Powerful, More Efficient Flagship SUV
Hybrid vehicles are designed to improve upon gasoline-powered cars rather than replace them. The Acura MDX, a midsize, three-row crossover SUV, is no paragon of fuel efficiency on its own, but when you add an electric component to the drivetrain, it jumps up to earning the mileage of a compact hatchback, despite its bountiful power, hauling capacity—and mass.
Knowing that the current action in the personal transportation business is in the crossover segment, Acura positions the MDX Hybrid as a flagship. While the Hybrid’s engine drops from a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 to a 257-horsepower 3.0-liter one, adding in not one but three electric motors and a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pushes the total output to a formidable 321 horsepower and 289 pounds-feet of torque, making it the brand’s mightiest SUV ever.
Acura’s engineers tucked all this extra technology underneath the car, so passenger and cargo space is unaffected, and the extra couple of hundred pounds adds to stability by lowering the center of gravity.
A Transmission Upgrade
The Sport Hybrid gets a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual mode, like the one in the RLX Sport Hybrid sedan and the nine-speed version in the NSX. You get virtually instant gear changes, as the second clutch sets up the next gear before you select it. Dropping the usual torque converter, a dual-clutch transmission is more efficient. You can use steering wheel mounted paddles to pick your own gears to add to the sportiness.
The three motors are integrated tightly into the existing powertrain. In front, a 47-horsepower motor is part of the transmission. At the rear, twin 36-horsepower motors sit where the differential for all-wheel-drive lives.
Acura’s SH-AWD all-wheel-drive technology is a proven feature. The twin rear motors in this application use torque vectoring to affect handling in positive ways. For example, during turns, the outer wheel can be given more torque. All three motors regenerate electricity while braking to fill the battery for more EV driving.
The Numbers Are Good
The Hybrid MDX gets EPA ratings of 26 mpg city/27 highway/27 combined. The regular MDX achieves 18/26/21 respectively, so the Hybrid is 24 percent more efficient. Smog and Greenhouse gas numbers are both 6’s, which is normal for 3.0-liter V6s. The 329 grams of CO2 emitted by this car is about three-fourths of what many similar-sized vehicles put out, so there’s some positive environmental impact.
Despite its size and height, electronic tuning and controls allow you to personalize the driving experience, so you can tackle interesting roads. While the standard MDX offers three preconfigured driving modes—Comfort, Normal and Sport—the MDX Hybrid gives you a Sport+ mode as well. Each setting uses the car’s electronic controls to enable more and more extreme modification to steering effort, throttle response, shock damping, shift points and the amount of torque vectoring to suit the driving conditions and the driver’s taste.
A New Face
Acuras have worn some aggressive faces in the last several years, but have toned that down recently to look less beaky. The new MDX design features the “Diamond Pentagon” grille, made up of tiny elements radiating away from the oversize Acura logo at the center. This is becoming the new face of the brand, scaled to fit each model. Knowing that they compete against models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz with long-familiar visages, Acura has struggled to create a meaningful identity that sticks. This new look is easy to take, but time will tell.
Interiors are plush in an upscale way, with the distinctive boldly carved dash and doors making every moment inside an Acura a stimulating experience. Materials rate above sister division Honda’s, as expected.
The MDX Sport Hybrid comes in two forms: Technology and Advance. The Advance incorporates the Technology package. Highlights of the Technology package include a navigation system with voice recognition, AcuraLink Communication System with Real-Time Traffic, the Acura ELS Studio Premium Audio System, a GPS-linked Tri-Zone Auto Climate System, Blind Spot Information System and rear cross traffic monitor, rain-sensing wipers and more. The Advance brings in a surround-view camera system, leather sport seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, wood trim, rear door sunshades, and more amenities.
The Final Tally
Prices start at $53,915 for the Technology Package version. My White Diamond Pearl tester, an Advance model with no additional options, listed at $58,975. The non-hybrid MDX starts at $45,025, if you want the look and utility, but not the hybrid performance.
As it has done for all its existence, Acura fights against the German luxury brands, as well as Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac, Volvo and other. Honda can hope its customers will move upward into Acuras, part of the assignment for the founding Integra and Legend models. The MDX is an Acura perennial, and with crossovers hotter than ever, is a suitable flagship. The Sport Hybrid makes it more than a bit more fuel efficient.
In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–some are just below—and let us know what you think in comments below or at email@example.com.
First Drive: 2017 Acura MDX (Michael’s view)
Road Test: 2016 Acura MDX (Larry’s view)
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.