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Acura MDX helps carry brand’s load

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Luxury crossovers are Acura’s bread and butter. Big sister Honda now produces excellent, stylish sedans that make step-up Acura luxury models a harder sell.

In testing a 2017 Acura MDX Advance, I discovered why this vehicle is a strong seller and why it puts Acura on the luxury brand map.

For 2017, the Acura MDX basically gets a “nose job.” The MDX’s cut diamond/pentagon-style grille is the first piece of the styling changes. It’s flanked by new, creased front fenders with a contoured hood tying the fenders together, led with jewel-like headlamps. Thin chrome rocker panels add some profile sparkle, and twin exhaust tips out back keep things current.

I tested a 3.5-liter V-6 MDX with optional all-wheel drive. This V-6 is a direct-injection unit with 267 pound-feet of torque at a high-winding 4,500 rpm. This engine has power on take-offs and for passing. The nine-speed automatic transmission aided take-offs but felt sluggish, and shifts could be smoother.

Open up the MDX, and the dash greets you with a unique dual-shrouded, V-shaped center stack design with color multi-information display separating driver and front passenger. My Advance-trimmed tester came with heated/ventilated Milano perforated leather front seats, heated second-row seats, heated wheel, wood trim and second row-sun shades.

To get Advance package goodies, you have to order a Technology package. Technology package highlights include: remote start, navi system, blind-spot system, ELS Studio audio system and connectivity via Bluetooth hands-free link, Acura satellite communication. I liked the rich materials (leather, trim, buttons/switches) used throughout the cabin.

The MDX Advance trim provides two comfortable captain’s chairs. If you need max space, go for the second-row bench, as it can slide fore/aft six inches to give rear passengers more room. The third-row seats have a 50/50 split, and behind them is more than 15 cubic feet. Fold the second and third rows for over 90 cubic feet of storage space.

For Chicago weather, the SH-all-wheel-drive system in the MDX is a good choice. According to Acura, this sophisticated system is designed to enhance high-performance dry-road handling while providing the same all-weather advantages of conventional all-wheel drive. SH-AWD works by continuously directing engine power to match weight distribution, available traction and other conditions. SH-AWD provides power transitions and aids agility. Its mechanical torque vectoring system can divert power front to back and side to side.

The MDX can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, but is not a 4×4 trail driver. On-road traction and handling is good, and overall, the MDX is a better-handling crossover than a majority of segment competitors.

So, what we have for 2017 is a better-looking Acura MDX with ride, handling and traction improvements, additional standard safety features and seating for seven.