Auto review: 2022 Acura MDX A-Spec delivers more of what buyers have always loved

There are certain car names that elicit envy, like Ferrari. Others evoke laughter, like Yugo or Cimarron. Others prompt admiration, like the Honda Accord.

Then there are those names that bring blank stares. Usually, they’re alpha-numeric, having no association with the vehicle they’re affixed to, like the Acura SLX. Don’t remember it, do you? How about the CSX, RSX or ZDX?

Yet odds are you remember the Legend, one of the great car names of all time, affixed to a landmark Japanese car. Finally, agonizingly, the company has finally gotten the message and is reviving the Integra nameplate. Surely it will be an easier sell than ILX, a name that is most likely an internal corporate designation for an overpriced outdated Civic in drag.

But then there’s the MDX. This tasty morsel of automotive alphabet soup has distinguished itself from the outset as the crossover for the driving enthusiast, but delivered at a price below that of its German competition. Popular? You bet. Acura has sold more than a million of these puppies since its debut two decades ago. Best of all, it’s all new for 2022. (If you want to drive someone crazy, tell them you’re looking for a 2021 model. There wasn’t any.)

Very much the brand’s flagship, the MDX is created with an eye on the U.S. market.

The new MDX uses the most rigid SUV chassis Acura has ever built. For now, is exclusive to MDX, but look for it to be used in future models, including a battery electric utility vehicle planned for 2024. The new underpinnings allowed engineers to widen the MDX by an inch, and lengthen it 2.2 inches, endowing it with a longer hood and a longer dash-to-axle ratio, giving it a more premium look. Yet its face wears much of the same sporty front fascia seen on the new TLX. Distinctive and dynamic in appearance, the MDX is unmistakable, something increasingly rare among crossover utility vehicles.

The new platform also incorporates a double wishbone front suspension for improved handling, and an upgraded multi-link rear suspension. While the 3.5-liter V6 carries over unchanged, it is mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission, up from nine speeds in 2020. It’s rated at 290 horsepower and feeds its power to the front wheels or all four when ordered with Acura’s updated Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, or SH-AWD. It can funnel up to 70 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels, with 100% of that torque going to either the left or right wheels. Known as torque vectoring, it really enhances handling in certain situations.

But the updates most buyers care about is the tech.

For 2022, the MDX is now equipped with Android Alexa. The center if the instrument panel is anchored by a 12.3-inch screen that is operated steering-wheel mounted touch controls, a touchpad on the center console, or by voice. It’s not the easiest to use with the touchpad, and some drivers will have difficulty reaching the touchscreen. Thankfully, the MDX now incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a plethora of USB ports, and a standard Wi-Fi hotspot. A thoughtful new feature is an interior intercom that allows the driver to chat with third-row occupants.

Being a family hauler, you’ll be impressed by its hefty load of standard safety equipment, which gets upgraded with traffic sign recognition, a driver attention monitor, expanded pedestrian detection and traffic jam assist. Equally impressive area the trim details, including Milano leather with contrast stitching, open pore wood and real aluminum trim accents.

The MDX has been the go-to chariot for suburban dwellers who like an occasional driving thrill. In this regard, its persona is much like that of Clark Kent. It provides big comfy seats, an absorbent suspension and a quiet cabin. Its engine is responsive, as is the updated electric power steering. It very much plays the part of an everyday family hauler.

But push it to its limits, and the MDX becomes Superman, feeling more athletic than its competition while ably balancing the need for comfort. You can feel the added stiffness and the refinements engineered into the power steering. But you do have to push it to get there; it doesn’t seem to be a natural, noticeable trait during mundane maneuvering. And I never really warmed to the infotainment user interface. It’s wonky in the finest Honda/Acura tradition.

But there’s more than enough here to please the Acura MDX faithful, with more of everything you’ve come to love and expect in this family hauler — including its name.

2022 Acura MDX A-Spec

Base price: $57,100.

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6.

Horsepower/torque: 290/267 pound-feet.

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 19/25 mpg.

Fuel required: 91 octane.

Length/width/height: 198.4/78.7/67.1 inches.

Ground clearance: 7.3 inches.

Cargo capacity: 16.3-95 cubic feet.

Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds.