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2022 Acura MDX gets a new look — and more reasons to look at it

The three-row Acura MDX SUV gets a long-awaited redesign for the 2022 model year. Its strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.

The 2022 Acura MDX definitely sports a low profile among three-row SUVs. That has its plusses and minuses

The 2022 Acura MDX definitely sports a low profile among three-row SUVs. That has its plusses and minuses .Read moreAcura

2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance: Finally updated after all these years.

Price: $61,675 as tested.

Conventional wisdom: Motor Trend liked the “new 10-speed transmission paired with dulcet V-6; sharply tailored sheet metal; strong on standard features and value,” but not the “track pad-controlled infotainment system, joyless third row, inconsistent road manners.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Performance for every challenge.”

Reality: A redesign makes the MDX much better.

Correction: The section marked Friends and Stuff has been updated.

What’s new: The MDX, Acura’s top-of-the-line SUV, had been getting a little long in the tooth, not redesigned since 2014, though with plenty of updates now and again. But it’s definitely improved over the version I tested eight years ago.

It looks strikingly like a Mazda CX-9 now — it has that low station-wagon shape for an SUV that Mazda long ago perfected.

Up to speed: The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 290 horsepower, and it’s used in all trim lines save the Type S, which gets a new 3.0-liter turbo.

It’s all pretty sedate until you press the D/S for the real Sport mode. (There’s a Sport mode in the Dynamic Mode dial as well, but it doesn’t provide all the oomph you’re looking for.) That’s the mode you need to propel the three-row SUV to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, according to Motor Trend, but it feels much faster.

On the road: At first, the MDX handled like a three-row SUV. But try that D/S button one more time and let the fun begin.

Then the handling becomes unbridled joy, so nice that it almost makes you wonder why the Drive mode even exists. Do people really say, “I’m having too. Much. Fun. Let’s bore ourselves a bit”?

» READ MORE: Redesigned 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid offers bang for the buck

Shifty: The 10-speed transmission is controlled via the usual Acura-style buttons on the console — we’ve long since kissed the shift lever goodbye here. Still not a fan.

Paddle shifters allow drivers to pick their own gears as well, but 10 is a lot.

Either way, the shifting can be a little abrupt when coming to stops or on occasion when flooring it after a turn. But you pretty much have the acceleration of a three-row sports car in an SUV, so a bit of abruptness can be tolerated.

Driver’s Seat: The seat is definitely a comfy spot, with support and luxury in great combination, but it all feels a little businesslike. Lexus models provide a much more supple feel, although the gauges are not nearly as high tech. The seat itself seems more like a perch ready to toss you off rather than a place to sink in.

The mocha and ebony colors are pretty.

MDX debuts several new technologies including Precision Cockpit all-digital instrument display, Amazon Alexa Built-In, and Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Friends and stuff: Acura promotional materials lauded “more space for people and gear, MDX improves passenger space in all three rows and adds an innovative multifunction second-row with removable middle seat.”

But I immediately thought, “Oh, no, not the Sienna Naughty Chair again.” And, yes, it certainly is. The seat provides ergonomic equivalent of a temporary spare tire — keep the speeds low and don’t drive too far.

And while we never located a fore-and-aft adjustment, Honda later pointed out it is there. Space is not generous, but it is adjustable, so everyone should fit. We put Sturgis Kids 1.0 and 4.0, along with Son-In-Law 1.0, and it became crowded quickly. The rear seat is a little too small to be really comfortable, although it’s by no means barebones.

Space behind the third row is 16.3 cubic feet; behind the second row, 39.1; and 71.4 with everything folded.

» READ MORE: 2019 Acura RDX: Smooth and fun, with a touch of annoyance

Play some tunes: Acura decided to follow the other cool kids into the world of touch pad controls for stereos a few years back. Picture the screen — if it has two rows of four icons each, then you just need to select the touch pad in the area that matches the screen. Until you switch into CarPlay or Android Auto; then you just get to click around. So it’s almost there, but not quite yet.

A volume control and up-down arrows on the console allow for some other changes, but the functionality is too inconsistent across platforms to be a win.

Sound from the system is pretty good, about an A. The Acura system actually loses slightly to the system I’d tested in the Honda Accord the week before, which really uncovers lost parts of songs. And they’re both second to the Odyssey. Still, Honda is the audiophile’s choice.

Keeping warm and cool: Little silver touch levers control temperature, while buttons change fan speed and air source. It’s all pretty black and silver, but the buttons have no feel, and I could never just tap without first checking what I was doing.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 20 mpg in a more sedate than usual test, with highways and country roads mixed. It dropped quickly to 19 when I started pushing the MDX harder. Premium is recommended.

Where it’s built: East Liberty, Ohio.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the MDX a 4 out of 5 for reliability.

In the end: The MDX redesign gives it all the makings of a good luxury SUV.