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

January 28, 2021

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.

Summary

6.5
Expert Rating
The 2021 Lexus RX stays strong in an increasingly crowded class with styling that stands out and powertrains that don’t.
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 Acura MDX wears its new flagship mantle with confidence, from its styling to its eager road manners.

Styling

6.0
Expert Rating
The RX 350 is more in your face than subdued, and maybe it needed to stand out among all the competition.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The MDX drapes a sinuous body over an expressive interior.
Read More

Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Lexus RX may look racy, but it’s built for comfort, not for speed.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 MDX is a road-tripper’s delight.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2021 Lexus RX serves five passengers best; avoid the L and its cramped third row.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
The MDX can seat up to seven; five get the royal treatment.
Read More

Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
Mixed crash test results undermine the wealth of standard safety features.
Read More
Acura hopes for top-notch scores, but the MDX hasn’t been tested yet.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
Better standard features and plenty of options highlight the 2020 Lexus RX.
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
The RX 450h outlasts other hybrid rivals for up to 30 mpg.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
The 2022 MDX earns low-20s EPA ratings.
Read More

MSRP

from $45,220
from $47,200

Invoice

from $42,279
from $45,993

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

23
22

Engine

Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.5 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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