HOUSTON — Driving to New Orleans, we found the Acura MDX Hybrid to be quiet. It was easy to drive, comfortable and after driving 350 miles when got out there was no fatigue. We made it more than 200 miles to Lafayette when we stopped for gas. But we still had half a tank.
We were impressed with the power generated by this hybrid, especially at interstate speeds. We were doing 75 mph and had to step on the gas a bit and the MDX Hybrid was approaching 90 mph without any real effort.
The powertrain made 321 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. There were three electric motors. One built into the seven-speed dual clutch transmission and two in the rear; engineered to provide instant torque and that’s what we felt on I-10 East on the way to the Big Easy.
The front motor made 47 horsepower and provided supplemental torque and regenerative braking capability. The rear two motors each made 36 horsepower, had regenerative braking capability and converted engine power to electricity to aid recharging the battery.
There was a 72-cell 1.3-kWh lithium-ion battery. Because of design and engineering improvements it had 10 percent more power density and held 20 percent more energy.
The battery pack was underneath the car and water proofed. In effect it brought the center of gravity down by an inch and that added to better handling and stability on the road. However, at speeds of 65 mph and up, it did feel like the front wheels were not solidly planted on the road from time to time. It may have been the electric power steering.
There were paddle shifters but we rarely used them. The dual clutch transmission shifted gears quickly and quietly. And at low speeds shifts were imperceptibly smooth. The MDX Hybrid had active dampers and on city streets here and in New Orleans the utility almost glided down the asphalt. It was quiet, very quiet.
About the only thing we found to really beef about was the voice recognition system. It didn’t recognize the names of the people we wanted to call; sometimes it didn’t even get in the right alphabet.
Handling was better than good. MDX’s super handling all wheel drive system or Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD™) sent torque side to side. On our hybrid the system was separate from the gasoline engine. That was another function of two rear electric motors.
The MDX Hybrid Sport Hybrid had a drive mode. It could be set on comfort, normal, sport and sport+.
We were particularly impressed with the suspension. Often when a hybrid is added to the regular gasoline model lineup it is difficult to beef up the suspension to handle the added weight of the batter and electric motors as well as the regenerative brakes. In the case of the MDX, the hybrid weighed 227 lbs. more than the gasoline version but the suspension didn’t seem overtaxed because of the added weight. In fact, the vehicle didn’t seem heavy at all, even though it weighed 4,484 lbs.
The Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) was located in a compartment directly beneath the driver and front seat passenger. The Power Control Unit (PCU) was mounted beneath the floor and positioned directly aft of the IPU compartment. The IPU is shared with the NSX supercar and benefits from advancements made in its development, including the aforementioned battery and other improvements, resulting in a more compact size and reduced weight. The combined volume of the IPU and PCU is reduced by 39 percent, from 118 liters to 72 liters, when compared to the RLX Sport Hybrid sedan.
Checking the interior, we started from the rear of the 2017 Acura MDX by finding the button just under the horizontal chrome line and letting the power liftgate up. The third row of seats was folded forming a flat cargo floor.
There was a push-up latch flush in the back of the third row seats, we pushed it and then easily pulled one of the third row seats into position. We also noticed a 12V plug in the side wall
Captain’s chairs where in the second row. They were heated and the space had its own climate controls. Two USB jacks were in the second row console.
We pulled the lever on the side of the second row seat and it flipped all the way forward creating a broken but relatively flat cargo floor. Push another button and the seat back flipped a third of the way forward, the seat cushion slid forward and that created enough space to step into the third row.
We found two more USB jacks on the back of the second row console. Thus, everybody riding in the 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid could plug something in. That third row is really for short-legged people. Head room was cramped for an almost six-footer and the seating surfaces were thin and a little too firm.
Still, the third row could be comfortable for someone smaller than a full-size adult. By either button on the back of the second row seat or a strap at the base of it, the seat cushion will slide forward, the seat back will tilt forward and a passenger can exit. But it was not easy.
The information screen was recessed in the dash and set atop it. Switches for the heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist were mounted on the steering wheel.
A large circular odometer and speedometer were in front of the driver. A fuel gauge and power gauge were on each corner of the circles. Both were rimmed with brushed aluminum or chrome. It was a sophisticated look. There was a TFT screen between them.
Paddle shifters, sport pedals and a foot rest were part of the sport motif. The MDX featured push button lock and unlock push button start and stop as well as a push button gear shift.
The surface of the dash and the cowl over the instruments was textured. There was a camera we turned on; it showed a front view, rear view and overview and a view of the corners of the MDX. Front seats were heated and cooled. There was arched wood trim on the doors and on the dash above the glovebox.
The camera, navigation, phone, info, menus, setting and night day buttons were around the mouse. It was a very clean and compact setup. There was a much appreciated dial for the volume on the audio system. It was a rich sound system which of course had a satellite radio.
The utility vehicle was really good looking. A gently crease that ran three quarters down the lower side of the MDX. Another started at the middle of the rear door and curved around the rear wheel well. The look was capped off by 20-inch wheels.
The tech package included the navigation system with voice recognition, a premium audio system, tri-zone climate controls, and rain sensing windshield wipers, LED puddle lights and rear cross traffic alert.
There was also what Acura called an advance package that included a surround view camera system, perforated leather sports seats, second row captain’s seats, wood trim, a heated steering wheel, heated second row seats, LED headlights, rear door sun shades and roof rails.
Although Acura didn’t bill it that way but the safety package included adaptive cruises control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
As tested, our 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD had a sticker of $58,975. And given its ambience, performance and equipment, it certainly could be compared with today’s luxury utility vehicles.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.