2022 Acura MDX Prototype First Look: Taking a Turn for the Sporty

Tom Nguyen, Acura’s Global Development Leader for the 2022 Acura MDX, has been waiting four years for this day. In 2016, he and a team of 19 other engineers, product planners, and designers met at Acura’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California, hopped into seven three-row SUVs built by competitors, and set off for a cabin in Mammoth. Over the next week they shared ideas, bickered over what they liked and disliked about those luxury three-rows, and burnt the midnight oil to decide what direction they were going to take Acura’s next-generation MDX.

“In Honda culture we have this concept called Waigaya [pronounced: why-guy],” Nguyen tells us. “People from diverse areas come together and speak as equals, and that’s how we hashed out what we want from the MDX.”

So, What Was the Result?

The MDX Prototype you see here. Even though it is “only” a prototype, the Acura three-row SUV you’ll eventually be able to buy will likely look identical to what you see here, inside and out. The only major difference being the 21-inch wheels on the prototype will probably be changed from complex three-tone pieces to two-tone units and the matte paint job likely won’t make production. Acura said its focus was to elevate the new MDX in terms of both luxury and sportiness, and the result is a car that’s longer, lower, and wider than the car it replaces and steeped in more athletic mindset.

The front of the car is familiar but features new LED headlights, while the rear gets new “chicane” taillights that are reminiscent of the units on the new TLX sedan. Underneath the sleek new sheet metal rests an all new platform, and for the first time in an MDX, there’s a double A-arm suspension setup in the front and a multi-link setup in the rear.  That’s partly to help the standard MDX double-down on performance, and partly to prepare the chassis for the forthcoming, sportier MDX Type S model that will make its debut sometime in the summer of 2021.

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Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, Super Luxury

As you might expect from an Acura by now, the MDX Prototype features the brand’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which includes side-to-side torque vectoring on the rear axle. The system is now in its fourth generation, and should continue to add some agility to Acura SUV by helping it claw out of corners and tackle low-traction surfaces. Less expected is the MDX Prototype’s inclusion of Brembo four-piston brakes—sure, they’re hot stuff for a family hauler, but we actually expect something similar to this system to appear on the spicier MDX Type S.

Power for the MDX Prototype comes from Acura’s familiar 3.5-liter V-6, which is connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The eventual MDX Type S will feature the same 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that’s been announced for the TLX Type S. Mum’s the word on how much power the base powertrain will make, but we know the Type S’ engine produces an estimated 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque.

If the outside of Acura’s MDX study is all about performance, the inside is about luxury first. There is high-grade Milano leather on all major surfaces and the seats with deviating stitching, gradient perforation, and contrasting piping throughout. Surfaces not coated in leather will feature open-pore wood or polished aluminum. Acura is serious about becoming a more premium brand, and this cabin is expected to go a long way toward furthering that cause.

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Stuffed into this leather- and wood-lined space are plenty of displays. Two 12.3-inch screens dominate the front of the cabin. The one in front of the driver will debut Acura’s Precision Cockpit, a fully customizable digital instrument cluster that replaces traditional physical gauges and dials. The one above the center console will host a slightly changed version of the Acura infotainment that’s in the current RDX. The system is still controlled by a touchpad, so it takes some getting used to, but at least the processor behind the system is more powerful than ever before.

The MDX Prototype is full of other luxury features, too. The seats are adjustable up to 16 different ways, the cabin can come with LED lighting with 27 different schemes, and a 25-speaker, 1000-watt ELS 3D Audio system will be available on the next MDX. Acura will also offer an ultra-wide panoramic moonroof as well as a suite of safety features that includes features like road departure mitigation and traffic jam assist. Again, all of these details and specs are assumed to describe the production 2022 Acura MDX when it arrives.

More detailed information—such as the power outputs of the two engines; interior volume and cargo space; a potential hybrid variant; and, of course, how much all of it will cost—will be made available closer to the actual car’s unveil. But, for now, we finally know what the next MDX is going to look like and how it’s aiming to up Acura’s game across the board.

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