A Week With the Complicated 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance

Acura has grown to be a quite successful luxury brand of the Honda Motor Company and I was enthused when the company reached out and offered me a 2022 MDX SH-AWD Advance to drive for a week. Their naming scheme is somewhat opaque, however, so it wasn’t until I looked up the model that I realized it was an SUV, not a sedan. Not to worry, I drive a compact SUV of my own and am quite familiar with this most popular of all non-truck vehicle designs in the American car market. What made it even better was that the MDX came immediately after the RAM 1500 Big Horn luxury pickup truck [ please check out my review ]. Indeed, the two are priced almost exactly the same, even though they’re quite different.

The MDX is categorized as a premium mid-size 3-row SUV, and that third row might surprise you because at first glance it doesn’t look big enough to include that extra seating. You’ll see what I mean. Meanwhile, the weather was typical of Colorado springtime, which meant I had a chance to drive it in snow, cold, rain, and sun. The Acura MDX is a very nice luxury SUV with all the amenities you could want and plenty more. It’s also quite attractive from the exterior with its black exterior:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - front exterior

We don’t get the salt and chemicals on our roads, but melting snow can still get dirty, which translates into all of our vehicles getting pretty filthy too, as you can see in the photo. The MDX has that great Acura sunburst front grill and clean, straight lines overall, with its 20-inch alloy wheels. The rear exterior offers another view of this uncomplicated design:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - exterior rear

At a certain point, all of the many, many mid-size SUVs blend together into a blur, as is obvious if you walk thru any modern shopping center parking lot. Much of that comes from the sheer utility of this form-factor, so this could almost be a Chevy Traverse, Mazda CX-9, a Kia Seltos, or, no surprise, a Honda Pilot.

Things become more interesting when you get into the car, with its trademark Acura interior design:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - dashboard

What really struck me with the MDX SH-AWD is just how many buttons are present, just about everywhere you look. Indeed, one of the first things you’ll think when you get into this vehicle is “man, it’s complicated!” and there were features I couldn’t figure out how to adjust at all, either through the infotainment controls or through one of the buttons or switches on the dash. Even the steering wheel controls aren’t just a set of buttons, but a complicated interface with a variety of different user input variations:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - steering wheel controls

One of these buttons controls the preferred distance from the car in front when you’re in adaptive cruise control. Can you figure out which? That was also one of those settings I couldn’t figure out how to change: Every time I started the car the spacing defaulted to maximum distance, even after I reset it to my preferred closer spacing. There’s another button that can enable or disable the Lane Keeping Assist System (which helps the car stay centered in the lane) but how often do you change that setting?

Acura also utilizes a touchpad navigational system called the True Touchpad System for its infotainment system similar to that in the BMW, but with more controls and more control regions. You can see it in the well-appointed center area:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - center detail interior

It took a while for me to realize that the large left touchpad controlled the left 2/3 of the infotainment screen, while the narrow touchpad controlled the right, independent screen. In the below, the large left screen is running wireless Apple CarPlay, while the independent right screen is running the Acura entertainment system and showing the current audiobook I’m listening to on the terrific 16-speaker premium audio system:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - infotainment system wireless carplay

Go back to the controls and, again, notice the cognitive complexity of the interface. There’s a touchpad, buttons, a knob, and a toggle switch, all of which you’re supposed to master and be able to use without looking. Then again, there are redundant controls for many of these features (other than the True Touchpad) on the steering wheel too.

THE MDX DRIVE EXPERIENCE

Okay, so let’s switch to the drive experience because the MDX is a really fun drive with its 290hp 3.5L V6 engine powered by a 10-speed automatic and paddle shifters! It has various drive modes too, including a “Snow” mode that I had a chance to test out with that snow. I preferred the additional pep of Sport mode, however! Each mode changes the main gauge display and the interior trim lighting, with sport being in “redline red”:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - main gauge in sport mode

This is, of course, a doctored photo because I’d never drive over the speed limit in a vehicle that has a big, powerful engine, right? Uh, “keeping up with the traffic, officer” might be more honest. Either way, at this speed it definitely felt like there was plenty of headroom; I’m sure the MDX can easily hit 100mph and beyond. On a track, of course.

Three rows of seats. Perfect for a big family, right? And with the third row folded down, it’s a nice rear cargo compartment:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - interior from rear

The problem is that it’s a mid-size, so everything’s had an inch shaved off here and there, as is obvious with the less than optimal legroom for the second-row passengers:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - rear legroom

I am a tall driver at 6′ 2″ but not excessively so. Certainly, if you were in the rear seat for a long drive, you’ll need to figure out how to stretch out your legs. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the premium price tag on this 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance. For younger passengers, this might be just fine and the driver and front passenger can always slide their seats up further to improve the legroom situation.

What those younger passengers will love is the rear console with its fantastic array of plugs and ports:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - rear controls and plugs

Lots of climate controls, power outlets, and two USB-A ports for charging cellphones and tablets.

The only other thing I want to share is the great heads-up display that’s part of the Advance package. It’s bright, crisp, and one of the best I’ve seen on any vehicle:

2022 acura mdx sh-awd advance - heads up display

The first day driving the Acura MDX had me pulling to the side more than once trying to figure out controls and settings, but once I started to get familiar with the interface, the driving experience became better and better. This is a complicated interface that will reward people who study it and read the manual, but where the MDX really shines is the drive experience itself. It’s fast, nimble, and very fun, surprisingly so for a mid-size SUV. If you’re looking for that luxury SUV experience and have either younger passengers or just a zeal for lots of cargo capacity, the 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance might just be the car for you.

2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance with 290hp 3.5L VTEC V6 Engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, and paddle shifters. All options are included in this configuration, producing an MSRP of $62,175.00.

Disclosure: Acura loaned me this vehicle for a week in return for this write-up. Thanks, Acura!

dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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