In announcing the updated-for-2017 MDX, Acura has a little bit for everybody. For the typical luxury three-row crossover shopper, there is delight to be had in Acura making its AcuraWatch safety features—including automatic emergency braking—standard on every MDX. For driving enthusiasts who need an Acura MDX because their litter of kids won’t fit in a Mazda MX-5 Miata, Acura now is offering its “three-motor” Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.
With all three electric motors and the smaller V-6 working together, the MDX Sport Hybrid puts out 325 horsepower—35 more than the regular MDX’s 3.5-liter six. The V-6 itself contributes 257 horsepower, and the rest comes from the electric motors. Other differences? The Sport Hybrid’s front electric motor is incorporated within a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission while the standard MDX uses a conventional nine-speed automatic.
At the rear axle, the Sport Hybrid’s dual electric motors deliver torque-vectoring, while the all-wheel-drive gas model does the same via a rear differential. Compared with the RLX sedan, the MDX’s Sport Hybrid system is down 52 horsepower and lacks the ability to propel the car solely on electricity using the rear motors. Still, the sport-oriented MDX looks to have other hybrid crossovers such as the Lexus RX450h and the Infiniti QX60 thoroughly beat on the excitement front.
The Sport Hybrid system also offers fuel-economy benefits. Although official EPA figures are still to come, Acura estimates that the 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid will get 25 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. That city figure is a full 7 mpg higher than the all-wheel-drive 2016 MDX’s EPA estimate, and 6 mpg better than the AWD 2016 model with the optional stop-start system. (The highway figure is unchanged.) We expect the EPA ratings for the non-hybrid 2017 MDX won’t change from the 2016 model’s 19/27 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 18/26 with all-wheel drive.
For all the under-the-skin changes to the 2017 MDX, the most evident difference is right on its face. The MDX becomes the first mainstream Acura to ditch the brand’s signature metal “shield” grille; besides resembling an avian snout, the old design was more brutal than beautiful. The new grille is a streamlined, pentagon-shaped piece derived from that on the Precision concept that debuted at January’s Detroit auto show. Acura also reshaped the LED headlights, the hood, and the fenders to accommodate the new look.
Elsewhere, there’s a splash of chrome on the rocker panels, a new rear bumper, and integrated dual exhaust outlets. Overall, the updates give the MDX a cleaner, lower, and wider look. As to the aforementioned safety gear, every Acura MDX buyer now gets automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and road-departure mitigation.
In adding new tech, ditching the beak, and offering a hybrid model, Acura MDX has made effective improvements to its popular three-row family hauler that should only expand its appeal. The standard model launches this summer, while the Sport Hybrid arrives a few months later.