Stick Shift: 2018 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Photo via: Acura

The MDX has a long, fruitful history with Acura, and it’s only growing stronger with time. Today, it’s Acura’s flagship crossover, in addition to being its only third-row option. You’ll find seating in the way back to be plenty tight though. The Sport Hybrid model is the finish I enjoyed a week in, and would be my pick considering the AWD system with torque vectoring and powerful hybrid powertrain that it comes standard with.

This powertrain consists of a 3.0-liter V6, paired to an electric motor derived hybrid system that churns out 321 hp. Much of the technology for this system was developed for the NSX supercar, though watered down considerably for the MDX. Good thing too as few could afford for it not to be. Backed by a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the whole hybrid package delivers quick acceleration and 26/27 mpg. 

The biggest strength of the new MDX is how it handles the curves with such surprising poise. In a very wise move, Acura has placed the powertrain dead center of the underbody, effectively lowering the center of gravity in the MDX to reduce body roll and improve handling. The result is incredibly noticeable. The chassis feels responsive and steering is very well balanced. When driven hard, the MDX never got sloppy, but maintained its calm, confident demeanor. 

Inside the leather wrapped interior, you’ll find cabin noise is minimal, with little to no wind noise, even at speeds above 70 mph. Acura redesigned the MDX’s dual-screen interface for 2018, adding extra menus and commands. Touch response time is faster from years past and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now come standard. For its many improvements, the infotainment system ultimately still feels a tad too complicated to navigate around in. 

Photo via: Acura

Seats are comfortable and supportive, leather quality is wonderful and the many trim materials look great, but overall interior space feels a little limited. Especially from the third row back. From a design perspective, the aesthetic felt a little uninspired as well compared to some of the competition. Another element that found its way under my skin was the push button shifter. I understand this to be a matter of personal opinion, but I’ll always prefer the more traditional feel of a shift knob. 

The newest MDX proves to be an excellent luxury crossover option, setting itself apart from the rest of the heavily populated pack in many ways that count. The add-on options can get pricey though, inflating the MDXs’ price tag to the third priciest vehicle in the entire Acura line-up. Only beaten by the flagship RLX sedan and psychopathic NSX of course. However, by delivering a strong, fuel efficient V6, a capable handling AWD system, third-row seating and bold exterior styling, plus that famous Honda reliability, you begin to see the obvious appeal.

By: Brandon Randall

Price as tested: $59,145.00


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