2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Review: Nailing Performance, Trailing in Luxury – The Drive

Posted: Thursday, August 24, 2017

Things get even more trick out back. A pair of compact, clutched electric motors sends up to 72 horsepower to either or both rear wheels—the Twin Motor Unit that powers front wheels in the $156,000 NSX. Yes, it’s the latest evolution of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. Hyperbolic name aside, it really does work. And compared with the mechanical torque vectoring on the RLX Hybrid—which can only split power between rear wheels during cornering—the MDXs’ electric motors can generate torque at either wheel in any driving situation, based on wheel slip, g-force and other sensor feedback. The system, Acura says, delivers sharper turn-in, less plodding understeer, and a boost in lateral grip and stability. Throw in adaptive, driver-adjustable dampers, and the MDX feels sharp where its Japanese hybrid rivals—the Lexus RX450h and Infiniti QX60 Hybrid—feel soggy. 

On the challenging, serpentine Merritt Parkway, the MDX easily kept pace with Preston’s buzzing Miata, charging through the Merritt’s tricky nighttime curves with real pace and confidence. Steering is precise and smoothly weighted, though as in most family-sized SUVs, there’s not a ton of feedback. The Acura is also adept at shutting down its engine when it’s not needed, whether coasting at highway speeds or around town using its stop/start system. Light throttle keeps the hybrid soundtrack in Muzak territory, but things get a bit more metallic when you summon all 321 horsepower. To its credit, the V-6 sails to a nearly 7,000-rpm redline, but at that point the electric-aided powertrain sounds like a dozen Waring blenders, all set to frappe.

Acura MDX Sport Hybrid: Solid performance, so-so mileage

Among four selectable driving modes, Sport Plus adds a notable burst of electric oomph. With all systems go, the MDX can zip from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Yet like so many hybrid systems that purport to lift both performance and fuel economy, you can’t have your high-speed cake and eat it, too. Babying the Acura’s accelerator en route to Hartford, I managed to keep highway mileage at 29 mpg for the first hour— solid mileage for a six- or seven-passenger SUV. But when I got bored and decided to keep up with traffic and spur those electrified rear wheels to life, the Acura’s mileage plunged. I ended up seeing 23 mpg on both legs of the roughly 120-mile trip, no better than what I’ve managed in an Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, or other conventional three-row hauler. City and suburban mileage were also disappointing; the Acura hovered around 21 mpg, well below its official 26-mpg rating.


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