Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — No compromises

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Gas mileage has become much less an issue with continued low fuel prices across the country. This makes selling the more expensive hybrid versions of cars and sport utilities a challenge.  Acura seems to have found the answer with its newly developed hybrid version of the refreshed 2017 mid-sized MDX crossover.

It offers a significant five more miles to the gallon and increased horsepower and performance over the gasoline-powered MDX at a premium of just $1,500, which is less than a 3 percent increase on a vehicle that stickers north of $50,000.

The MDX Sport Hybrid is rated at 26 mpg city, 27-highway and 27-combined compared to the gas-engine model at 19/26/22. If you drive 12,000 miles a year that's a savings of about 100 gallons at — figuring $3 a gallon — $300. That makes it a break-even proposition in five years. But there's more. Along with the improved mileage the Hybrid has 31 more horsepower and 22 more pound-feet of torque than the gas engine. That translates to a 0-to-60 time of 5.7 seconds and a quarter mile time of 14.5 seconds at 97 mph.

The hybrid components are similar to those from the NSX supercar, and the result is a breakthrough vehicle, one that actually deserves the Sport in its name. The hybrid is equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 257 horsepower powering the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Two motors charged by a 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack kick in 72 horsepower on demand. Another 47-horsepower motor assists by cranking the engine, providing supplemental thrust and charging the battery pack. That adds up to 321 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque.

Acura has also given its MDX a face-lift for the 2017 model year including clipping off the chrome beak and creating fresh headlight and grille designs. Several new standard features have been added with the mid-cycle refresh including cap-less fueling, an electronic parking brake, additional USB ports, and a surround-view camera.

This comes on top of 2016 updates that added AcuraWatchPlus safety, revising the all-wheel drive system to increase response time, and installing auto stop-start. Other standard equipment includes such things as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane and road departure warning and mitigation, and adaptive cruise control.

Acura has become known for its handling prowess through the use of dynamic modes — Sport+, Sport, Normal and Comfort. These settings change steering effort, throttle response, all-wheel drive settings, and even noise cancellation for different tastes or driving conditions. We found our sweet spot in the Sport setting.

Inside, the MDX is attractive and generally more user friendly than the previous generation. Acura has eliminated the myriad of buttons once found on the center stack. But this means that more controls are now buried in a seven-inch touch screen that sits below the navigation screen. Hard buttons are still available for controlling temperature, navigation and radio volume, although we miss the easily accessed radio preset buttons found in the last generation MDX.

Acura's dual screen system has been criticized, but we think it works just fine. For instance we like the fact that the radio — including information from satellite stations — can always be viewed along with a full-sized navigation screen.

Acura has also created a very quiet, passenger friendly interior. The second-row seats slide six inches fore and aft, and a one-touch control folds and slides them forward for easier entry and exit to the third row, which should be reserved for kids. Storage includes a handy under-floor compartment in the rear cargo area and a center console large enough to fit a laptop or purse. However, the cargo area still falls a bit short of some competitors measured at 15 cubic feet with all seats in use, and a cargo area of 68.4 cubic feet with all seats folded.

Acura has a unique strategy of offering three packages — Standard, Technology and Advance — and virtually no stand-alone options on the gas engine MDX. The standard package is not available on the Sport Hybrid, however, which comes with either Technology Package or Advance Package at $52,935 and $58,975 respectively. Both versions get Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.

Technology adds 20-inch wheels, remote engine start, blindspot monitors with cross traffic alert (we think this feature should be standard across the lineup), navigation and a 10-speaker premium audio system. Advance adds such things as a surround view camera, sport seats with premium leather trim, second-row captain’s chairs, 10-way power front seats, and heated second-row seats.

Our Sport Hybrid with both the Advanced and Technology packages carried a bottom line of $58,975.
Base price: $52,935; as driven, $58,975
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6, 3 electric motors
Horsepower: combined 321 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 289 foot-pounds @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 196.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,484 pounds
Turning circle: 38.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 68.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 26 city, 27, highway, 27 combined
0-60: 5.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Lexus RX 450h, Toyota Highlander hybrid, Volvo XC90 Hybrid

The Good
• Excellent all-wheel drive system
• Solid gas mileage
• Smooth, quiet performance
• Impressive standard safety features

The Bad
• Base model not offered

The Ugly
• Restricted access to rear seats