Acura now has a big MDX hybrid sport-utility/crossover and it’s fast.
How fast? It bests a conventional (non-hybrid) Acura MDX, as well as Toyota’s Highlander hybrid. Here’s why: it has hybrid components similar to those in the NSX supercar.
That despite the fact that the MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD — OMG, what a mouthful! — is a hefty 2,074 kg, or 150 kg more than a standard MDX with the Navi package.
That’s 330 pounds of extra heft, folks. Those big, fat guys who play offensive line in pro football weigh 330 pounds. Lotta suet there squishing out of those skin-tight uniforms. Eek!
Yet because the MDX hybrid is blessed with important bits and pieces from the NSX, 0-100 km/hour arrives in less than six seconds. Fast.
Volvo’s XC90 T8 plug-in crossover is a bit quicker off the line and so is Porsche’s Cayenne hybrid. But both cost more, too.
Infiniti also offers a QX60 hybrid for MDX hybrid coin. But it’s not in this speedy league at all. Moreover, the Infiniti’s design looks like something from the 1959 Motorama. It belongs parked next to a Cadillac Cyclone dream car from the ‘50s.
Ah, but thanks to a tidy little 2017 facelift, the latest version of the MDX is at least inoffensive. This is more than I could say about certain past versions of the MDX. If you can look past the slapped-on, utterly unimaginative trapezoidal grille, the MDX is quite okay. But honestly, who penned that horror of a grille? Fire him. Or her.
The engineers, however, deserve a raise. Other than the numb steering, the MDX hybrid is a grand engineering achievement. It is not only quick off the line, but 25 per cent more fuel efficient than the gas-only MDX.
A suite of electric motors and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox are central to this story. You get a 47-hp electric motor/generator integrated with the transaxle. It cranks the 3.0-litre V-6 (257 hp), gives the gas motor a boost and charges the little lithium ion battery beneath the front seats.
Then we have a 72-hp Twin Motor Unit between the rear wheels. This piece is taken straight out of the NSX, though in the supercar it’s located between the front wheels.
In the MDX, the two electric motors do all sorts of interesting things. On soft launches, the gas engine rests while one electric motor at each wheel gets things moving.
This setup also acts like a smart differential, with the outside rear wheel doing most of the work during cornering, while the inside one charges the battery pack under the floor where you’ll also find the brains of the thing — the control unit. So clever!
What we have here, then, is a four-wheel-drive SUV with no driveshaft, gobs of power delivered in all the right places at all the proper times. Moreover, this MDX has essentially the same cabin and cargo room as any other three-row MDX.
Alas, the seats inside this rig are mediocre, the instrumentation is uninspired and the infotainment/navigation interface is just plain irritating. Honda and Acura really must find a way to give designers more say in the finished product. Suggestion: go to school on the Volvo XC90.
In the meantime, Acura has given the car business a lesson in high-performance SUV engineering.
2017 MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD
Engine/motor: 3.0-litre V-6 (257 hp/218 pound-feet of torque); three electric motors, including a front motor built into the 7-speed dual clutch transmission and a rear Twin Motor Unit.
Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.1 city/9.0 using premium fuel.
Comparables: Volvo XC90 T8 hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Infiniti QX60 hybrid.