Pretty much every manufacturer now has a hybrid model on the market. It’s trendy and the blue or green badge usually makes consumers feel better about buying a fossil-fuel-consuming machine. The problem is that in some cases, throwing an electric motor into the mix looks better on paper than it does in real life. And then sometimes, there’s a model out there that actually outdoes itself. And that’s what the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid did.
The maker currently has three hybrids on the market, namely the RLX sedan, the gorgeous-looking NSX supercar and the MDX full-size SUV. Neither of them sports the kind of evolved electric technology seen in other modern hybrids and they pretty much look like they’ve been randomly picked out of the lineup to receive the hybrid treatment. But like eco-friendly Frankenstein creatures, they have been hybridized and Honda’s green technology has actually greatly improved. Though there is still a bit of a way to go considering both Honda and Acura have yet to put a plug-in hybrid or even an electric model on the (Canadian) market, their technology has come a long way.
The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid isn’t a great candidate for someone looking to buy a hybrid vehicle – pretty much every other model on the market will perform better fuel-economy-wise. It is first and foremost a full-size SUV, with the added perk of being offered with an eco-friendly option and that’s its sales pitch. If you need a seven-seater but would also like to save on fuel – this is where our green-caped hero flies in. Consider this: the standard model equipped with the 3.5L V6 usually averages around 11.0L/100km. The Sport Hybrid model, powered by a 321 horsepower, 289 lb-ft of torque, 3.0L V6, got me 8.8L/100km – the difference is considerable.
What’s even more impressive is that my overall average for the week even outperformed the manufacturer’s estimate of a combined 9.0L/100km, in a place where companies usually try to oversell their vehicles.
Despite the interesting output numbers, the beast hasn’t been built for impressive performance. We are, after all, looking at a 2,700 kg vehicle. Handling is what I like to refer to as predictable – soft, smooth, easy going, it almost feels like the vehicle is doing most of the work.
The model is equipped with AWD, standard throughout the lineup, and even offers a towing capacity of up to 2,268 kg. The Sport Hybrid model receives a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission instead of the standard nine-speed automatic. But exciting driving isn’t the MDX’s mission. What it targets to do, it does well, and that is to provide comfortable seating for an extended family with a smaller fuel consumption.
In terms of design, this third generation MDX is sophisticated and elegant, especially following its latest upgrade for 2017. It received the diamond-shaped grille inspired by Acura’s Precision concept, integrating the brand’s famous Jewel Eye headlamps.
On the inside, assembly has no flaw and the overall layout is pleasing to the eye, especially if you’re into sophisticated dark wood inserts. The information is displayed on two separate screens, the bottom one serving for the infotainment system and the top one, mainly for navigation. Acura did not skip on the trend of navigating the onboard computer with the help of a knob, however, I found the controls in the MDX frustrating.
First, the knob is out of reach, located directly on the console. Then, with your arm outstretched, you need to spell out your destination one letter at the time using the knob, scanning through the letters. It felt like trying to write a text message using an old flip phone.
I guess a touchscreen was not a valuable option? I found that decision a little obnoxious, considering other systems are much easier to use and navigate. The “transmission” I am also not a fan of, channelling the Jaguar knob selector mixed with the Lincoln button panel, resulting in a series of push buttons, displayed in what looks like an attempt at an ergonomic setup. A good ol’ stick would do just fine.
Besides the somewhat questionable ergonomy choices, the vehicle comes equipped with all the necessary amenities and plenty of room for up to seven passengers. The ones sitting in the second row will get to enjoy a movie on the retractable, ceiling-mounted widescreen.
Two pairs of headphones included with the home (car?) theatre allow the others who have to keep their eyes preferably on the road rather than on a screen to listen to music instead, on the 12-speaker audio system.
Thanks to the active noise cancellation feature, the cabin feels cozy and unless you passengers get a little rowdy, you get to have a very quiet drive.
The Acura MDX is equipped with other features such as adaptive cruise control, surround view backup camera, power tailgate, heated steering wheel as well as front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, four USB ports for everyone’s devices, remote engine starter, keyless access, wheel-mounted controls and much more. The MDX will quickly feel like home away from home.
The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid version sits at the top of the model’s lineup, starting at $72,207.50, which is $18k above the entry-level model. That blue badge doesn’t come cheap! That being said, you do benefit from a good-looking, fully-equipped vehicle that offers excellent fuel economy for its class. Considering the list of available models is rather scarce in the seven-seat, luxury, hybrid SUV, the MDX is undeniably an excellent contender. Plus, if you are shopping within that price range, the Honda-Acura group quality and reputation for reliability is a considerable perk.
2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid
Base Price: $72,207.50
Freight & A/C tax: $2,172.50
Configuration: front-engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.0L V6 engine with hybrid motors/ 7-speed automatic
Power/torque: 321 hp/289 lb-ft of torque
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 9.0
Fuel economy observed (L/100km): 8.8
Competitors: Volvo XC90 T8 eAWD, Infiniti QX60 Hybrid