Review: 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid delivers the goods
The Acura MDX is a midsized three-row crossover SUV that has gained a reputation as a solid choice in the luxury family buyer's market. For 2017, the MDX saw significant changes to its look and, more interestingly, the addition of a hybrid model.
The 2017 Acura MDX Hybrid was first shown as a production prototype at the New York Auto Show in 2016. It's an amalgamation of the family-sized crossover's new look and the all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain first seen in the Acura NSX, which is closely-related to the gasoline-hybrid AWD system in the Acura RLX.
The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid has a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine that combines with three electric motors to produce 321 horsepower (239 kW) and 289 lb-ft (392 Nm) of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, but the system is split, with the engine and one motor (via a seven-speed automatic transmission) powering the front wheels and two electric motors powering the rear axle. For reference, the standard gasoline model uses a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 267 lb-ft (216 kW, 362 Nm) and a nine-speed automatic transmission. There is about 250 pounds (113 kg) difference in weight between the AWD gasoline model and the heavier hybrid model.
Fuel economy in the 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid is rated at 27 mpg combined (10.5 l/100km), per the US Environmental Protection Agency. Our week with the MDX hybrid returned less than that on average, at closer to 24 mpg overall. Some of this can be written off as altitude (we're driving at 5,400-ft/1,646 m on average) and having passengers on board. Fuel economy was not usually predictable, however, as real-time results during a drive would fluctuate greatly from one trip to the next. Similar-sized vehicles without a hybrid powertrain, such as a Buick Enclave or Volvo XC60, have been more consistent in fuel economy delivery on a trip-to-trip basis. This makes it difficult to measure whether the fuel economy achieved in the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid would be consistent over longer periods in comparison to some competitors. We do note that in-town fuel economy returns were consistent, though, which could make up for any doubts otherwise.
What isn't in question is the Sport Hybrid's performance. The extra power output more than makes up for the extra weight that the MDX hybrid carries, and the extra torque when starting out from zero and moving along at lower speeds (when a gasoline engine is normally building up to its peak) is great. The MDX Sport Hybrid isn't a sprinter or a tire-burner, but it feels quick and ready for action when the throttle is pressed. Acura has also done a good job with the MDX's suspension, the stiff chassis helping to give confidence to the big crossover's movements.
The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is capable of sub-7-second 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) sprints in most people's hands and will feel good doing that. The AWD system is dreamy in corners and the hybrid vectoring of power with the MDX's gas-electric powertrain is very nicely done.
The 2017 Acura MDX (and the hybrid variant) received several updates for this model year. Among those are exterior changes to promote a more fast-paced appeal and to move forward with Acura's new design language. The grille is the most noticeable change, going from the waterfall cascade of previous-generation Acura models to a more conventional diamond-shaped affair with a mesh and enhanced Acura logo. The hood on the MDX is similarly more robust, with lines that flow more clearly up to the windscreen. Lighting and other changes are also apparent, aiding the more streamlined beak. The rear sees similar changes, especially above the bumper.
Inside, the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid comes as a standard trim package that, at base level, is equivalent to the Acura MDX Technology mid-level trim. Our test model included an upgrade to the Advance package, the next trim level up. Optional and not included on our test model is an Entertainment package that adds rear seat entertainment and potentially replaces the second-row captain's chairs with a bench, adding one more seat (for a total of 7).
The driver and front passenger are treated to excellent seating with plenty of adjustment and a lot of comfort. Remarks about this from passengers during our week with the MDX Sport Hybrid were common. The second row of seating is almost just as good, with the captain's chairs having a great feel and a lot of roominess all around. The third row is somewhat habitable by adults, but is mainly meant for kids, with a lower position and less legroom.
The roominess in the MDX's cabin is augmented by a host of smart storage spaces. The center bin between the driver and front passenger has sliding as well as tilting access, leaving a lot of room for both storage and a rubberized shelf for items like phones and sunglasses. Lots of similarly thoughtful spaces are found everywhere in the MDX. Cargo is excellent with a level load floor (seats folded or no) and decent access. We became big fans of the easy quick-fold controls for the seating, accessible from both side doors and the rear hatch.
Where the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid may be faulted is in its ride quality and highway noise levels. Compared to other, cushier luxury crossover-SUVs we've driven, the Acura is louder on the highway and less forgiving in its suspension. Compared to similarly-sporty options, however, the MDX is on par – and the tradeoff is likely worth it.
Technology in the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is another mixed point. This year, Acura made the company's AcuraWatch safety suite of advanced active safety systems standard on all MDX models. These include tech such as lane and road departure warnings and mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking. The adaptive cruise control in the MDX seems a bit over-thought, though, and it often reacted to things that might not have been affecting the driver's lane. We often had to override its aggressive reactions with a foot on the accelerator. We could not find an option to shut off ACC in favor of standard cruise control.
We did enjoy the base level Sport Hybrid inclusions of remote engine start, automatic wipers, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and so forth. The Advance package also adds parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, and heated steering. The first two being especially welcome in a vehicle of the MDX's size.
Infotainment in the 2017 Acura MDX and MDX Sport Hybrid center on two screens found on the center console. The upper screen concentrates on vehicle information and includes a wealth of available (and occasionally distracting) information regarding what's going on with the crossover. In the hybrid model, real-time fuel efficiency and battery charge status are available as well as information for regeneration from slowing and braking and so forth. Long-form trip information and analysis are also available.
The lower screen focusses on entertainment and smartphone integration. It's also very prone to glare, given its upward-tilt and flat screen. Connectivity is very good, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered. There are several input options for entertainment (USB, audio-in, HD radio, satellite, etc) and Siri Eyes Free integration, but no equivalent for Android users.
Control for the infotainment screens is had through a rotary knob on the center console just ahead of the storage cubby and next to the gear selection buttons. Graphics quality is pretty last-gen, however, reminding us of old-school Atari menus. The interface can often be confusing as controls move from one screen to another. It takes some time to learn which hard button will activate which screen and how the controls might change the selection's location.
The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is a bit of a mixed bag in some respects, but delivering a solid driving experience in a hybrid platform is definitely a core value. Compared to others on the market, the MDX is generally lower-priced for comparable equipment and the reputation Acura has for reliability and high resale values carries some weight as well. Overall, this is a solid family vehicle with a lot of appeal and an engaging demeanor on the road.
Product Page: 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid