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For 2017, Acura's MDX crossover gets a style update

The MDX, Acura's three-row crossover SUV, has not undergone a full-fledged redesign for 2017, but it has been significantly refreshed - and will be joined in the spring by a hybrid model.

The MDX, Acura's three-row crossover SUV, has not undergone a full-fledged redesign for 2017, but it has been significantly refreshed - and will be joined in the spring by a hybrid model.

The new MDX features a fresh pentagon grille, which was first seen earlier this year on an Acura concept car called the Precision - which is a rather redundant moniker for an Acura, since the brand's name is derived from the morpheme acu, which means precise. Also restyled were the hood, headlights, fog lights, rocker panels, and rear bumper.

The usual cosmetic suspects were joined by substantive changes. All MDX models get an extensive array of safety electronics as standard equipment. These include lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning, emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

High-end models like the one I tested, which had all-wheel-drive as well as the Advance and Entertainment Packages, are loaded with additional luxury gear ranging from premium leather and wood trim to a DVD rear entertainment system with a 16-inch screen and wireless headsets.

The gas model I spent a week with was fitted with a 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V-6 and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive hybrid model will utilize three electric motors, a 3-liter V-6, and a seven-speed gearbox. One of the electric motors powers the front wheels, while the other two spin the rear ones. The motors and the gas engine combine for a total of 325 horses.

In addition to furnishing an additional 35 horsepower, the hybrid will afford better gas mileage. The tester had EPA mileage estimates of 19 city and 26 highway, which isn't horrible for a 4,215-pound, AWD vehicle. But Acura expects the hybrid to get 25 in the city, while the highway number remains at 26.

The new MDX turns out to be a satisfying luxury crossover on several levels. It is handsomely styled, quiet, comfortable, and endowed with good handling and engine performance.

The tester's interior was particularly pleasant. The design was lean and graceful, the materials and workmanship were right on the money, and the instruments and controls were intuitively placed. Seat comfort and visibility were also pluses.

Indeed, it's hard to fault the comfort level in this car. The tester's luxury litany ranged from heated, ventilated, 10-way power front seats to heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel.

The only exception to the high comfort quotient is the third row of seats. As in most crossovers, the MDX's third row is a cramped affair most suited to the kindergarten crowd.

The MDX seats seven when fitted with the standard three-place second-row bench, and six when the optional captain's chairs are substituted.

In action, the MDX has something of a multiple personality. The engine is a hushed, civil actor under normal driving conditions. But if you jump on it at a stoplight, you get a markedly throatier, more aggressive engine note that I enjoyed.

While it isn't a sports car, the MDX has enough power to make it a reasonably lively performer, and suspension tuning that negotiates a nice compromise between ride comfort and composure in the corners.

The MDX starts at $43,950 in its base, front-drive form. The top-of-the-line AWD model I drove had a base price of $58,400, including the Advance and Entertainment Packages.

This Acura has the top, five-star government safety rating.

The MDX is assembled at the automaker's Lincoln, Ala., plant, where it is fitted with an engine and transmission built in this country.