Acura launched its MDX three-row luxury SUV more than 20 years ago, and a redesigned fourth-generation model has arrived for 2022. It features a sleeker design, a more spacious cabin and a new range-topping Type S trim.
The improvements go a long way toward revitalizing Acura’s top SUV, but it has to vie for shoppers’ interest against another stalwart – the Audi Q7.
Edmunds’ top-ranked midsize three-row luxury SUV for a few years running, the Q7 has delivered a just-right mix of comfort, utility, build quality and tech features. It’s a classy luxury vehicle that can also ably transport your family and their cargo.
So how does the new Acura MDX compare to the segment stalwart? The experts at Edmunds take an in-depth look at these two luxurious family haulers to find out.
Performance, fuel economy
Acura went to great lengths overhauling the MDX’s dynamic capabilities, improving handling and steering feel to give the big SUV a sportier character. However, the MDX is held back by a carry-over base V6, which makes 290 horsepower but is an underwhelming performer.
The Q7’s standard 248-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder is a competent-enough base engine and provides similar acceleration to the Acura’s V6.
However, when equipped with their optional upgrade engines, a 335-horsepower turbocharged V6 for the Q7 and a 355-horsepower turbocharged V6 in the MDX Type S, these SUVs are two of the quickest in the class. All-wheel drive comes standard on the Q7 and is standard on every MDX model except the base and Technology trim levels.
Given that these are both big SUVs, neither is a standout in fuel economy. A base V6 MDX with all-wheel drive gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in mixed city and highway driving, while the Q7 is rated at 22 mpg combined with the four-cylinder and 20 mpg combined with the turbocharged V6.
Edmunds found it difficult to hit the MDX’s EPA numbers in real-world testing. The Q7, on the other hand, actually outperformed its EPA estimates slightly.
Acura and Audi have different approaches to interior design, and those differences are on full display in the MDX’s and Q7’s cabins. The cockpit of the MDX has an overtly sporty vibe, while the Q7’s is more elegant and subdued.
Beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to fit and finish, the Audi has the upper hand. The Q7’s interior just feels a cut above the MDX’s, though the Acura is significantly improved from its prior generation.
Both SUVs have cavernous interiors with room to spare in the first and second rows. But passengers sitting all the way back will be happier with the MDX’s third row, as it’s slightly more spacious and easier to get to compared to the Q7’s.
Cargo room in either vehicle will be tight with all the seats in place, but once you drop them, you’ll be granted 69.6 cubic feet in the Audi and 71.4 cubes in the Acura. Storage space for small personal items is a bit better in the Acura, too.
Tech in the MDX is a mixed bag. You get desirable features like wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, an available full-color head-up display and multiple USB ports, but you also have an operating system with a steep learning curve on its touchpad interface.
It’s a similar story in the Q7, which also comes with a distracting dual-touch screen setup but has great features like wireless CarPlay and a fully digital instrument cluster.
The 2022 Acura MDX has a starting price of $49,195, and for that you get a laundry list of standard equipment, including handy active safety features such as lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
The Q7 also has a wealth of great feature content, but it carries a higher starting price of $58,695. The Acura also has a longer powertrain warranty (six years/70,000 miles versus four years/50,000 miles).
On the other hand, with the Q7’s higher-quality materials, you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. The interior’s supple leather surfaces and dual-pane acoustic glass windows that drown out the outside world create a luxurious, welcoming space that you’ll look forward to returning to every day. That upper-crust ambiance is really what you’re paying for, and in many ways it’s worth it.
It was a tight race, but due to its classic looks, premium interior and potential for higher performance, the Audi Q7 edges out the MDX by a fraction of a point. That said, if you want more cargo area and greater value for your dollars, you can’t go wrong with the Acura MDX.
Alex Nishimoto is a contributor at Edmunds. Follow Alex on Twitter.