2018 Acura MDX Hybrid Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.9

The 2018 Acura MDX Hybrid features excellent performance thanks to its hybrid powertrain, which provides near instantaneous acceleration. The transmission shifts efficiently, and fuel economy is impressive for the class. Handling is agile, and the car is easy to maneuver.

  • "The promise of hybrid technology is that it can make vehicles better – more efficient, superior performing, and more satisfying to drive. But that hybrid halo often is held on by bobby pins and duct tape. In many luxury hybrids, off-the-rack gasoline-electric technology can make for an underwhelming, slow-witted driving experience, even if they sometimes are objectively quicker than their less expensive nonhybrid counterparts. The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is a rare exception, as it lives up to its potential, at least upon our first exposure." -- Car and Driver (2017)
  • "When I drove Acura's MDX SUV in 2010, its adaptive suspension and active torque vectoring made for amazing handling. But subsequent versions dropped those components, making the MDX just another SUV. Now, Acura brings back that performance with the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid. Yes, it's a hybrid, and yes, it deserves the 'Sport' moniker. … While I could play with drive modes, and manually change gears using the paddle shifters, the MDX Sport Hybrid also let me relax. Focusing on the point A to B type of driving that most people do, this SUV delivered an easy, put-it-in-drive-and-go experience." -- CNET (2017)
  • "Let's get something out of the way: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is not your stereotypical hybrid buyer's hybrid. The Sport Hybrid is the faster, funner (sic) MDX." -- Left Lane News (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The Acura MDX Hybrid has a 3.0-liter V6 engine and three electric motors that produce a total of 321 horsepower. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This Acura has plenty of power for driving around town and on the highway, and it accelerates quickly. The transmission delivers smooth shifts, and the available engine stop-start system is barely noticeable.

The MDX Hybrid’s estimated fuel economy ratings are 26 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which are some of the best in the class. However, at least one rival hybrid – the Lexus RX 450h – is more efficient.

  • "Beyond the raw numbers, there's the remarkable subjective benefit of the Sport Hybrid's drivetrain. Engine start-stop events are quiet and smooth, nearly imperceptible when under way – in stark contrast to the too-perceptible shudder of competing engines kicking on. The electric motors (mainly the one residing in the transmission) add in power to make up for the lull during a shift, making shifts up or down seamless, as well as providing regenerative capacity. And from a dead stop the MDX will use the rear motors to move off, which overcomes a major limitation in most DCTs: low-speed lurchiness." -- Autoblog (2017)
  • "… the electric torque off the line makes it feel a size smaller than it really is. In [sport or sport plus] modes, the steering firms up (in normal and comfort modes, it's a little lazy) and the chassis tightens down. In sport, the seven-speed does a great job picking gears and downshifting – important, considering the speed of the shifts isn't neck snapping, and I'm pretty sure the steering-wheel paddles are just for show. However, it suffers none of the slow-speed jerkiness that quicker dual-clutch transmissions do. … The V6 in the MDX is quiet and unobtrusive when stopping and starting for fuel saving. In the more efficient driving modes, it cuts out as soon as you let off the throttle. It does feel good when the engine turns off as you're exiting the expressway and stays off until you coast to a stop a mile or so down the road. It's rewarding to watch that battery meter move back toward the 'full' reading." -- Autoweek (2017)
  • "As for the transmission, it's a partner in this system's quick reaction times. By losing the ZF nine-speed automatic, which can bumble over its bounty of ratio choices (and sometimes fumbles the shifts themselves with a shudder), the seven-speed and hybrid motor system are all business, ripping through the gears with quickness and grace. You hear them work more than feel them, and, because of the hybrid system, the rush of passing power starts even before the transmission has downshifted." -- Car and Driver (2017)

Handling and Braking

All-wheel drive is standard in the MDX Sport Hybrid, as is a sport suspension with an active damper system that adjusts to match road conditions. There are also four driving modes that let you tailor the MDX Hybrid’s dynamics to suit your driving style. This Acura handles well and feels like a smaller vehicle while you’re driving. There’s not much body lean around turns, and the ride is generally smooth.

  • "The refinement of the drivetrain, despite its complexity, makes the task of driving second-nature. However, faced with a twisty road, I couldn't help but dive into the corners at speed. Given the size of the MDX Sport Hybrid, it took some real daredevil effort to feel the electric torque vectoring rotate the car. Instead, that technology revealed itself in making this SUV feel like a much smaller car in the turns, nimble and quick rather than heavy and lumbering." -- CNET (2017)
  • "The fine MDX driving experience hasn't been adulterated in any other way. It includes well-blended brakes and precise, nicely weighted steering. There's a fair amount of body lean, as expected in an SUV like this, but the adaptive dampers do a great job filtering out road harshness. Push hard into tight corners and you might find yourself dialing in too much steering input, as the outside rear motor nudges the vehicle's rotation, preempting understeer. A quick loop in a Lexus RX450h – the best seller among the MDX hybrid's U.S.-market rivals – showed a sharp contrast with the way Acura's hybrid system doesn't change accelerator response as the power sources swap in and out, thus reinforcing the idea that the system works as one cohesive unit." -- Car and Driver (2017)
  • "Aside from the badging, you can't tell it apart from its sibling. The extra weight is distributed evenly along the bottom of the SUV, providing the side benefit of a lower center of gravity and reducing body roll. This gives the hybrid a more car-like driving experience. … Handling is further improved by the MDX hybrid's active front and rear dampers, and torque vectoring capability. The SH-AWD system sends torque left and right to create a yaw moment that allows power to shift to any wheel. It's hardly noticeable as you drive around town, but out on the highway it helps reduces understeer and is especially noticeable in the twisty turns of the slick roads we encountered along Washington's Snoqualmie River. Depending on the turn, it can feel like a gentle push and pull from front to the back wheels or wheel nearest to the inside of the turn." -- Automobile Magazine (2017)

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