The 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Kept Me Sane in NYC

Acura’s big crossover is at its best with hybridized super handling all-wheel drive.

Mike FloydWriter, PhotographerThe ManufacturerPhotographer

As we emerge from the Hugh L. Carey tunnel that connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, I switch my head into full swivel mode. Humans are everywhere, and they do not care about you. Wave after wave of cabs swerve in front of me, tailgate me, and honk at me. The 2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid I'm driving is stacked to the roof with a massive haul from IKEA, limiting my sight lines. Please, please, just let me make it up to 60th Avenue without something horrible happening.

Nothing can really prepare you for driving in New York. The obstacles are everywhere, and the bigger the vehicle, the sketchier it gets. You simply have to dive in and hope for the best, which is what I did recently when my wife and I moved our East Coast basecamp from a hipster-infested neighborhood in the Carroll Gardens area of Brooklyn to the West Side of Manhattan. Luckily we didn't have a ton to move, but it wasn't insignificant. We needed something substantial like the MDX Sport Hybrid for our moving duties.

Sport and Hybrid aren't usually terms that fit together. But with 321 horses combined from its 3.0-liter V-6 and three-electric-motor setup (kinda, sorta like the NSX's), the top-spec MDX served up more than enough power when I needed to jump the light to get around yet another annoying delivery truck blocking a lane of traffic. Acura's hybrid all-wheel-drive system for the MDX features an electric motor integrated into the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and connected to the front driveshaft, supported by two electric motors at the rear that spin those wheels when traction needs warrant. The rear motors also provide torque vectoring when your moves need to be aggressive. And if you're not driving aggressively in New York, you will be chewed up and spit out.

You also need to have a good set of brakes and solid suspension setup if you're going to survive on Manhattan, and the MDX thankfully proved more than acceptable in those areas. This particular MDX featured active dampers that did a fine job of absorbing the shocks from the gnarled manhole covers and other heaved-up pavement obstacles.

The dual-clutch automatic is capable, kicking down with authority when called upon and without having any tip-in issues at launch. Just remember to turn off the automatic engine stop-start feature, as it's on the rough side during restarts and was sometimes unpredictable in its decisions to shut down and wake up. All in all, from a powertrain and dynamic standpoint, the MDX was impressive, especially for as big as it is.

At 68 cubic feet with the second row folded, the Acura MDX hybrid was more than capacious enough for our IKEA run, as well as the other trips we made to get all our stuff moved. I dig the second-row captain's chairs our test vehicle had, and the MDX's easy-to-fold second and third rows are among the best in the segment in terms of ease of use.

For 2019 (we spent some time in a 2017 model a couple of years ago), the MDX Sport Hybrid got some mild updates to bring it in line with the evolving Acura exterior look, and some new colors including the Canyon Bronze hue on our example. Inside, it's too bad Acura wasn't able to replace the wonky, low-fi-looking dual-screen infotainment setup with the dramatically improved, single-screen unit that recently debuted in the new RDX. But the MDX also got some new wood trim that further classes up the joint.

My white-knuckled days traversing Manhattan in the MDX Sport Hybrid illuminated two things: First, that the MDX is still one of the best three-row crossovers going, and second, that L.A. traffic isn't all that bad, relatively speaking.

2019 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $53,795/$60,545 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 3.0L SOHC 24-valve V-6, 257 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 218 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm; front electric motor, 47 hp, 109 lb-ft; twin rear electric motors, 72 hp, 108 lb-ft; combined system output, 321 hp, 289 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 6-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 26/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 196.2 x 77.8 x 67.6 in
WHEELBASE 111.0 in
WEIGHT 4,486 lbs
0-60 MPH 6.1 sec (est)
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