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2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid first drive: Big is relative

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It doesn’t matter if a car is big. It matters if it feels big, if it looks big, if it drives big. The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is big. It has a third row that’s not just for legless subway riders, a second row that fits above-average humans and the same cargo space, despite the extra hybrid tech, as the non-hybrid version. But it doesn’t feel big, look big or drive big. That’s what a few electric motors will do for an SUV.

The new MDX Sport Hybrid, on sale in late April/early May, adds 31 hp over its gas-powered twin for 321 hp total, while also getting 45 percent better city mileage at 26 mpg. The reason? It has the powertrain from the Acura NSX. Well, not the NSX's exact powertrain. For starters, it’s laid out in reverse, but it's a powertrain strikingly similar to the company’s latest hybrid supercar.

The Sport Hybrid, Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive MDX (we’re going with “SH-SH-AWD” again) gets a 3.0-liter V6 up front and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with an integrated electric motor in the middle. That’s followed by the Intelligent Power Unit (the battery pack providing power to the front and rear motors) then the Power Control Unit (dictating the system's power management) and finally to the twin, 36-hp, 54 lb-ft electric motors directly connected to the rear axle for torque vectoring duties. The NSX has the same twin motor setup, but at the front axle.

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