Why mess with success when it comes to the Acura MDX? It’s been the brand’s best-seller for pretty much the last decade and is tops among three-row luxury SUVs, a category that includes the extremely accomplished Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, to name but two.
Yet at the New York Auto Show, Acura took the wraps off of the 2017 MDX, which has most definitely received a facelift. Based on the Acura Precision Concept shown in January at the Detroit Auto Show, the MDX dumps the silver “shield” grille in favor of one with an enormous Acura badge in the middle. Your call on how successful it is.
But the rest of the car has been subtly changed and successfully freshened. New 20-inch wheels and a brighter rear end with integrated exhaust tips keep the MDX looking interesting, as far as three-row crossovers go.
Inside, the MDX can now be fitted with second-row captain’s chairs and a center console, although that cuts seating capacity to six. There are nicer woodgrains and leathers, but it all looks familiar to anyone who’s stepped inside of an Acura in the last few years. And it’s still going to be a comfortable place for a family.
One noteworthy addition is the newly standard AcuraWatch suite of electronic driving assists, which includes adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Acura has already made a point about offering these systems on all of their new cars, but this is a significant move to democratize such features that could mitigate or prevent crashes. More expensive models add features such as a surround view camera and remote engine start.
There’s more good news under the hood, though. While the 3.5-liter V6 remains tied to a nine-speed automatic (and with either front or all-wheel drive), buyers can now opt for a hybrid MDX. It’s based on the three-motor technology found in the RLX Sport Hybrid and the NSX supercar and mated to a smaller 3.0-liter V6 for a combined output of 325 horsepower, which is still a useful jump over the gas-only MDX’s 290. Acura claims a 7-mpg increase in city driving with the hybrid. Based on my experience with the RLX hybrid, this setup offers gobs of grip and torque with the smooth addition of electric propulsion, and should be a worthy addition to the MDX lineup. It’s not going battle a Prius for fuel efficiency, but it gives the SUV more power and a more confident feel, all while boosting economy in the stop-and-go disaster that is usually a parent’s commute.
The MDX Sport Hybrid should be on sale by the end of 2016, while the gas-only 2017 MDX will go on sale in the summer.