The Acura MDX are generally reserved for the family-friendly luxury crossover crowd. But Acura has stepped up its game. The new 2022 MDX Type S is the highest performing and most powerful MDX Acura has ever made. But I still think it needs a little more, especially if Acura wants people to take the Type S badge seriously again.
Full disclosure: Acura excellent product, people kindly loaned me the MDX Type S for a week. It was delivered spotless with a full tank of gas. Me and the kid are quite comfortable with it after more than 700 miles of driving.
What is it?
Acura MDX has been around for a long time. First introduced in 2000 and spanning four generations, it is Acura’s flagship family car. It also sold well: Since 2002, the MDX has consistently hit sales from a low of 40,000 to a high of 50,000, each year. In 2014, Acura sold nearly 66,000 MDX units. Not bad for something that started on the same platform as Honda Odyssey.
The current fourth generation MDX is brand new for the 2022 model year. No 2021 MDX – Acura probably skipped a year to prepare the new generation. It was previewed by a near-production-ready prototype in late 2020. The MDX went on sale in February 2021 and Type WILL a year later. With the removal of the Acura RLX, the luxury sedan everyone forgot, the MDX ascended the throne as the brand’s flagship.
Specs That Matter
Under the hood of MDX Type S uses the same 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 found in the TLX Type WILL. Power numbers are identical to those on the TLX Type S: 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, the only engine choice available in the Type S. The familiar 10-speed automatic is paired with Acura’s signature SH-AWD, and Brembo brakes slow things down. Those behind 21-inch wheels on low-profile high-performance tires.
All that luxury makes for a heavyweight monster: the MDX Type S Advance I have here weighs in at 4,788 pounds.
It’s a unique sized car. This new MDX has grown a bit over the previous generation, now just inches away from competitors like the Audi SQ7. Cargo capacity behind the 3rd row of seats is 18.1 blocks; increases to 48.4 cubic feet with the third row of seats folded. With both rows of rear seats stowed, you get 95 cubic feet of cargo volume for Costco or Home Depot runs.
With the MDX Type S now taking the lead for the brand, it comes with a hefty price tag. The MDX Type S is currently the second most expensive Acura the brand has ever produced. Including the $1,195 destination fee, the MDX Type S starts at $67,895. Acura gave me a Type S Advanced, for a total of $73,745. That’s a serious amount.
How does it drive?
I’m sure you all want to know if this fits the Type S badge. It does, sort of. The 355 capacity is always high. Turbo lag is minimal, despite a maximum gain of 15.1 pounds. Turn the giant metal drive mode knob and the Type S becomes another animal. There are six modes to choose from: Normal, Comfort, Snow, Lift (available only at speeds below 37 mph, this increases the car’s air suspension by 50 mm), Sport and Sport sport +.
Comfort mode is actually pretty bad. The Type S’s air suspension imbues every bump. But you didn’t go for the Type S badge wrapped around the pillow.
Performance-oriented drive modes are where things get interesting. While Sport is fine, you’ll want to stay in Sport+. The air suspension lowers half an inch, the engine idles at higher speeds for faster throttle response, the exhaust valve opens, and more artificial engine noise enters the cabin. The dashboard turns red and you get a g-meter, a larger tachometer, and a turbocharger tachometer. It’s time to rip.
Step on the gas and hit 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. Throw this in a corner and you’ll have a moment when you realize that the SH-AWD system is not a gimmick. It really works. Acura has been developing and improving this system since 2005; it is currently in its fourth generation. With the ability to transmit 70% of the engine power to the rear axle and distribute 100% of the axle’s torque to one wheel, it is a myth about how this system works. Between torque and adaptive dampers, the Type S gives you the confidence to drive in spirit. I usually feel a little insecure in performance SUVs and crossovers – something about a car with a high center of gravity in corners like a sports sedan makes me a little nervous. But the way Acura crosses a corner is impressive.
The exterior design is really sharp. It’s handsome; Acura describes the MDX as having “sporty proportions” and I think that’s appropriate. From the long hood with teardrop grille and giant Acura badging to the stylish taillights and brightly colored quad exhaust tips, it all comes together for a sporty look that is both familiar and new. batch. Honestly, that’s a big change from previous generations of MDX which were rather bubble-like.
The interior is a nice place to spend time. The central screen measures 12.3 inches, with a sharp and clear horizontal layout and excellent Apple CarPlay handling. The white leather seats are luxurious and give a quality feel to all the switches and buttons. Acura loves to highlight authentic materials in this interior – perforated wood and dash, real metal accents. The front seats are 16-way adjustable and have nine different massage modes, along with heating and cooling. Perfect for a long trip.
The centerpiece of the interior is big panoramic roof. It was one of the biggest I’ve seen on any vehicle. On a hot day, it almost gets too much light. Thankfully, when the blackout shade is closed, the interior remains much cooler.
With all the ambient lighting options, you can create an entire visual experience inside the cabin. Acura offers several preset lighting modes, dubbed Iconic Driver, all with a local theme about driving around the world. From the red Suzuka to the orange Route 66 of the desert, to the Vegas Strip (with its purple, yellow, and turquoise), it’s all great. It’s a gimmick, sure, but I’d love to play along. Pair that with one of the best audio systems ever put in a car and you’re literally flying in luxury. The ELS Studio 3D sound system has 25 speakers, 22 channels and over 1000 watts of power. Acura needs to sell the system to households. It’s that good.
While you’ll appreciate the firmer suspension in the Sport and Sport+, the large wheels and low profile tires can make the MDX Type S feel uncomfortable on rough roads. On a long ride on the Sport+, my girlfriend actually started to feel a little nauseous while sitting in the passenger seat. (It was mostly my fault.)
And while this is a seven-seat family car, don’t expect to put anyone high in the third row. Legroom for the second row is fine (Acura claims it’s 29.1 inches), but a tall person in the front row would eat into it.
And while Acura has done a great job with that HD infotainment screen, it’s wasted on an interface system most of us hate: a damn touchpad. That’s really the only way to operate the display and navigate its menus – the display is non-touch. I’ve never quite gotten used to it, and trying to work quickly, to answer a phone call or enter an address into the navigation, can be really frustrating.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that the screen is split into two menus, the smaller menu never leaving the screen. That menu has its own little trackpad running along the right edge of the trackpad. I’m sure if this were my everyday driver I’d get used to it eventually, but the system is a bit unwieldy to navigate, especially while driving.
Finally, for a performance car with an active exhaust system, the sporty engine note is non-existent. To make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I sat in a parking lot and sped up with my son in the back of the car to see what sounds were coming from outside. He shrugs back. “It’s not really like anything,” he said. That’s a bit disappointing, since those quad-polished exhaust tips look pretty serious.
The biggest downside to the MDX Type S is that it doesn’t quite match the Type S badge. You want more. While the basic specs – turbocharged V6 power, torquey all-wheel drive – are all impressive on paper, the Acura sits in the middle when compared to its competitors. The Class S badge and the price hike that comes with it, pit the top-tier MDX against some stiff competition. The BMW X5 M50i is $9,000 more expensive, but offers Additional 170 hp from twin-turbo V8. Even Genesis GV80 offers more horsepowerwhile cutting the Type S in price.
It’s price is a bit different from the MDX Type S. While this is a very good effort from Acura, this is not, in my opinion, a $74,000 car. To me, this would be a very nice car in the mid-60s price range.
In the end, what Acura has done here is not MDX Type S and more MDX A-Spec with a performance package. Acura needs to work a little harder if it wants people to take the Type S badge seriously, especially in this price range. A turbocharged V6 is a good start; The performance-oriented all-wheel drive system is impressive, and the drive modes offer a variety of experiences, which is not always the case with this vehicle.
But the 355-horsepower V6 and the handsome but slightly rough-and-tumble styling won’t cut it in this segment. Type S needs at least 100 additional horses and more unique styling will be valued among high-performance crossovers. The Type S moniker has a rich history at Acura, but MDX needs to figure out how to live up to that legacy.