The 2017 Acura MDX should handle just fine in the snow, assuming you pony up the extra $2,000 for the brand’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). Don’t let the “Super Handling” part throw you. While the system is designed to improve responsiveness on dry roads, it’s also more than capable of keeping this premium midsize-class crossover steady in the snow.
Like most crossover SUVs, MDX is built on a front-wheel-drive architecture, which puts the weight of the engine over the primary drive wheels. You can save some money by purchasing a MDX with front-wheel drive, and it should handle decently enough in the snow. We would still recommend AWD, though, for the extra measure of grip the system provides.
In most circumstances, SH-AWD sends power to the front wheels exclusively. When things get wet or snowy, the system will automatically apportion power to the wheels that have the most traction. MDX models equipped with SH-AWD also weigh about 200 pounds more than their front-drive counterparts, which can also aid traction.
The base model of the 2017 MDX comes equipped with 18-inch wheels on all-season tires. These treads should offer superior snow performance over the 20s (also on all-season tires) that are included on the optional Technology or Advance package. The 20s have a lower profile and wider treads that are not as effective in cutting through snow as smaller, narrower ones. Unfortunately, there’s no way to keep the 18s if you want one of the aforementioned option packages. An MDX with the 20-inch tires isn’t liable to leave you stranded, but we would still try before you buy.
The upcoming 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid gets its own version of SH-AWD. Instead of a traditional driveshaft running from the transmission to a rear differential, the hybrid uses two battery-powered electric motors to power the rear wheels when needed. This allows the system to more finely tune power delivery on all types of road surfaces, snowy or not. It will also be more fuel efficient overall, though the improvement will not be as great as it is on more traditional gas/electric vehicles, since the MDX Sport Hybrid will be incapable of running solely on electric power.