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Among luxury crossovers, the Acura MDX is a standout in nearly every possible way—and it stands as quite a counterpoint to the brand’s sedans, which can’t seem to get proper traction in the market.

While this model is already one of the best-driving models in its class, the 2017 Acura MDX has been given ride and handling improvements, more standard active-safety features, and a new Sport Hybrid variant that promises both better performance and higher fuel economy numbers.

The 2017 MDX has styling improvements, too. The beak-like front end is now mostly in Acura’s past, as the MDX gets a version of the diamond pentagon grille the brand previewed in its Acura Precision Concept from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. In addition to that, it gets newly sculpted front fenders, a new hood, and LED fog lamps with restyled jewel-eye headlamps. Chrome rocker panels, some additional lower-body trim, and a twin-tailpipe design in back help keep the look sporty.

Inside, the front-end theme is echoed by the dash, with its V-shaped center stack and sloping, tiered design. The dash design complements the rest of the cabin, and the materials used for interior trim are nicely coordinated.

Although Acura just updated the MDX last year with a new nine-speed automatic transmission and other fresh features, this year it’s even more substantial.

New to the lineup for 2017 is the MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. Much like the RLX Sport Hybrid sedan, the MDX Sport Hybrid packs a 3.0-liter V-6 with a special 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and a three-motor hybrid system (one motor at the transmission, two for the rear wheels. This system makes 325 hp altogether, and delivers smart all-wheel-drive performance and improved acceleration and handling, plus EPA ratings of 25 mpg city, 26 highway.

The rest of the MDX models are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6, with standard front-wheel drive, or available all-wheel drive. This direct-injection engine makes 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 267 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. It’s a smooth, refined engine, with plenty of power whether moving from a standstill or needing to pull off a pass on a two-lane road. However the 9-speed automatic transmission that was introduced last year lacks the refinement and seamless shifts of the previous transmission, even though it did improve acceleration.

The all-wheel drive system in the MDX is unique in its class: it's a mechanical torque vectoring system, which can move power front-to-back, and side-to-side. It may not sound significant, but it's one of the few systems on the market and it greatly improves drivability and capability in the MDX.

There are two different packages offered for the 2017 Acura MDX. Both come with a new Active Sport Suspension system that Acura says will improve the MDX’s ride and handling. It’s now made part of the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), offering Comfort, Normal, and Sport settings, as well as a Sport+ performance mode. The Sport setting quickens steering response, while the Comfort settings results in lighter steering feel. On all-wheel-drive models, the system more aggressively distributes power to the outside wheels in a curve.

The 2017 Acura MDX remains among the roomiest three-row family utilities. Yet our high ratings also come from an abundance of features, an excellent ride, and comprehensive safety ratings. Its interior is also surprisingly quiet and refined.

The big crossover SUV can seat up to seven passengers, and it's positively stuffed with convenience features that make it easy for everyday transportation of large families and a lot of their belongings. The cabin is highly functional and one of the roomiest three-row crossovers in its class. The front seats are supportive yet plush, while low side bolsters make getting in and out easier. The driver's seat on MDX models slides rearward whenever the door is opened, making getting in and out easier.

The MDX Advance can be had with two second-row captain’s chairs. As for models with the bench seats, the second row slides fore and aft 6 inches, giving back-seat passengers more legroom, or providing more space for third-row passenger or cargo. A small Illuminated button beside the second-row outboard seats is provided to aid third-row access: Pressing an illuminated button enables a neat, cleverly designed semi-powered spring-loaded process.

Getting into the third row is still difficult, however, best left for the young. Once back there, the high floor level makes it uncomfortable for all but children who don't seem to notice discomfort.

The MDX has been an especially strong performer for safety, and that holds true whether you place more emphasis on the crash-test ratings themselves or potentially accident-avoiding active-safety features. Last year’s model earned top ratings from the IIHS, including the Top Safety Pick+ accolade, as well as five-star scores from the federal government in overall, frontal and side impact; and it’s expected that those scores will carry over. Additionally for 2017 the MDX now gets the AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver-assist systems as standard across the model line. That includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, road departure mitigation, and an adaptive cruise-control system with low-speed follow. Rearview and surround-view cameras are also included.

The Acura MDX lineup already includes a wealth of features, and that set has been again expanded this year. For 2017, the MDX automatic high-beam headlamps and upgraded satellite radio, and it comes standard with tri-zone automatic climate control, four fast-charging USB ports, and a leather-trimmed interior with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

An audio system with eight speakers is standard, with 10- and 12-speaker systems part of the Advance or Technology packages. Both of those models get LED fog lamps, a heated steering wheel, and a surround-view camera system with multiple views, plus Olive Ash or Black Limba woodgrain cabin trim.

The 2017 Acura MDX lineup starts reaching dealerships later this year.
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