Acura says a completely new platform underpins the ’14 MDX, shown for the first time in production form today at the New York International Auto Show.

The MDX cross/utility vehicle retains its 7-passenger configuration for its third generation but boasts better ride comfort and fuel efficiency, plus a “more versatile and luxurious cabin,” Acura says in a statement.

Acura earlier announced the addition of a front-wheel-drive configuration for ’14. Until now the MDX has been exclusively all-wheel drive.

The CUV gets the same new, 3.5L direct-injected V-6 that powers the just-released Acura RLX sedan. In the MDX, the mill makes 290 hp and 267 lb.-ft. (362 Nm) of torque.

The figures actually are a downgrade from the ’13 MDX’s 3.7L non-DI V-6, which churns out 300 hp and 270 lb.-ft. (366 Nm) of torque, but Acura is claiming improved fuel economy for AWD models, of 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km) combined vs. 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km) in the ’13.

The new FWD MDX is expected to average 23 mpg (10.2 L/100 km).

The CUV retains a 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode and Sequential SportShift paddle shifters as standard.

Acura says it tuned and tested the MDX on Germany’s famed Nurburgring track, with faster acceleration and more precise steering feel and responsive braking the result.

Acura introduces a new Integrated Dynamic System on the MDX with three modes, Sport, Normal and Comfort, that adjust steering effort, throttle response “and active sound to suit the tastes of the driver.”

Like most new Acuras, the new MDX gets supplier Sachs’ 2-piston Amplitude Reactive Dampers. The current MDX debuted in 2006 with Delphi’s MagneRide magnetically controlled dampers, which allowed for driver-selectable suspension settings.

A MacPherson-strut front and multilink-rear suspension setup is retained for the ’14 MDX, with the latter more compact than before, resulting in a lower step-in height and wider path to third-row seats, Acura says.

The MDX loses 275 lbs. (125 kg) from ’13, due to a 55% increase in high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium content.

In pictures there is little noticeable difference in appearance between the current and new MDX, but Acura says tweaks have been made to the vehicle’s angular design language to improve aerodynamics 17%.

The CUV’s interior is quieter than before thanks to more sound-deadening materials, including more body sealers, and triple-path isolated dampers, Acura says.

Besides the smaller rear suspension, MDX third-row access is improved with a new One-Touch Walk-In system, which automatically folds and slides second-row seats to their forwardmost position via the push of an illuminated button.

Up front, the MDX gets a bigger center console, able to hold a purse or a couple of iPads, and a more concise center stack, down to just nine hard buttons from 41 in the ’13 model. The latter change is made possible in part by a new touchscreen with haptic feedback, Acura says.

The AcuraLink cloud-based telematics system is offered on the MDX and includes real-time traffic information that is free for the first three years.

The ’14 MDX goes on sale this summer in the U.S., in four grades: MDX, MDX with Technology package, MDX with Entertainment and Technology packages, or the high-end MDX with Advance and Entertainment packages.

MDX production is switching from Alliston, ON, Canada, to Lincoln, AL, for ’14, as Acura parent Honda consolidates light-truck production at the Alabama plant.

MDX sales have been robust throughout the second-gen model’s nearly 7-year lifecycle, and last year tallied 50,854 deliveries in the U.S., up 17.5% from 2011, WardsAuto data shows.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com