Alan Ohnsman
Bloomberg News

Honda Motor Co., targeting record U.S. sales this year, is readying a redesigned Acura MDX sport utility vehicle as it seeks to catch luxury competitors with enhanced performance, safety equipment and fuel-efficiency.

The 2014 MDX, a seven-passenger SUV unveiled at the New York International Auto Show, will have a higher-powered V-6 engine and six-speed transmission, and a smooth exterior for better aerodynamic performance when it goes on sale this year, Honda said in a news release. The MDX will also be sold for the first time in a lower-priced two-wheel-drive version, along with all-wheel-drive grades, Honda said.

The revamped MDX has “new levels of luxury comfort, family functionality and fuel efficiency to once again set the luxury SUV benchmark,” Jeff Conrad, Acura’s vice president and general manager of sales, said in the statement.

Honda set a goal for this year of topping its best-ever U.S. volume of 1.55 million Honda and Acura brand cars and light trucks, set in 2007. The company, Japan’s third-largest automaker, with operations in Ohio, is counting on the third-generation MDX and new RLX luxury sedan to reach the target.

Honda, based in Tokyo, also seeks to revive Acura. The brand’s U.S. sales totaled 156,216 vehicles last year compared with a peak of 209,610 in 2005. Acura deliveries, which trail those of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus in the United States, are up only 6.2 percent this year through February.

While the look of the new MDX is “very conservative,” that “will help to keep loyalists happy,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Where it will help to attract new buyers is due to its much improved fuel economy and lower price point.”

Honda didn’t immediately announce a volume goal or pricing for the new model, the best-selling Acura brand light truck for more than a decade.

Acura March sales may rise at least 20 percent from a year earlier, Honda officials said.