2022 Acura MDX vs. 2021 Lexus RX: Compare Crossover SUVs

Japan’s oldest luxury brands serve up big three-row SUVs that bristle with new attitudes and new technology, but one soars higher in handling and appeal.

Which wins us over—the 2022 Acura MDX or the 2021 Lexus RX?

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

The 2022 MDX dives even deeper into Acura’s view of luxury in its newest edition. It shuns showy displays of wealth for a technical and gracious look that’s more sport wagon than family truckster—especially inside, where a ribbon of trim waves under a wide center screen where panels of walnut or faux carbon fiber might otherwise live. The RX goes overboard in its grab for eyeballs, with a chest-high hourglass grille, blacked-out roof pillars, and a cockpit that walls off the driver from their passengers. The Acura wins this tussle, we think, with its suave understatement of luxury.

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

On the performance front, the MDX has genteel composure that compares well with the RX’s growly, less refined attitude. It’s shocking to think of the brand that put ball bearings and champagne glasses on its hoods in TV ads would build something with the guttural bark of today’s V-6 RX. The Acura V-6 drones at higher engine speeds, but it’s muscular down low, and its 10-speed has more gear options than Lexus’ dated 6-speed. The Lexus has an advantage in the pleasant, puttering hybrid edition; its exceptional fuel economy outpoints the MDX, which has dropped its former Sport Hybrid model. But the MDX recoups points with marvelous ride quality and handling composure—even without pricey adaptive dampers, it’s tuned ideally for long-distance drives, with less suspension noise than the RX.

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

Neither the MDX nor the RX can really lay claim to useful third-row seats. The wayback benches in both are squeezed in behind much more commodious middle and front buckets and benches, and neither’s fit for medium-sized passengers. Acura’s front seats have at least 12 ways of adjustment, and pile on leather upholstery and cooling like those in the RX—and its middle row has a removable section to convert it into a six-passenger vehicle with a center aisle. Lexus’ wilder interior look lends it a cheaper feel, while the MDX’s cabin seems fitted like drumskins.

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

Both the RX and MDX come replete with standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors. The MDX hasn’t been crash-tested yet; the RX has, and the NHTSA gave it four out of five stars, a rare miscue.

From $47,925 in base front-drive form, the MDX has standard wireless smartphone charging, a panoramic sunroof, synthetic leather upholstery, and a 12.3-inch infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It’s best in the low $50,000s as a Technology package with leather upholstery, high-end audio, and navigation. The MDX’s infotainment system uses a fiddly touchpad for inputs, while the RX has easier to use touchscreens.

Lexus stickers its base RX 350 at $46,095, and outfits it with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, power-adjustable synthetic leather seats, and 18-inch alloy wheels. We’d pick the $48,745 RX 450h hybrid. 

In the end, we give the 2022 MDX a TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10, even without confirmed crash-test ratings. (Read more about how we rate cars.) The Lexus RX garners a 6.5 out of 10, falling behind the MDX in styling and in performance. The gap’s a larger one than expected—and bound to grow once safety scores are in.

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