I drove a $60,000 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid to see if the fuel-efficient SUV can take on Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Here’s the verdict.

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  • The 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is a mid-size, three-row crossover SUV whose powertrain is related to the Acura NSX supercar.
  • Competition is intense in this segment, but Acura has a worthy entrant.
  • If you want an excellent luxury SUV that’s cheaper than a BMW or Audi, yet has great performance and lots of the tech, the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is worth a look.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

We don’t lack for luxury car brands in this world. But the sheer magnitude of choice can be daunting. So if you’re having a tough time deciding whether it should be BMW or Audi, Mercedes or Lexus, Jaguar or Alfa Romeo, I’m here to help.

Consider Acura – I know I have. I’ve nearly bought an Acura a couple of times, and in the time I’ve been reviewing cars at Business Insider, I’ve driven many and enjoyed them all.

Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, debuted in 1986 and has been producing excellent vehicles ever since. The NSX supercar nabbed our Car of the Year award in 2016, and other Acuras have been finalists. As luxury brands go, Acura takes a lot of agita off the table. If you’re familiar with Honda, you know the company engineers superb cars that have a deserved reputation for reliability.

Acura adds a premium dimension to that, and has always pushed for technical innovation. That’s why I was excited to test the 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, which has a nifty three-electric-motor drivetrain coupled with a bulletproof VS engine.

Read on to learn how it went down:


Here we have the 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, in a fetching “Canyon Bronze Metallic” paint job. My tester was about $60,000, but the base MDX is $44,000.

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The color is nice, but the overall design is pure crossover. Personally, I think the styling is more appealing than the Audi Q7.

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The beaklike grille and the large Acura badge have been divisive, but overt time I have grown to kind of like them.

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The Acura badge does double duty — it’s an “A” and also a caliper, with the latter stressing the Honda luxury brand’s passion for precision engineering.

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And precision engineered it is. This “Japanese” ride is assembled in Ohio — and assembled beautifully. The LED headlights really slice through the darkness.

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The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid of course falls prey to the design weakness of all crossovers: the backend is dominated by a huge (powered) liftgate.

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The integrated spoiler and dual chrome exhaust pipes take some unpleasantness away, however.

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And the tail lights are nicely coordinated with the overall rear design.

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The Acura badge could even be called subtle.

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Cargo capacity with the third row deployed is typical for the segment, at 15 cubic feet.

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Drop the third row, and you more than double that, to about 40 cubic feet. Drop the second row and you’re looking at about 80 cubic feet.

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The hybrid system is related to the powertrain in the Acura NSX supercar.

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Let’s pop the hood and take a closer look.

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The 3.0-liter V6 cranks out 290 horsepower, but the hybrid power plant’s three electric motors brings that to 321 hp. In real life, this crossover feels quite robust, and it can dash to 60 mph in less than six seconds. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission channels the power to the MDX’s all-wheel-driver system.

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Let’s slip inside and sample the “Espresso” interior.

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The seats are extremely comfortable without being overly smushy, and the moderate bolstering will hold folks in place if the driver opts for spirited motoring.

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The front seats are heated and cooled, and the wood trim is downright gorgeous.

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The rear captain’s seats are also comfy, and there’s a decent amount of legroom.

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The third row is intended for short hops if adults are in the picture, or for smaller passengers if longer journeys are planned.

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The interior can get a bit dark …

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… so the moonroof is a welcome extra.

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The rear seats are heated and have their own climate controls.

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I generally find Acuras to be optimized for driving in a way that’s challenged mainly by BMW. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and analog gauges are purposeful.

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The offbeat, pushbutton gear-selector take some getting used to.

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We haven’t been huge fans of Acura’s two-screen infotainment system, but the additional screen does allow you to run the Acura system and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at the same time.

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Infotainment is controlled using a knob and buttons. The system has been updated — we sampled the new version in an RDX crossover — but for this test vehicle, we had to deal with the previous generation.

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Even though it isn’t terribly user-friendly, it gets the job done. My test vehicle included Acura’s extraordinary ELS Studio premium audio system, which is among the best in the business.

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Navigation worked superbly, and Bluetooth pairing was a breeze. There are also USB/Aux ports and numerous places in the vehicle to charge up. As you can see, there’s also a CD player!

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If you like, you can tweak the system to display how power is being routed through the hybrid drivetrain.

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So why don’t we fire up this luxury hybrid, drive it around, and …

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… Render a verdict!

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It’s hard to argue with Acuras. My colleague Ben Zhang and I can certainly find things to pick on, such as the awkward two-screen infotainment system. But when we got down to the important stuff, the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid delivered a fantastic payoff. Some car companies simply build a fine automobile that checks off all the boxes.

Acura adds luxury to Honda’s already stupendous engineering and quality. It isn’t Mercedes-level luxury, but it’s about what you see in BMW and Audi. In my experience, Acura can’t quite match BMW for driving dynamics, and Audi offers some snazzier tech. But those brands cost more, and it’s not always clear it’s worth the extra scratch, given how well-executed Acuras are.

Driving the MDX Sport Hybrid ranges from relaxing to invigorating, depending on how you’ve managed the settings. Ben was particularly impressed with the buttery smooth power delivery, something we’d already experienced with the NSX supercar. I like the steering, which combined gentleness at low speeds with precision at higher velocities.

The MDX Sport Hybrid is brisk off the line, and in corners, it exhibits a refreshing lack of body away. It isn’t a sports car, but the “Sport” in the name isn’t a ruse. You can have some fun with it.

Otherwise, the vehicle is an ideal suburban family hauler that won’t make parents feel like minivan-piloting schlubs if they want to enjoy date-night at an establishment with a valet line. For an oomphy V6, the hybridized MDX drivetrain yields decent fuel economy numbers without sacrificing performance: 26 mpg city/27 highway/27 combined. And the MDX is crammed with driver-assist technologies and safety features, under the “AcuraWatch” banner.

The upshot here is that the 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is well-priced, offers good fuel-economy, and won’t bore you behind the wheel. At $60,000 well-equipped, it’s a bit pricey, but you’re getting a lot of car for the money (and Acuras tend to hold up over the long term).

It’s the thinking person’s mid-size, three-row luxury crossover.