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Acura Introduces 2021 MDX Prototype, A Harbinger of the Model’s Future Design

2021 Acura MDX Prototype | Photo: Acura
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Derek Boshouwers
The 4th-generation model is touted as the brand’s most performance-focused and technologically sophisticated SUV ever

After a bit of teasing over the past week or so, today we were introduced to the all-new fourth-generation 2021 Acura MDX Prototype. That last designation means the final production version could still be somewhat different than the SUV presented today, but this concept looks virtually ready to go.

The new MDX takes the mantle of flagship model in the Acura lineup, and as such Acura put a ton into the overhaul for the new generation, touting it as the most premium, performance-focused and technologically sophisticated SUV in the brand’s history.

The new design and premium interior of the new MDX is thus bolstered by a host of new Acura technologies, including an all-new performance-focused platform with MDX’s first-ever double wishbone front suspension. We’ll also see, later on in 2021, the first Type S SUV in the history of Acura.

“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. 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.”

- Jon Ikeda, vice president and Acura brand officer

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Acura MDX Prototype 2021, profil
Acura MDX Prototype 2021, profil | Photo: Acura

The MDX Prototype, revealed in both Liquid Carbon and Performance Red, gets a more-dynamic and muscular design, thanks to an upright grille and long, sculpted hood as well as a lower and wider body.

Signature elements of Acura’s next-generation design language include a three-dimensional diamond pentagon grille flanked by four-element JewelEye LED headlights, underscored by LED daytime running lights. The front fascia has been sculpted to highlight the wide grille, integrating fog light housings under side vents that further emphasize the new MDX’s wider track.

The 21-inch wheels have been pushed to the corners, giving the MDX Prototype a nearly 3-inch longer wheelbase, done with the goal of enhancing ride quality, delivering more-spacious seating in all three rows and creating a larger cargo hold. A sharply sculpted beltline connects the front and rear, where the wide-set LED taillights echo the headlight treatment in front.

2021 Acura MDX Prototype, three-quarters rear
2021 Acura MDX Prototype, three-quarters rear | Photo: Acura

The MDX Prototype features a cleaner, more upright instrument panel inside, which takes on a wide structural motif. Premium materials trim the interior including open-pore wood with infused metallic flake, polished aluminum and soft-touch Milano leather. A mix of Ebony and Light Orchid leather features on the instrument panel and steering wheel with French stitched detailing. Next-generation Acura sport seats offer a more sculpted form with curvilinear quilting in all three rows, gradient perforation, and high-contrast stitching and piping.

A purpose of the wider body design of the model is to permit seating with more legroom in all three rows, and notably more headroom for front and third-row occupants. A wide panoramic moonroof opens the cabin up to provide natural light to all three rows.

Acura sport seats offer 16-way power adjustment and integrated massage functionality with nine massage modes for both driver and front passenger. Acura’s Iconic Drive LED lighting illuminates the entire MDX cabin with 27 different lighting schemes that adapt to the drive mode chosen.

2021 Acura MDX Prototype, interior
2021 Acura MDX Prototype, interior | Photo: Acura

The tech
The MDX Prototype debuts Acura’s all-digital Precision Cockpit, replacing physical gauges with a customizable 12.3-inch driver’s meter. Also present is the latest generation of Acura’s True Touchpad Interface, featuring a 12.3-inch, full-HD center display (Acura’s largest implementation yet), touchpad with “absolute positioning” and a new CPU for improved performance.  

The “Signature Edition” ELS STUDIO 3D premium audio system in the MDX Prototype delivers more than 1,000 watts of power, 22 discrete channels and 25 speakers.

Advanced safety technologies include the latest generation of Acura’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) Body Structure, with enhanced occupant and pedestrian collision protection capabilities, bolstered by an expanded suite of AcuraWatch safety and driver-assistive technologies, including enhanced Road Departure Mitigation, new Traffic Jam Assist and new Low Speed Braking Control. Acura’s next-generation front passenger airbag technology, first seen on the new 2021 TLX and offering improved occupant protection in a wider variety of frontal collision scenarios, will be standard on all new MDX models.

2021 Acura MDX Prototype, central screen
2021 Acura MDX Prototype, central screen | Photo: Acura

Under the hood
Acura is offering a choice of two powertrains in the fourth-generation MDX, starting with the brand’s 3.5L V6 with i-VTEC valvetrain, connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The upcoming MDX Type S will feature a Type S-exclusive 3.0L turbocharged V6 producing an estimated 355 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque; the automaker calls it the most powerful engine ever offered in an Acura SUV. All MDX Type S models feature the fourth-generation SH-AWD system.

The new 2021 Acura MDX is expected to go on sale on early next year. We imagine there will be a reveal of the actual production version not long before that. The Type S variant is set to follow in the summer of 2021.

2021 Acura MDX Prototype, three-quarters front
2021 Acura MDX Prototype, three-quarters front | Photo: Acura
2021 Acura MDX prototype pictures
Derek Boshouwers
Derek Boshouwers
Automotive expert
  • Over 5 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 50 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 30 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists