but put your foot down and the MDX is quick, with 0-60 taking 6.4 seconds. Four driving modes—Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Snow—allow adjustment to how the chassis, steering, and engine respond to driver inputs. I found that Normal offers the most predictable throttle sensitivity with the right steering weight. The blend of power and handling are excellent, but for those looking for even more performance, a turbocharged 355-hp Type-S trim is on the way. 

 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance interior (Photo: Ian Whelan)
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance interior (Photo: Ian Whelan)

A High-quality, Modern Interior

The MDX’s high-quality, modern cabin is a relaxing place to spend your time, surrounded by premium leather, aluminum, and wood. Heated and ventilated 16-way power front sport seats and a thick-rim heated sport steering wheel sweeten the deal. Acura mounted a 12.3-inch-wide infotainment screen high on the dash, and it’s controlled by a touchpad on the center console. 

The touchpad system isn’t as immediately intuitive as a touchscreen, but after a day or two, I found it easy to use. The advantage of using the touchpad is that the screen can be mounted high up and away on the dashboard, so you won’t have to glance down at maps, for instance. Avoiding fingerprints is a bonus. I appreciate that Acura has kept many of the most-often-used controls as physical buttons, rather than folding them into the screen. The main instrument panel is also a 12.3-inch LCD screen, and there’s a head-up display on the windshield, too. The integration of these elements feels user-friendly and well thought out. 

Tech lovers will enjoy built-in Amazon Alexa voice recognition, and you can also use cordless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. On the center console under the palm rest, you’ll find a Qi wireless charging pad to keep your phone topped up. The rich and immersive ELS Studio 3D 16-speaker sound system stands out. The system includes active noise cancelation that helps keep exterior din at bay but allows some of the sweet V6 sounds to enter the cabin when you put your foot down. 

 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance interior (Photo: Ian Whelan)
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance interior (Photo: Ian Whelan)

Second-row passengers will enjoy adjustable heated seats, although they don’t have power adjustments. There are no infotainment screens, but most people are happy to bring their own devices on a trip, anyway. A panoramic moonroof makes the space feel more open. You can fold the center seat down or completely remove it to leave two captain’s chairs. The third-row seats are best suited for children, though small adults could occupy them in a pinch. Treat them as a set of jump seats to use infrequently and you won’t be disappointed. If you choose to fold the third-row seats down, you’ll have a large cargo area without sacrificing the second row. 

When comparing the MDX with its competition, keep in mind that Consumer Reports says that owner satisfaction with this model line is historically above average but predicted reliability is lower than average. Time will tell, but the fact that the engine is not new may work in its favor. 

The popularity of this model means that if you’re after something unique, this isn’t it. However, the Type-S will be available in a metallic yellow if you want to stand out. Until the high-performance variant comes on the market, at any rate, the Advance is the highest trim level, and it’s a good value for the well-rounded package that you get. It’s sporty, luxurious, and versatile—and more enjoyable to drive than I expected it would be. From country roads to highways to the rough streets of Manhattan, it did everything well. You can spend for extra bells and whistles, increased power, or a different badge, but you may not need to.

 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)
2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance (Photo: Ian Whelan)

Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance at a Glance

Price as tested: $61,150

Powertrain: 3.5L 24-valve V6

Power: 290-hp and 276 lb.-ft. torque

MPG: 19 (city), 25 (highway), 21 (combined)

0-60 acceleration: 6.4 seconds 

Curb weight: 4,565 lb

Cargo capacity behind each row: 

     First row: 71.4 cu ft

     Second row: 48.4 cu ft

     Third row: 18.1 cu ft

Towing: up to 5000 lb with trailer hitch and ATF cooler kit

Warranty: 4 years/50,000 mi (6 years/70,000 mi for powertrain)

Source: Acura (except acceleration, from Car and Driver)