Take a quick look at the 2017 Acura MDX, and you may not see a whole lot of difference. Take a second, closer look, and you’ll notice that the maligned Acura beak is gone. In place, there’s a diamond pentagon grille that takes its inspiration from Acura’s Precision Concept. It changes the character of the best-selling three-row luxury SUV, but dig a little deeper: The most character-changing aspect of the new MDX isn’t visible from the outside.
New for 2017, Acura is offering the brand’s Sport-Handling All-Wheel Drive system as an option, making it the third vehicle in Acura’s lineup to get the treatment (next to the RLX and new NSX). Acura says the system — which uses three electric motors to produce electrified torque vectoring for improved straight line performance and cornering precision in combination with all-wheel-drive power application — will add 35 horsepower (now up to 325) and estimates a benefit of seven miles per gallon against the non-hybrid model.
The Sport Hybrid uses a 3.0-liter V6 in conjunction with the aforementioned electric motors that routes power through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The hybrid will be available in Technology and Advance trims; pricing hasn’t yet been announced.
Also notable for 2017, all MDX models regardless of hybrid status will get AcuraWatch (Acura’s suit of safety tech) as standard. This includes Collision Mitigation Braking System with automatic emergency braking, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and Road Departure Mitigation.
Largely, the rest of the car has been left alone. Not untouched — the MDX has been lifted, tucked, tightened, and molded all around, but in a manner that’s more evolutionary than revolutionary. It’s still clearly an Acura MDX: adequately sanitized to appeal to the masses, but handsome and well-proportioned nonetheless.
The MDX has always been handsome and reasonably elegant, and it arguably has never been more so than it is now. Acura’s brand of casual luxury boasts an audience that’s looking for reliability, superb fit-and-finish, and tasteful and understated presence without the ostentatiousness of some of the higher-caliber luxury marques.
The new MDX follows this school of thought, offering a restrained and accessible family vehicle that doesn’t make a statement so much as it’s just a good car. With the addition of the Sport Hybrid all-wheel drive, the MDX will be a quietly capable SUV for discerning, well-heeled suburban families.