2022 Acura MDX vs. 2021 Kia Telluride: Compare Crossover SUVs

January 29, 2021

Three-row crossover SUVs pepper the landscape of America like minivans did a generation ago. Many of these seven- and eight-seat crossovers are good—but which of the better efforts really is the best?

We’ve driven the 2022 Acura MDX, and found plenty to admire in its suave good looks, its well-sorted handling, and its high level of standard safety gear. Funny thing is, we’ve said the same things about our Best Car To Buy 2020 and our Best Family Car To Buy 2021, the Kia Telluride.

Just between us, between the two—which one’s better?

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

Both apply some sensual filters over what’s essentially a family-wagon shape. The Telluride’s crafted with angles and slightly rounded corners, an homage to American SUVs more than it is to South Korea’s own trend-setting looks. We can’t help but think GMC with the Telluride’s bracket-shaped lights and its rectangular features, but there’s a warmth and sophistication in its cabin and in the synthesis of lines that even eludes GM’s classy truck outfit. The MDX? It’s clearly patterned after European sport wagons, from the broadly angled and handsomely textured grille to its undulating fenders to the upkick in its rear roof pillars. Inside it’s elevated by one sweeping gesture, a ribbon of trim that waves across the cockpit in discreet wood tones or matte aluminum finish.

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

Acura’s better at suspension tuning and its 10-speed automatic bolts on more potential than the Telluride’s 8-speed auto. The MDX V-6 can drone at higher speeds (and its added-in engine noise doesn’t do it many favors), but it’s the more flexible of the two powertrains. It’s also paired with a far more refined suspension, with springs and dampers that confront small bumps and absorb big ones; the Telluride tries to smother them all, with some luck. Neither has the steering feel of a mid-priced sport sedan, but the turbo V-6 MDX Type S in the offing might change our minds.

2022 Acura MDX

2022 Acura MDX

The MDX swaddles front-seat passengers in multi-adjustable buckets with deeper sculpting than those in the Telluride, and its second-row bench seat has a removable section that switches it to six-passenger mode, with a useful aisle to the skimpy rear seat. The Kia’s configuration is more conventional, and it’s more spacious too, with adult space in even the third row. 

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

In both, all passengers get the benefit of standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors. Acura charges $47,925 for a base MDX without leather, with an average 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, and with an infotainment system that doesn’t accept touch inputs; it’s a remote touchpad or voice commands. Kia’s touchscreens are wide and lush, its warranty a year and 10,000 miles longer, and its price thousands lower than the MDX, even in its most expensive Telluride SX trim.

We won’t whiff and tell you we really can’t choose. We can, for now at least. The Telluride’s substantially less expensive, rivals the Acura in technology, has better infotainment, more third-row space, and ultimately, a higher TCC Rating, with the MDX at a 7.0 and the Telluride at 7.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) But the 2022 MDX hasn’t been crash-tested yet—and if all goes well, it’ll be exceedingly close between the two.

Summary

7.5
Expert Rating
The 2021 Kia Telluride earns our Best Car To Buy nod with its excellent features, warranty, space, and style.
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 Acura MDX wears its new flagship mantle with confidence, from its styling to its eager road manners.

Styling

8.0
Expert Rating
Kia plays the corners with the Telluride, and wins.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The MDX drapes a sinuous body over an expressive interior.
Read More

Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The Telluride’s a smooth ride, though not an overly quick one.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 MDX is a road-tripper’s delight.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
People, stuff, pets? Bring them all along in the Kia Telluride.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
The MDX can seat up to seven; five get the royal treatment.
Read More

Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
Safety gets its day in the sun in the Telluride.
Read More
Acura hopes for top-notch scores, but the MDX hasn’t been tested yet.
Read More

Features

9.0
Expert Rating
Value is just the first of the Telluride’s best features.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Thumbs up for the standard features; thumbs down for the MDX’s touchy interface.
Read More

Fuel Economy

4.0
Expert Rating
Telluride gas mileage isn’t its best story to tell.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 MDX earns low-20s EPA ratings.
Read More

MSRP

from $32,190
from $46,900

Invoice

from $31,064
from $45,701

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

23
22

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.8 L
Premium Unleaded V-6, 3.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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