(Contributing Editor: Peter Stamatis)

Taking your growing active family on an adventure whose destination lies beyond a point where the paved road ends?

Does your wallet lack a CDL and fueling cash for a Van Hool touring bus? Images of family van are only slightly less uncouth than a mule train, and lack the “Go [almost] Anywhere” capability?

All of it explains the inundation of 3-Row crossover utility vehicles in  this age of SUV.

Which is why Roadblazing.com recently set out to discover what exactly makes the recently restyled 2018 Acura MDX 3-Row premium family crossover so popular among American internal combustion set adventurous lifestyle families.

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WHAT: 2018 Acura MDX AWD-i 3 Row, mid-sized plus crossover sport utility vehicle.

Standard Power: 3499 cc, direct injection, i-VTEC SOHC 24V V-6 cylinder gasoline engine: 290 hp/ 267 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm +9-speed automatic torque converter planetary transaxle;

(Optional) PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential, Super Handling all-wheel drive; 90:10 – 30:70 torque split w/ side to side torque vectoring

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: 2017 MY brought styling refresh to Gen. 3 Code YD-3 sharing platforms w/ Honda Pilot family 3-Row crossover, Honda Ridgeline pickup truck.

Similar Bird of Fewer Feathers = pre-2017 “Bird’s Beak V dominant horizontal grille bar dumped for more mature hexagonal V-bezel unit featuring dark lattice detail. Mid corner fascia chin is more square jawed. Jewel Eye 5-segment LED headlamps sweep further back. Subtly coke-bottle fuselage profile and raked C-pillar w/ small Hoffmeister kink remain unchanged. Ditto the Kammback liftgate and wrap-around boomerang taillamps; Chrome trimmed twin exhaust outlets have filled in where reflectors used to sit in the lower rear fascia.

WHY: For the typically active, can’t have a maxi-van family set.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Late Fall 2017

WHERE: Acura new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Lincoln, Alabama (moved to East Liberty, Ohio, MY 2018)

WHERE TO: PTU to E-coupling viscous multi-clutch on demand all-wheel drive, from nominal 90/10% to maximum 30/70%; Side to side axle ABS torque split up to 100%; -1 No off-road modes; 7.3“-inches clearance = just an inch more than family vans for ingress sake; Primarily a foul weather friend & dusty driveway deliverer;

HOW ROADWORTHY:  Though Earthdreams in name the VTEC valvetrain V-6 delivers grunt in the rpm nether regions, singing musically so; The 9-speed automatic transaxle swaps cogs without hesitance; Ubiquitous Sport Mode exists for teens to make fewer excuses about driving the family wagon;

A featherweight in the 3-row crossover segment, Acura MDX is fitted with a lively tuned independent suspension, delivering a disciplined, less dive and roll inclined experience, while dispatching surface ripples from penetration; +1 Lethargy common to the segment is notably absent in steering, which manages road feedback and is blessed with respectable heft; Responsive torque shifting all-wheel drive delays uneasy understeer, quickening turn-in; +1 Immunity from road & drivetrain sounds = commendable  effort with only the slightest wing mirror whistle at elevated speeds.

HOW FAR: 21 combined miles per gallon; 500 miles range from a generous 19 gallon tank

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 7 Occupant seating = 2+3+2 pre-teens; 111″ wheelbase on the smaller end of the spectrum; Row 3 = typical for the segment, spacing afterthought, punitive for adults > 5’6″;

Max Cargo Volume = 17% > Lexus RX 350L; 10% < Infiniti QX60

Wheelbase = 1.9″ > Lexus RX 350L;  3.2″ < Infiniti QX60

HOW USEFUL: Power liftgate; Manual sliding 60/40% split 2nd Row seating; Manual flat folding 2nd & 3rd Row tilting seatbacks; 2nd Row lower cord release fold & slide 3rd Row access; +1 Wide & Deep center armrest bin w/ power, connectivity; +1 2nd & 3rd Row power ports; –1 Deep dash obscures forward view; -1 2nd and 3rd Rows worth of blindspots; -1 Unlined front center armrest bin; -1 Tow Rating: 3500 lbs.

HOW SAFE: 10 airbags; IIHS Top Safety Pick; Rear camera; STANDARD Acura Sense = Pedestrian detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning, Keep Assist; Full adaptive cruise control, Automatic High beam LED headlamps;

Optional: Blind spot & Rear Cross-traffic warning, sonar front & rear park assist

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Perforated Leather Rows 1, 2 heated seating + cooled Row 1; Wide seat cushions Power 10-way driver, 8-way pax seats, w/ 2-position driver’s memory; Heated Leather power tilt, telescoping steering wheel with spoke integrated redundant controls; 3-Zone automatic climate control Keyless entry, push button ignition; Full express power windows x 4; 2nd Row manual sunshades; 3rd Row privacy window tint;+1 Generous steering wheel reach adjustment; -1 Minimal front seat bolstering.

Cool Gizmo(s): Pinch & depress transmission position selector; Row 3 digital automatic climate control; Sub cargo floor cargo shade storage slot ; Haptics feedback touch controlled lower LCD infotainment screen;

Details Done Right: Contrasting stitched seat & soft panel surfaces; Open pore olive wood dash, center console & door accents; Steering wheel spoke distinctive thumb wheels;  Precision rotating control dials; Soft close power windows; Dense pile carpeting, including cargo floor; Foot well & door panel ambient lighting;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Mesh fabric ceiling; -1 2nd & 3rd Row wall & pillar hard plastics

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 9.2″ center mid-dashboard  ODMD haptics,touch LCD infotainment & settings screen;  8.0″ center upper-dashboard MID map & infotainment LCD display w/ center stack dial joystick controller; Adaptive voice commands;  Bluetooth hands-free communications;  SMS, MMS and E-mail; GPS HDD Navigation w/ real time traffic, re-routing;  Siri Eyes assistant;  Android Auto / Apple CarPlay interfacing (MY 2018);  Pandora, Aha radios;  USB x 6, 12V x 3, 110 V x 1.

Sound Cabin: wide array, effective presence of 12 speaker, 605 Watt ELS DTS 5.1 CD, HD radio streaming audio;

Entertainment Pkg. includes 16.2″ 2nd & 3rd Row occupant retracting WVGA split source video screen, RCA, HDMI inputs, wireless headsets x 2, infrared remote control x 1;

By Subscription: SiriusXM ( 90 days incl.); AcuraLink telematics (90 days Connect S.O.S., destination & Premium concierge incl.)

HOW MUCH: $59,340 = 2017 Acura MDX SH-AWD, as tested (+$305 2018 MY)

WHAT’S MISSING: Simpler single screen infotainment; Power 3rd Row seat fold.

ANY COMPETITION:  GMC Acadia: +1 cabin & cargo space, IntelliLink infotainment; Infiniti QX60: +1 cabin & cargo space, Row 2 access, Lexus RX 350 L : +1 distinctive face, cabin materials; Mazda CX-9 Signature: +1 seat support, switchgear material

BOTTOM LINE: Family van stigma avoidance.