After months of multiple announcements and reveals, the 2022, fourth-generation Acura MDX has arrived, adorned with a new look and riding on a new platform. This new generation brings about a new era for the premium, three-row SUV as it is now burdened with the title of flagship model, meaning it’s here to represent the best of what Honda’s luxury/performance brand can deliver. That ignores the NSX supercar, of course, which Acura calls its halo car.
Riding on an all new platform that Acura designed specifically and, for now at least, solely for the MDX model, it is a claimed 32 percent more torsionally rigid than the third generation model. Furthermore, the front strut suspension was tossed in the bin and replaced with a much more car enthusiast friendly double-wishbone set-up. The rear suspension retains its basic four-link structure, but engineers thoroughly reworked it to increase both handling prowess and ride comfort.
The most obvious change of the latest MDX, however, is its new skin, as Acura adopted the design language that was first introduced on the 2019 Acura RDX. And it works well. Because the MDX is longer and wider than before and, indeed, the biggest car Acura builds, the curves and creases of the design flow naturally here, never looking blunt or stunted. The stance is low and wide, given the category, and the front and rear overhangs are reduced, adding visual strength. That said, I’d prefer a smaller emblem attached to the grille in front. It’s not an eye sore, but it stands out more than it blends in.
Considering all of the aforementioned newness, Acura surprised me by bolting up the existing 3.5-liter V6 with no updates, such that it continues to produce the same peak outputs of 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, just as the 2020 model does today. Acura’s rebuttal is that while the engine remains unchanged, they installed a new, 10-speed automatic transmission, with an 8.9-percent shorter first gear, putting more torque to the road from zero speed.
Moreover, the MDX gets the latest generation Super Handling all-wheel-drive, SH-AWD, that can send 70 percent of the torque to the rear-axle and then distribute 100 percent of that to either wheel. That flexibility in torque distribution helps the MDX mitigate the inherent handling issues of a long wheelbase, 113.8-inches, and a nose heavy body, 58 percent of the weight rests on the front axle.
In fact, the MDX handles WAY better than you’d ever expect it to. Steering has a nice weight to it, with good turn-in response and high-levels of precision, which makes it easy to keep speed up in the corners, and really lean on the 20-inch all-season tires. While the MDX understeers, it does so much less than you’d expect. If you really try, you can even get the rear-end to wiggle a bit at corner exit. In a three-row SUV!
And all the usual safety and luxury bits are here. Standard in the MDX is a Qi smartphone charging pad, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a built-in Amazon Alexa. That’s controlled through a 12.3-inch center console screen. The seats are leather and comfortable. The space is cavernous and the ergonomics are intuitive. You also get plenty of space and flexibility for cargo carrying needs.
The point is, Acura built a useful SUV, as they’ve always done. But this time around, they added more style and driving prowess than before. And by big margins. Base price is under $48,000. But you’ll have a lot more fun with one of the SH-AWD models that start at $49,925. For that money, you get a flagship worthy SUV to roll in. One that will even allow you to crack a smile on your favorite twisty road.