It's been hard, the last 15 years or so, explaining just how cool and cutting-edge Acura was in the 1980s and 1990s to people who weren't there. It was the engineering division of Honda. If Honda was Apple in the 1980s and 90s (and I've argued plenty of times that they were), Acuras were the Pro Max version. Until they weren't. As the 20th century became the 21st, Acuras became more expensive Hondas with too many dashboard buttons and somewhere around 2010, the efforts to distinguish Acura from Honda were largely highly questionably styling flourishes (including the tragic chrome "beak"). Frankly, the only thing that saved them was that the handling was still superb---thank Acura's racing heritage and the SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) system for that.
The ship began to right itself about five years ago, weeding out the negatives in existing product. Now, with the arrival of the all-new 2022 MDX, Acura's flagship (the RLX sedan is no more), we're seeing a new philosophy at Acura---very much in line with the original. The styling is a major jump forward from what had already been massaged into an attractive SUV. Now, it's more squared-off and chiseled, with bulges and curves in the right places, conveying power and purpose more effectively than the previous, more rounded design.
Under the hood is where you'll find no changes. It's still Acura's venerable 3.5-liter VTEC V6 with variable cylinder management. At 290 horsepower, it's more than up to the task of moving the MDX. Zero to 60 should happen in about seven seconds. The nine-speed automatic transmission has been upgraded to a ten-speed unit and the EPA fuel economy average is 19 miles per gallon city, 25 highway. If that performance doesn't quite do it for you, sit tight for a few months. There's an MDX Type S on the way with 355 horses.
Inside, there's plenty of room for seven people and their stuff----or five people and a lot of their stuff with the third row folded down. Interior materials and fit and finish are all significantly improved, with a real luxury look and feel.
The base price of the 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance is $60,650. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are a high-resolution infotainment display, built-in Alexa, wireless phone charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, heated front seats, a three-zone automatic climate control system, 20-inch alloy wheels, navigation, a panoramic moonroof and a 16-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio system.
Acura continues its one-price policy for each equipment level (Advance is the top of four trim lines, which begin at $46,900), so apart from $500 for the Liquid Carbon Metallic paint (mis-labelled on the window sticker as the standard Platinum White Pearl), there are no extra-cost options. With $1,025 destination and handling, the as-tested price of the 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance is $62,175.
Any time you cross whatever-nine-ninety-nine, there's a psychological reaction. Sixty grand for an Acura MDX? But shop around. It'll be hard, if not impossible to find a three-row SUV with this blend of performance, utility, luxury and reliability for less than---or maybe even only a little more than---this price.
The 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD is a home run. Welcome back.