Beauty, a bit of brawn: is the 2023 Acura MDX the top all-around premium-crossover value?

2022 Acura MDX A-Spec

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2023 Acura MDX different?

Access to a full model year of the high-performance Type S variant, but mainstream versions of the 2023 MDX won’t change. They’ll carry forward the all-new design that debuted for model-year 2022, a remake that gave Acura’s popular premium midsize crossover SUV a stylish new body and a greatly improved understructure.

The Type S joined the lineup late in the model year as the first MDX to wear the automaker’s performance badge. It’ll return for ’23, adding an extra degree of sportiness to a seven-passenger crossover already among the segment’s most rewarding to drive. The 2023 MDX should also remain among America’s top-selling midsize premium crossovers; it trailed only the Lexus RX through the first half of 2021.  

Part of that demand is fueled by pricing that undercuts top European rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5. But every ’23 MDX will also face renewed competition from similarly priced premium midsize crossovers like the recently introduced Genesis GV80, the all-new 2022 Infiniti QX80, the redesigned 2023 Volvo XC90, and the next-generation 2024 Lexus RX.

Should I wait for the 2023 MDX or buy a 2022?

2022 MDX Type S

Buy a ’22. The 2023 MDX won’t change in any way worth waiting for, although it’s almost certain to cost more. One caveat is availability of the Type S: if you’re interested, inventories of that model should be fuller for the ’23 model year, which could mean friendlier deals. You might also consider waiting so you can evaluate any ’23 MDX against the latest competition mentioned above.

Expect the 2023 MDX lineup to return mainstream models in four trim levels: Base, better-equipped Technology Package, sporty A-Spec, and loaded Advance. They’ll again have 290 horsepower, and the Base and Technology grades will continue with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The A-Spec and Advance, along with the 355-horsepower MDX Type S, will again come only with AWD.

This fourth generation MDX’s next notable update should come with a midcycle refresh slated for model-year 2025. That should tweak styling but won’t alter dimensions or basic engineering. It may, however, reintroduce an electrified powertrain to replace the gas-electric Sport Hybrid model discontinued with the close of the 2014-2021 third generation MDX. An alternative to its gas-only models would help the MDX compete with the growing number of conventional- and plug-in-hybrids in this class, and even with the pure-electrics taking aim at the Tesla Model X.        

Will 2023 Acura MDX styling be different?

2022 MDX Advance

There could be a new color choice or two, but the 2023 MDX will otherwise be a visual duplicate of the ’22. Acura accurately calls this fourth generation the “most emotionally styled MDX ever.” The ’23 will continue to deliver on that boast with a bold, upright face, an intricately sculpted grille and hood, and a wide, aggressive stance.

Trim-level differentiators should remain most obvious on the Advance, A-Spec, and Type S. All three will again have LED foglights, with the Advance getting roof rails and the A-Spec and Type S sharing some black exterior accents. The 2023 Type S will also retain its own grille insert (oddly, less dynamic-looking than the mainstream models’), larger front air intakes, red brake calipers, and quad instead of dual exhaust outlets. Wheel diameter and design will also be distinctive, the ’23 Base MDX returning with 19-inch alloys, the Type S with 21s, and others with 20s. Wheels will again be black on the A-Spec and Type S.

Inside, every ’23 MDX will remain efficiently packaged and imaginatively designed, conveying a sense of occasion that stands out even in this fashion-forward class. Expect the Advance to again come with genuine open-pore wood trim, the others with real brushed aluminum. The 2023 MDX Base model should return with leatherette upholstery, the others with perforated Milano leather; on the A-Spec and Type S, it’ll have Ultrasuede inserts. Those two will also reprise a flat-bottom sport steering wheel.

If not quite as opulent of those in rivals like the GV80, GLE, or Volvo XC90, cabin materials should remain rich and sporty overall. For model-year 2023, however, Acura would do well to skin the center console with soft-touch material. Its plain plastic top feels cheap and was already scratched on our low-mileage test car. The audio volume and tune controls it houses also look a class below. 

Every 2023 MDX will return with a 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument cluster supplemented on the Advance trim by a 10.5-inch head-up display. It projects onto the windshield key vehicle data, navigation instructions, and helpfully, blind-spot warnings.

2022 MDX A-Spec

All models will also continue with a 12.3-inch central infotainment screen. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will return as standard, as will wireless charging and Amazon Alexa Built-In, which can tap Alexa for such tasks as phone calls and smart-home device control. All but the Base model will return with imbedded navigation to provide real-time GPS mapping even in absence of a cell signal.

The MDX’s infotainment system should continue to respond quite well to voice commands, but primary control will again be via Acura’s True Touchpad Interface, which locates a roughly 2-inch-square pad on the center console.

The intent is to replicate a tap of your finger with a cursor in the corresponding location on the central dashboard screen. In practice, it demands a deft touch and despite some haptic feedback, you’ll find yourself glancing frequently between pad and screen to coordinate commands. It’s far less driver-friendly than a simple touchscreen or a turn-and-push controller. In that vein, some drivers may find the transmission gear-selection buttons a poor substitute for a conventional shift lever.

Standard again will be 12-way power front seats with three-way heating and three-position memory. Expect all but the Base and Technology Package version to again add ventilated front seats, with the Type S also offering massaging front buckets along with unique colors and trim. The 2023 MDX Advance should return 16-way front buckets with power-adjusting side bolsters and thigh extensions.

All MDXs will again have three rows of seats, with the second row again an unusual design. Its middle section can fold to create a wide center armrest or be removed to open a pass-through to the third row. Like the front seats, its outboard positions are roomy and accommodating (and heated with the Advance package). But the center section is uncomfortably hard and narrow. It’s heavy and cumbersome to remove and doing so eliminates any inboard arm support and exposes unsightly mounting hardware, a premium-class faux pas. Side-window sunshades, standard on all but the Base model, are a thoughtful perk, though.

2022 MDX second-row seat with middle section in place
2022 MDX second row with middle section folded
2022 MDX with second row middle section removed

The 2023 MDX’s third row will again suit kids but adults will remain pinched for headroom. There’s plenty of space for feet, but legroom is tight if the sliding second row is more than halfway back. And you’ll likely have to again move up to the Advance trim to get third-row USB charging ports.

 At 16.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 39.1 cubic feet with it folded, and 71.4 with both rear rows folded, cargo volume is competitive with any direct rival. A rear underfloor bin adds another two cubic feet of storage space. Many premium-midsize crossovers offer power folding third-row seats, a convenience that would benefit 2023 MDX buyers. And while a power liftgate should again be standard, offering hands-free operation on other than the Advance grade would be another model-year ’23 recommendation.

Any 2023 Acura MDX mechanical changes?

2022 MDX A-Spec

Nothing likely. The 2023 MDX will carry over with all but the Type S reprising a 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the key ingredient to acceleration). The ’23 MDX Type S will continue with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque.

Both engines will again link to a 10-speed automatic transmission. They’ll also employ Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System, which provides a dashboard knob to adjust powertrain, steering, and AWD response within Snow, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Individual modes. The ’23 MDX Type S will again add an additional Sport+ mode.

A majority of MDX buyers will continue to opt for AWD or choose a model on which it’s standard. Acura brands its system Super Handling All-wheel drive (SH-AWD). In normal driving, it sends 90 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels. During acceleration and cornering — or if the front tires slip — it can transfer up to 70 percent to the rear wheels, where it can also apportion torque side to side.

Horsepower and torque of the 3.5-liter engine will remain on par with the output of base engines in most of the 2023 MDX’s direct rivals. Acceleration won’t be a reason to buy. It’s more than adequate around town and for highway-speed merging and passing but doesn’t set the MDX apart in the competitive set. Working the standard paddle shifters does, however, trigger an above-average measure of manual-type gear control. Selecting Sport mode further enhances response.  

2022 MDX Type S

Even paddle-shifted and Sport+ set, the ’23 MDX Type S won’t run with full-on high-performance premium midsize crossovers like the $106,000 600-horsepower BMW X5 M or even the less than-full-bore $73,000 429-horse Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. But at around $68,000, it’ll be more attainable. And in every driving situation, expect stronger acceleration than the mainstream MDX can muster and, frankly, all the muscle a crossover driver can put to rational use.

Athletic road manners will again be a selling point for every 2023 MDX. The impressively rigid fourth-gen platform and adoption of a sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension pay dividends in rock-solid stability, outstanding steering precision, and fine grip and balance in changes of direction. That’s true especially with SH-AWD and in particular with the handling-honed suspension and upgraded brakes of the Type S.

Will 2023 Acura MDX fuel economy improve?

2022 MDX Advance with dealer-available gloss-black wheels

Unlikely. Expect 2023 MDX EPA ratings to repeat those of the 2022 models, leaving Acura’s crossover about as fuel-efficient as any direct competitor that isn’t electrically assisted.

Look for the 2023 MDX Base, Technology Package, A-Spec and Advance models to again rate 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 19/25/21 with AWD. EPA ratings for the ’22 MDX Type S with its standard AWD were not released in time for this preview, but something like 17/21/19 mpg city/highway/combined is a safe estimate.

Count on Acura to continue to recommend premium-grade 91-octane gasoline for all 2023 MDX models.

Will there be new 2023 Acura MDX features?

A panoramic moonroof will remain standard on every 2023 MDX

Don’t expect any major additions, but we’ll restate our suggestion that Acura find a way to fit power-folding third-row seats. An inside mirror that can project a video view “through” rear passengers and cargo would also be a competitive step forward.

Most important, every 2023 MDX will return with the AcuraWatch suite of safety features as standard equipment. It’ll again include autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian.

Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection is another valuable component, although the Base model is likely to again be denied the automatic rear-braking facet of the system. It’ll also likely remain shut out from the front and rear parking sensors and rain-sensing windshield wipers that should return as standard on all other versions of the ’23 MDX.

Lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction will also remain part of AcuraWatch. So will adaptive cruise control designed to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead. Enhancing the latter is Traffic Jam Assist, which can apply steering assist to keep the MDX centered in its lane, stop it, and automatically accelerate as congestion dictates.

2022 MDX Type S

Every ’23 MDX will also return with automatic high-beam headlights and brake hold that keeps the vehicle stationary without requiring constant pressure on the brake pedal, a real convenience in urban traffic. Unfortunately, the close-quarters-maneuvering advantages of a surround-view camera are apt to remain exclusive to the Advance grade.

In addition to features already noted, every 2023 MDX will again include as standard a panoramic moonroof with a power sunshade and the ventilation advantages of remote window lowering and moonroof opening via the keyfob. Same for AcuraLink Connected Services which brings a WiFi hotspot and smartphone telematics for remote locking, engine start, geofencing, and other functions. Also returning as standard will be Acura’s CabinControl, a smartphone app that can adjust audio and rear-climate settings, send navigation instructions, even position the moonroof sunshade.

The 2023 MDX A-Spec and Advance grades should return with Acura’s CabinTalk to amplify the voices of front-seaters through the audio system. All but the Base model will again include Acura’s IconicDrive, which provides 27 selectable LED cabin-lighting schemes. Audio systems should again include a base 9-speaker unit, a 12-speaker ELS-brand upgrade with the Technology Package, a 16-speaker ELS for the A-Spec and Advance, and for the Type S, a 1,000-watt ELS Studio system with 22 discrete channels and 25 speakers.

How much will the 2023 Acura MDX cost?

2022 MDX Advance with dealer-available gloss-black wheels

It almost certainly will cost more than the 2022 model and just as likely remain more affordable than European rivals while matching up well against competitors from Korean and Japan, as well as domestics such as the Cadillac XT6 and Lincoln Aviator. 

For reference, here are 2022 MDX prices, including the manufacturer’s $1,025 destination fee. Note that Acura, like parent-company Honda, does not offer factory options per se. Instead, it’ll continue to equip each ’23 MDX grade with a set package of features.

With front wheel drive, the 2022 MDX Base model was priced at $47,925 and the Technology Package grade at $52,625. Adding SH-AWD should again increase those prices by $2,000.

With SH-AWD standard, the 2022 MDX A-Spec was priced at $58,125 and the Advance at $61,675. Pricing for the 2022 MDX Type S was not announced in time for this preview, but an estimated $68,500-$69,000 for the ’23 edition is realistic.

When does the 2023 Acura MDX come out?

2022 MDX Type S

Expect a 2023 Acura MDX release date in the third quarter of 2022.

Best 2023 Acura MDX competitors

Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac XT6, Genesis GV80, Infiniti QX60, Lexus RX, Lincoln Aviator, Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Range Rover Sport, Tesla Model X

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]