Acura has struggled in the past with drawing up an attractive way to tie its family of vehicles together, and they recently found it in the front-end look it applied to the MDX mid-size crossover last year. That was part of a significant overhaul that included the addition of a hybrid powertrain option and some new features.
The changes for 2018 are less extensive but still seek to elevate the MDX's status among upscale crossovers. They include a new 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen that responds 30 per cent more quickly than before and now supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration platforms.
Acura has left the MDX's fundamentals alone, which we think is a good thing. The range starts with a 3.5L V6 engine making 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, which goes through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the brand's excellent Super Handling AWD (SH-AWD) system.
A Sport Hybrid model switches to a 3.0L V6 that works with three electric motors, one of which is built into a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission while the other two are integrated into the rear axle. That's notable for two reasons: One is that it's an arrangement based on the NSX sports car's powertrain, and the other is this hybrid setup's ability to power the outside rear wheel through a turn while applying regenerative braking to the inside one to improve the MDX's handling performance. Acura says the gas engine and three motors work together to make 325 hp.
Acura isn't the first automaker to apply hybrid technology to this class. Volvo does that too with its XC90 T8, whose powertrain boasts a V8-like 400 hp but in a less-sophisticated that was conceived to boost straight-line performance only. The MDX Sport Hybrid may be less potent but it's a better vehicle to drive overall and a good fit in a field of vehicles that includes sharp drivers from the likes of BMW and Audi.
Buyers concerned about safety should note that all MDXs come standard with the AcuraWatch suite of active safety features, including radar cruise control with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, emergency autonomous braking and forward collision warning.
Other standard features include a heated steering wheel, one-touch power fold and slide second-row seat, power tailgate, remote starter, and proximity key with push-button start all standard.
The MDX starts out as a seven-seater but can be optioned with a six-seat interior that equips the top-end Elite trim with a pair of second-row captain's chairs with a central storage console. Ten-way driver and eight-way front passenger seats are standard, and Elite models add a 10-way front passenger chair. Heated second-row seats are available, as are ventilated front seats.
Fuel consumption estimates are 12.6/9.0 L/100 km (city/highway) for all MDX trims save Elite, whose city estimate drops to 12.2 L/100 km thanks to the addition of an idle stop/start function that turns the engine off at stoplights. The Sport Hybrid model's ratings are 9.1/9.0 L/100 km.