2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Road Test Review

August 16 2019, North Shore Acura

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Road Test Review

A quicker and more efficient family favourite

Not every hybrid model sells well, but the new 2017 MDX Sport Hybrid will likely be a winner. After all, Acura Canada sold 5,425 normally aspirated MDX models last year and the brand's U.S. division purveyed 55,495. Even better, as of Q2 2017 the Canadian numbers were showing positive growth at 2,659 units compared to 2,446 this time last year, this no doubt due to a mid-cycle upgrade for 2017 that adds a new more dramatic front grille and classier lower fascia plus some upgrades inside. That's a whole lot of momentum and significant volume to build a hybrid upon.

Another positive in the MDX Sport Hybrid's favour is reliability, with Acura having had plenty of time to make the components used in this sophisticated power unit dependable in the now well-proven RLX Sport Hybrid luxury sedan. To be clear, Acura has chosen to separate the two vehicles by more than just body styles, with the flagship four-door luxury sedan's V6 displacing the automaker's usual 3.5 litres instead of the new fuel-friendly 3.0-litre unit used for this more family-oriented flagship SUV.

Advanced hybrid technology to maximize performance and efficiency

The MDX version still uses Acura's three-motor Sport Hybrid powertrain with electric torque vectoring, so the basics of the system are intact and comprised of an internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front wheels in concert with an electric assist motor. The MDX defaults to this most fuel-efficient mode more often than not, but if increased throttle input, hard charging through a corner, or driving on slippery surfaces causes the need for rear wheel engagement, an electrified version of Acura's torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) provides traction from all four standard 245/50R20 all-season tires via two rear wheel-mounted electric motors.

Unusual yet welcome for an SUV that promotes its sporting capabilities is the same seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission used in the RLX Sport Hybrid (instead of the continuously variable type of transmission utilized by most competitive hybrid systems) that provides quick shifts via engaging steering wheel paddles, while Acura's unique pushbutton gear selector features a responsive "DYNAMIC" button with Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ modes, making it even more entertaining to drive than a number of its competitors from more traditional European brands.

Combined ICE and lithium-ion battery/electric motor output is 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque, which might not make it as potent as the RLX Sport Hybrid's 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque, but it's considerably more entertaining than the conventionally powered MDX that makes do with 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque.

Hybrid technology shared with mighty NSX supercar

Of note, the fabulous NSX Sport Hybrid uses a similar system to the MDX and RLX Sport Hybrids, albeit completely reversed due to its mid-engine sports car layout. Of course, the NSX' 573 net horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque puts it into the league of Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche hybrids, but much of the tech trickles down to this MDX Sport Hybrid.

The 1,725-kg 2017 NSX launches to 100 km/h in just 3.3 seconds and tops out at 307 km/h, whereas the MDX Sport Hybrid probably shaves a couple of tenths off the regular MDX' 7.2-second sprint to 100 km/h for a sub-7.0-second run, which certainly makes for a sporty and particularly efficient family hauler.

Good news is the Sport Hybrid drivetrain doesn't add too much mass over its ICE-only sibling with a curb weight of only 2,074 kilos compared to the regular MDX Elite's 1,950 kilograms, or 124 kg more, while its exterior dimensions are identical and interior almost as spacious.

Just as spacious and roomy as the conventionally powered MDX

Yes, the MDX Sport Hybrid has nearly the same passenger volume of 3,721 litres compared to the conventional MDX' 3,758 litres, the difference an infinitesimal 37 litres, whereas all-important cargo capacity remains exactly the same at 447 litres behind the third row, 1,230 litres behind the second row, and 2,575 litres when the two rear rows are folded flat, making it the largest and most accommodating new hybrid SUV on the planet.

And what about the MDX Sport Hybrid's efficiency? Acura Canada claims a five-cycle rating of 9.1 L/100km city, 9.0 highway, and 9.0 combined compared to the regular MDX Elite's 12.2 city, 9.0 highway, and 10.7 combined rating, which boasts an advanced nine-speed automatic, or 12.6, 9.0, and 11.0 respectively for the same SUV without auto idle start/stop. Getting such a large, luxurious, and powerful seven-passenger AWD-equipped SUV below the 10.0 L/100km threshold is impressive, but 9.1 in the city is excellent.

Along with all the efficiency the new MDX Sport Hybrid is also well equipped for its very reasonable $69,990 MSRP, with Acura bundling in almost everything that comes standard with its conventionally powered top-line 2017 MDX Elite except for its uniquely styled alloy wheels (also measuring 20 inches), amplitude reactive dampers (it gets a standard active damper system), and trailer stability assist, although the Sport Hybrid adds metal pedals for added style, plus of course all the electrically motivated power and improved economy mentioned earlier.

Unusual for hybrids, the minimal price premium for going electric is the best news of all. Being that the 2017 MDX Elite is already competitively priced at $65,990, you'll only be paying a $4,000 premium for all the Sport Hybrid's go-fast, extra-efficient electrified goodness, which is unheard of reasonable.

A shockingly long list of premium standard features

You'll be hard pressed to find any hybrid competitor with as much performance, quality, refinement, size, or as many standard features for anywhere near the price. I'll go into detail with the equipment just so you get an idea of all that comes standard, the list including everything already mentioned as well as wiper-linked auto on/off full-LED headlamps with auto high beams, auto-leveling and washers, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, power-folding, auto-dimming, heatable and remote-powered side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down, and integrated turn signals, remote start, perimeter/approach puddle lights, proximity access for all four doors, acoustic glass, a heated windshield, rain-sensing wipers, plus metallic or pearl paints, and that's just outside.

Pushbutton ignition gets things going once inside, while additional interior kit includes genuine Black Limba or Olive Ash Burl hardwood inlays, a heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, Milano perforated leather upholstery with seat accent piping and contrast stitching in either Ebony black or Saddle Brown, 10-way powered heatable and ventilated front seats with two-way powered lumbar, two-position driver's memory, an electromechanical parking brake, a power-adjustable steering column, a HomeLink garage door opener, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, a colour TFT multi-info display, GPS-linked tri-zone automatic climate control with humidity control air-filtration and a sun position detection system, 8.0-inch infotainment with navigation, voice recognition, hard-drive media storage, AcuraLink phone connectivity, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 360-degree surround parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, SMS text message and email reading/responding capability, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Siri Eyes Free, 546-watt 12-speaker ELS surround audio with Dolby Pro Logic II, satellite radio, rear DVD entertainment with an "Ultrawide" 16.2-inch display, a remote, two wireless headphones, and an HDMI input jack, four USB charge points, a household-style 115-volt AC power outlet, heatable rear outboard seats, a powered moonroof, rear side sunshades, active noise/sound control, powered liftgate, blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and more.

A Top Safety Pick Plus rating is standard

The most impressive "more" part of this equation is AcuraWatch, a suite of auto-sensing and driver-assist technologies that includes road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, and collision mitigation braking with pedestrian detection, all of which help the MDX earn the IIHS' best possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating for its fourth year running, while it also gets an NHTSA five-star crash test rating.

The MDX Sport Hybrid compares well to the best in its class when it comes to materials quality, fit and finish, overall refinement and quietness, roominess and comfort even in its third row, and the list goes on. Truly, the new 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is a superb seven-passenger SUV that offers excellent value, great performance, impressive fuel economy, and plenty of style. Put it on top of your shopping list.