Acura calls it the MDX Prototype, but it’s basically finished and this is what buyers are getting.

This is a big year for Acura as it rolls out a series of new models that could reshape the brand’s image and give it the much-needed momentum to take on key competitors like Lexus, Genesis, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Following close behind the launch of the latest TLX sedan, Honda’s premium brand is rolling out a new take on its three-row SUV flagship and while it may be dubbed a “Prototype,” what you see here is pretty darned close to what you’ll soon see in showrooms in the form of the 2022 Acura MDX.

“The new MDX marks a turning point for Acura as our new flagship and the most far-reaching effort yet to deliver on our Precision Crafted Performance brand promise,” said Jon Ikeda, vice president and Acura brand officer. “We knew we needed to deliver something more emotional and premium with performance at its core. This new MDX builds on the past 20 years of success and elevates the model to an even stronger position in the market.”

(Acura teases 2021 MDX crossover.)

The new MDX, which will be based off the Prototype, should hit the U.S. next year.

The Acura MDX Prototype – like the fourth-generation production model coming soon – borrows liberally from the design cues we’ve seen with both the new TLX, as well as the NSX sports car. It’s lower, wider and longer, with its wheelbase stretched three inches and the dash-to-axle distance pulled back a full six inches. Along with the more sculpted hood and side panels, the overall appearance is wider, better planted and more muscular.

Rather than the slab-like faces many recent SUVs have adopted, the front end has a more three-dimensional appearance, with a larger version of the familiar Acura “Diamond Pentagon Grille.” It’s framed within four-element LED “Jewel Eye” headlamps and “Chicane” running lamps.

While Acura isn’t ready to discuss the off-road manners of the new MDX, both the luxury brand and parent Honda have been enhancing the capabilities of their latest products. What we do know is that the new MDX will ride on an all-new light-truck platform. Among other things, it will mark the first time the MDX gets a double-wishbone front suspension.

One question is whether the production MDX will carry over the 21-inch wheels and tires seen on the Prototype – at least as an optional upgrade.

For those who prefer to focus on on-road performance, meanwhile, the MDX will join other recent models getting the Type S treatment. The base car will feature a 3.5-liter V-6 making 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The sportier Type S will be motivated by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 bumping the numbers up to 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Both engines will be mated to a 10-speed automatic.

The new MDX enjoys plenty of creature comforts on the inside to go with an updated exterior.

While the new platform is configured for front-wheel-drive, Acura also will offer the latest take on its Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, or SH-AWD. This performance-oriented system allows for torque vectoring to enhance the SUV’s cornering capabilities.

(Acura rolls out 2021 TLX and revives Type S performance models.)

Among other features, the Type S also will come with four-piston Brembo brakes on all four corners, finished in ivory.

As with the exterior, the cabin of the new MDX Prototype picks up on the horizontal design cues of the NSX and TLX. The instruments panel features twin 12.3-inch displays, one a reconfigurable LCD replacing traditional analog gauges, the other handling infotainment duties. Like the TLX, the new SUV will features a computer-style trackpad to operate the system.

The MDX also borrows the aurally impressive ELS audiophile technology offered on the new sedan. That includes the premium ELS Studio 3D, a 25-speaker system that has generated some (high-fidelity) buzz.

From a more conventional luxury approach, the cabin features plenty of room for three rows of passengers, with plenty of high-end detailing, such as its optional 16-way front seats, leather, metal and open-poor wood trim and detailed accent stitching. Motorists also will be able to select from an ambient lighting system offering a choice of 27 different pre-set colors.

The new MDX gets new four-element LED “Jewel Eye” headlamps and “Chicane” running lamps.

From a safety standpoint, the next-gen Acura MDX will deliver the latest take on the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver assistance systems, as well as a new airbag system first introduced on the TLX. It’s designed to reduce the risk of passengers bumping heads during a side impact.

The automaker is saving some key details on the production model until closer to launch, including fuel economy and pricing. The outgoing model starts around $44,000 and, if the new TLX is any indication, Acura will stick close to that despite all the added content.

(Check out the Acura Type S Concept.)

We’ll see the main versions of the new Acura MDX in U.S. showrooms early next year as a 2022 model. The Type S is expected to follow by summer.

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