This February is a relatively lean month for new-vehicle introductions. Two fully redesigned upscale SUVs – the Acura MDX and Buick Envision – are on their way to showrooms as you read this, while the Nissan Kicks subcompact crossover and Honda Ridgeline mid-size pickup roll into dealers with cosmetic tweaks to keep them looking fresh for a few more years. Here is a roundup of all the new vehicles hitting dealerships in February 2021.
2022 Acura MDX
While the 2022 Acura MDX is an all-new design, it is what the industry refers to as an evolutionary update, which is to say that there’s little about the new model that will prove surprising.
The styling draws inspiration from the 2021 TLX sedan that debuted late last year, with tauter lines that make the new MDX look leaner than its predecessor.
Initially, the only mechanical difference between the incoming and outgoing MDX models is the new one’s 10-speed transmission, which replaces a nine-speed. It’s matched with the same 3.5L V6 (290 hp/267 lb-ft of torque) as the old MDX and comes standard with the brand’s well-regarded Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.
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Later this year, Acura will mix things up with an optional Type S upgrade that will swap in a turbocharged 3.0L V6 promising 355 hp and 354 lb-ft, which will be accompanied by a torque-vectoring AWD system and Brembo brakes.
The last-generation MDX’s hybrid powertrain is gone.
For now, the MDX’s new interior is its most noteworthy feature. Gone is the old car’s clunky dual-display infotainment system, and in its place is a 12.3-inch screen controlled via a console touchpad that takes some getting used to. On the plus side is a new digital gauge cluster, and you can option in a head-up driver display, too.
Acura continues to make the MDX a strong value in the mid-size luxury SUV class, with prices starting in the mid-$56,000 range and topping out at less than $68,000 in Platinum Elite trim.
2021 Buick Envision
In North America, Buick exists in an in-between section of the upscale car market. Within General Motors’ context, the Envision is posher than the Chevrolet Equinox but less so than the Cadillac XT5, and it also has to contend with the dressed-up Denali version of the GMC Terrain.
The second-gen model’s new styling helps the Envision hold its own better parked next to the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus NX, and Volvo XC60. Also promising is a new-to-Envision upscale Avenir trim level with items like climate-controlled front seats and heated rears, quilted leather upholstery, a driver’s seat massage function, and wireless smartphone charging. Significantly, the Envision’s new interior no longer looks like it belongs in the less-expensive Equinox, making it feel more like a truly upscale vehicle.
Buick has also ditched the old Envision’s ho-hum 2.5L naturally aspirated base engine in favour of a standard 2.0L turbo mill. Its output – 228 hp/258 lb-ft – splits the difference between last year’s offerings. That’s a lot less power than you can get in European models, but it lines up nicely against the Lexus NX, which is a more natural competitor for Buick anyway.
2021 Buick Envision pricing starts at $35,698 in Preferred FWD trim, and reaches $44,398 with the new Avenir package.
2021 Nissan Kicks
For 2021, the Nissan Kicks subcompact crossover gets its first update since joining the brand’s lineup in 2018, when it – in theory – replaced the weird-but-loveable Juke.
The Kicks’ 2021 changes are cosmetic tweaks that better align the little utility’s appearance with that of the Rogue compact crossover and Sentra compact sedan, both of which were totally redesigned last year. The grille is larger, the headlights are squintier, and the overall effect is a vehicle that presents a more assertive face to the fast-growing market for entry-level crossovers.
Inside, there’s a newly optional 8.0-inch touchscreen and an available part-digital gauge cluster, but the cabin’s basic design is carried over.
Also brought forward from 2020 is the Kicks’ 1.6L engine (122 hp/114 lb-ft) and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). As before, the Kicks is front-wheel drive only.
As of this writing, Nissan hadn’t announced its pricing for the 2021 Kicks.
2021 Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline also enjoys a mid-cycle refresh for 2021, its first since the 2017 arrival of the second generation of this mid-sized pickup truck.
This is also a purely cosmetic exercise that lends the Ridgeline’s front end a more rugged appearance, perhaps as a response to criticism that its crossover-based underpinnings make the Ridgeline something less than a “real” truck.
Honda’s only other addition to the Ridgeline is a physical volume dial for the stereo, which replaces last year’s touch-sensitive control.
The Ridgeline’s 3.5L V6/nine-speed/AWD drivetrain is carried forward, as is a dual-action tailgate and a weatherproof trunk built into the floor of the cargo bed.
2021 Honda Ridgeline prices range from $44,435 in Sport trim to $53,055 for the Black Edition.