| Detroit Free Press
Video first drive: 2022 Acura MDXNew style, new platform transform Acura’s big family-hauling SUVMark Phelan, Detroit Free PressAcura’s off to a strong start in 2021 with a pair of appealing new vehicles. The sleek and competitively priced TLX sport sedan already breathed new life into the luxury brand’s struggling car business. A strong new version of Acura’s MDX three-row SUV builds on that, making it look like the brand’s latest reinvention may have staying power.The new sedan and SUV share a family resemblance — particularly in their expressive and highly detailed grilles, long dash-to-axe ratio and modern, elegant interiors — that could set the stage for a resurgence by the oldest Japanese luxury brand.After years when Acuras tended to look like either gussied up Hondas or overwrought attempts to stand out — who else remembers the brand-wide nose job that looked like a baby bird’s egg tooth? — Honda’s luxury brand may have found its niche: Offering style, interior materials and judiciously applied technology place it between mainstream brands like Toyota and Ford and elite brands.Food fight: Subway denies lawsuit claim that its tuna sandwich is ‘completely bereft’ of actual tunaAutos news: GM hopes to eliminate gas vehicles in favor of all-electric vehicle lineup by 2040The new MDX is longer, wider and lower than the old model, a combination that lends itself to sporty looks and enjoyable driving. Unlike the outgoing 2020 MDX, there’s no hybrid model, but the 2022 is better in every other way, well equipped to compete with lower-luxury family haulers like the Cadillac XT6, GMC Acadia, Infiniti QX60 and Lexus RX.Standard safety and assistance features include:Automatic high beamsForward collision alertAutomatic front emergency braking with pedestrian detectionLane departure alert and assistAdaptive cruise controlLow-speed following assistBlind spot and cross traffic alertsTraffic sign recognitionHill start assistDriving impressionsThe 2022 MDX is 2.2 inches longer, an inch wider and 0.3 inch less tall than the 2020 version. Combined with a long hood, sculpted sides and a roof that slopes downward at the rear, the result is a sporty body that looks smaller than its 198.4-inch overall length.Like the TLX sedan that debuted late last year, the MDX uses a double wishbone front suspension. That’s a departure for Acura SUVs, and a return to the design that helped Honda earn the reputation for handling and steering back before the automaker launched Acura in 1986.Despite that similarity, the MDX doesn’t share its platform with the TLX. The rear suspension also is new, as is variable ratio power steering. The steering is direct and responsive at speed, when the suspension keeps the MDX stable in relatively quick maneuvers. The ride is smooth, with little road or wind noise.Power comes from the same 3.5L V6 engine the 2020 MDX used. It produces a fairly staid 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The MDX is about 210 pounds heavier than the 2020 version, but Honda’s quick, smooth 10-speed automatic transmission makes up for that, providing satisfying accelerating. The all-wheel-drive system can send up to 70% of torque to the rear axle, and all of that to either wheel for maximum traction.A really sporty MDX Type S with a 355-hp turbocharged 3.0L V6 goes on sale this summer. The Type S will have 21-inch wheels and Brembo brakes, but not much more information is available now.Luxurious, advanced interiorThe MDX seats seven or six, depending on whether you use the second row as a bench seat or remove its middle section to create a pair of bucket seats and a space to walk to the third row. You can also flip the middle section’s back down to create a console and armrest between the two outboard riders.The second row has good leg and head room. The two-person rear bench has limited space. It’s best suited for small children.The front seat is roomy, and nicely trimmed with aluminum accents, open-pore wood, Milano leather and contrast stitching. The seats are comfortable.Acura has improved its touch pad for navigation and other features, but I still find the touch pad — located in the center console — less intuitive and more distracting than a simple touch screen. The MDX offers Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant for spoken command for navigation, controlling connected devices at home and to play music, audiobooks, news and more. Alexa’s accuracy and speed is outstanding, better than Acura’s embedded voice recognition. You need an AT&T data connection and Amazon account to use Alexa.How much?Prices for the 2022 Acura MDX start at $47,900 for a base, front-wheel-drive model. All-wheel drive starts at $48,900. The current top of the line is $60,650 for an Advance model.All prices exclude destination charges.I tested an MDX A-Spec with all-wheel drive. It stickered at $57,100.Equipment on the SUV I tested included: hill start assist front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth compatibility, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, wireless Android Auto, navigation, real-time traffic and weather information, Amazon Alexa,USB C and A ports, GPS-linked three-zone climate control; perforated Milano leather seats; 12-way power front seats, memory for driver settings, heated and ventilated front seats, ambient LED interior lighting, power sun roof, LED headlights and tail lights, power tailgate.MDX prices are very competitive with other similarly equipped brands.