Unlike automakers who show futuristic concepts, only to release production vehicles that look nothing like them, Acura and its parent Honda err of the side of caution. While officially a “prototype,” the 2014 Acura MDX on display at this week’s Detroit Auto Show gives a good idea of just what the brand’s updated seven-passenger crossover will look like.

Due in mid-2013, the 2014 Acura MDX, spy shots of which you can view here, promises to deliver a more comfortable driving experience, better fuel economy and a greater sense of style than the vehicle it replaces.

The exterior styling, called “Aero Sculpture,” serves up a clean design meant to emphasize the MDX’s new proportions. Its roofline is 1.5-inches lower than the model it replaces, while a longer wheelbase contributes to ride comfort, second-row legroom and third row access.

Power comes from an all-new 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6, featuring direct fuel injection and Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) cylinder deactivation technology. While Acura isn’t releasing details on output or fuel economy just yet, it does promise that the MDX will deliver “class leading” fuel economy.

To further boost fuel economy, Acura will offer the MDX in both “Super Handling” all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive, a first for the MDX models. Acura attributes this to “demand from customers in warm-weather markets,” but we see it as a way to up the Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers, too.

The 2014 Acura MDX will ride on an all new chassis that is both more rigid and lighter in weight, and Acura claims its revised front and rear suspension designs will deliver sportier, more confidence-inspiring handling. Cabin quietness was also a focus for Acura’s engineers, and the 2014 MDX benefits from advanced sound-deadening techniques.

We can’t tell you much more about the cabin, as Acura isn’t showing the MDX’s interior just yet. It does say that the 2014 MDX will offer improvements in cabin functionality, cargo management and overall luxury, something that Acura has generally been lacking in recent years.

Expect the new MDX to focus on occupant safety, too. It’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure is designed to achieve high scores in NHTSA and IIHS crash testing, and Acura is predicting both five star and Top Safety Pick designations for its updated crossover.

Optional safety features will include Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Blind Spot Information, Lane Keeping Assist and Active Cruise Control with a Low-Speed Follow feature.

On the infotainment side, the new MDX gets the next generation of AcuraLink, complete with Pandora connectivity, SMS text messaging and Aha by Harman for personalized news and media feeds. Fee-based AcuraLink services include features like automated crash notification, remote unlocking, an SOS button and operator-based concierge services.

Production of the third-generation MDX will move from Alliston, Ontario, Canada to Lincoln, Alabama. While a specific date to market has yet to be announced, Acura expects to be selling the 2014 MDX by mid-2013. We’ll bring you further details and pricing closer to the launch date.

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