Hybrid Inspiration

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

The newest Acura NSX will stop and make you think about supercars.

It is a showcase of hybrid propulsion technology and execution. Combining a V6 engine with an electric motor, a nine-speed dual clutch transmission, and all-wheel drive, the NSX offers a wall of power – total net horsepower is 573. That puts it on the doorstep of some of the greatest machines ever engineered. In-house testing yielded a 2.7 second 0-60 MPH sprint and a top track speed of 191 MPH.

And, yet, I have only been in it once. Never driven one. Getting and out is tricky, but once you're in…it's pretty comfortable.

However, the NSX costs $156,000. It only seats two. And, rearward vision is a bit limited. Nice car, though.

What if you wanted a new NSX and do not have $156,000? Not even $100,000? OK, how about under $60,000?

Would you believe you can get the same hybrid technology and innovations as the newest NSX is a three-row mid-sized premium SUV?

2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD

This is what the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is all about – bringing the leading edge of the NSX's driveline technology down to a practical application. Instead of sustainable thrills, you can get sustainable luxury for a family of six-to-seven people.

In the case of the Advance package tester I have, there are six seats over three rows. Slathered with perforated leather, the contrast piping is indeed inviting, along with wood trimmings over storage areas in the front and second rows. You can say you get a fine quotient of the luxury inside of the MDX Sport Hybrid.

Having driven a couple of MDXs prior to the mid-cycle update, the cabin is very familiar and actually made of a higher quality that is good to the touch. The big knob handles the function of the dual screens in the center stack – the lower one is a touch screen that operates most functions. The instrument binnacle offers straightforward readouts between two sizeable dials, a couple of additional gauges and a TFT center screen. Every switch and control is solid to the touch. This is what I expect in today's Acura vehicles.

2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD

By going with the Sport Hybrid does not mean you skimp on being entertained. My tester came with a 12-speaker ELS audio system that produced fine sound throughout the cabin. You do get plenty of audio options, including HD Radio, SiriusXM, and iPod audio integration. The navigation system also includes HD traffic information.

The front seats are big, comfortable and supportive. They're certainly great for excursions of any distance. The second-row captain's chairs were equally comfortable and can be reclined for more comfort towards a relaxed journey. Third-row seats are better utilized for children, but they will enjoy an equally comfortable experience.

As for space utilization, the third row folds flat to the rear cargo hold. With the second-row captain's chairs in this Advanced SH-AWD model, I had 38.4 cubic feet of space to work with. With the third row up, that would reduce my space to 14.9 cubic feet. Fold all seats down, and I have a maximum capacity of 68.4 cubic feet.

Which brings me to my first test with the MDX Sport Hybrid: The recycling of six-foot fluorescent tubes. To do the four-mile trek to the recycling center, I folded down the third row to make sure I have space for the four tubes. They rolled around but never broke. This is a simple test, but it takes nerve and a solid suspension system to accomplish without breaking one tube. Plus, would you rather do your electronics recycling is a luxury hybrid SUV?

2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD

As to the Sport Hybrid system, it is almost the same theory without the high-performance componentry. The V6 is just 3.0 liters, good for only 257 horsepower. Add three electric motors to the mix, and the net horsepower rating is at 321. For those counting, there s one electric motor up front, with other two in the rear. This is also an all-wheel-drive system, facilitated by a motor-integrated 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

Let's get this out of the way – this is not an NSX. Yet, the MDX Sport Hybrid does a good job carrying 4,257 pounds on its back. Not to mention, the 7.3-inch ground clearance that encourages you to do more away from the highway, while providing a comfortable ride and superb vision outward onto the road.

The important piece one wants to know about driving a luxury sustainable SUV is how well it can sip fuel. In my care, I averaged 27.9MPG – which is very good for a midsized, three-row SUV!

There is one thing that I loved about the MDX – its ride quality. It feels big, rather "large and in charge." Yet, it is very maneuverable and handles extremely well – defying its 7.3-inch ground clearance. The steering is quite good with decent on-road feel and response. The brakes are superb – even for a hybrid. Pedal response is great and offered good stops in normal and panic situations.

2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD

Finally, one thing should be addressed head on – the mid-cycle refresh. When we saw the new face of Acura on a concept a couple of years ago, we were stunned. We thought that it was a superb execution of a new design direction for a brand that needed one. As soon as it was applied to a production vehicle – the critics were mixed on the new face's execution on the MDX and subsequent models it has (or will) be affixed onto.

My take? I like it. Combined with the "Jewel-Eye" LED lighting technology, the diamond-shaped grille and starburst design inside of it absolutely works! I like the new face of Acura – this coming from a former owner of the brand. It works better than the "shield" look and gives both Acura and the MDX character and personality. The MDX is more recognizable as a premium three-row SUV with the new face of the brand – a huge change from years past!

For an MDX Sport Hybrid, pricing starts at $51,960. It comes with the standard all-wheel drive. MY tester with the Advance Package came with a sticker price of $58,975. If you wish not to have the Lithium-Ion batteries and the three electric motors and just want a 3.5-liter V6 and its nine-speed automatic transmission, then pricing for the standard issue MDX will start at $44,050. Therefore, a similarly equipped non-hybrid MDX will set you back $57,475.

This actually makes the MDX Sport Hybrid one of the better upgrades you can make on Acura's popular SUV. Think about: for $1,500 more, you can lessen the number of fluorocarbons in the air and get 5-7 MPG more on average than the usual 3.5-liter V6.

2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD

And, why would you pass up on the MDX Sport Hybrid? Actually, you shouldn't. That $1,500 premium is more of a necessity than you think. Consider that its non-hybrid premium rivals average about 21-23 MPG. Also, consider that for these same brands to offer an electric motor and a battery pack, they would have to have a plug-in port. Not that's a bad thing, but if you want the battery pack to regenerate from the brakes without the complication of plugging in and prioritizing the electric system before going full hybrid, the MDX Sport Hybrid will do very nicely.

More so, the MDX Sport Hybrid is the Acura I've wanted to experience. How close can you get to an NSX without having to compromise your height getting into one? Again, this is not an NSX, but with its system and its relationship to the technology driving it, it is as good as it gets. Not to mention, it's quite a good SUV to boot.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle supplied by American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

All photos by Randy Stern

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