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2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid: Channeling the NSX

By Frank A. Aukofer, May 20th, 2017

If not unprecedented then it is rare for a new crossover SUV -- the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid -- to be developed directly from an exotic supercar: the Acura NSX.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful
Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful

The NSX is Acura's $200,000-plus hybrid coupe, which can accelerate to 60 mph in 3 seconds with a top speed of 191, thanks to an all-wheel-drive system that's mated to a twin-turbo V-6 engine and three electric motors that deliver 573 horsepower and 476 lb.-ft. of torque.

Except for its powertrain, the MDX is the opposite of the NSX. MDX is a luxury three-row crossover aimed at young, affluent families. In standard trim, it is powered by a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 18/26/22 mpg.

The new Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful. Total system horsepower is 321, with 289 lb.-ft. of torque. Its fuel economy works out to 26/27/27 mpg.

Dubbed SH-AWD for Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, the system uses two electric motors to drive the rear wheels. A 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine is paired with a third electric motor integrated into the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to drive the front wheels.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful

But the Sport Hybrid is more than an economical version of the standard MDX. Its sophisticated supercar hybrid powertrain bolsters all-around performance, especially superior handling.

With twin electric motors driving the rear wheels, the system delivers active computerized torque vectoring. In cornering, the system subtly slows the inside rear wheel while speeding up the outside wheel. It combines with active shock absorber damping to deliver pinpoint turns and hunkered-down hustling around curves -- like what you'd expect from a competent sports car.

It does that with freakish aplomb. On a twisting mountain road, you can hurl the tall, 2.2-ton Sport Hybrid into a corner at way above the posted warning speed. Though spooky the first time you try it, the big crossover flatly follows the line you've chosen.

Even with that capability, the all-independent suspension system and well-chosen all-season tires on 20-inch alloy wheels deliver a comfortable, quiet ride. Hybrid components are nestled beneath the floor, preserving passenger space and contributing to a lower center of gravity.

In other aspects of urban and highway driving, almost anyone would be hard pressed to identify the Sport Hybrid as anything other than a luxurious three-row crossover utility vehicle that has found favor with the buying public.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful

All 2017 MDX models embody Acura's new styling, most apparent in the new "diamond pentagon grille." Gone is the previous grille, which some critics likened to a dental overbite. The hood and front fenders are more sharply sculptured, and the design makes liberal use of LED lights, including the headlights, fog lights, taillights, and turn-signal lights.

Though its 26 mpg city/27 mpg highway/27 mpg combined fuel economy numbers likely won't prompt many accolades, the new hybrid's modest $1,500 premium over a standard MDX should appeal to NSX enthusiasts and tech-oriented buyers.

strong>Two versions are available: Technology, with a base price tag of $52,935, and Advance, at $58,975. Both come with a full load of safety, convenience, and luxury features, including lane departure and collision mitigation, remote locking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, hill start assist, SXM satellite radio, and even "walk-away locking," which automatically locks the doors and tailgate as the driver strolls away.

In addition, the tested Advance model came with second-row captain's chairs, surround-view rear camera, parking sensors, heated rear seats, side window sunshades, front passenger lumbar support, and premium leather upholstery.

Though the third-row seats fold easily, there is no power option, which some might expect on a crossover in this price category. Honda officials said power-folding seats were not offered because they operate slowly and add weight.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid uses the same basic powertrain as the NSX, though not as powerful

The Sport Hybrid comes with four driver-selectable dynamic driving modes: Comfort with reduced steering effort, Normal with enhanced suspension and torque vectoring settings, Sport with firmer shock absorber damping and enhanced steering feedback, and Sport+ with maximized powertrain performance. Any way you choose it, this is as sophisticated as a crossover gets.

Specifications

Base price $58,000 (as tested: $58,975)
Curb weight 4,484 lbs.
Displacement 3.0-liter
Engine type 24-valve V-6 and hybrid powertrain
Epa mileage rating 26 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 19.4 gal.
Horsepower (net) 257 at 6300 rpm (combined total: 321)
Overall length 196.2 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 218 at 5000 rpm (combined total: 289
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD midsize CUV
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