2022 Acura MDX Type S First Drive Review: Worthy of Its Badge – CNET

The MDX is the first SUV in Acura’s history to wear the recently revived Type S badge.

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The 2022 Acura MDX becomes the first SUV to ever wear the brand’s sporty Type S badge, which saw its revival last year with the new TLX Type S sedan. Not just a style upgrade like the brand’s A-Spec designation, the MDX Type S backs up its new badge with completely overhauled performance, from a more powerful engine to a new adaptive suspension and beyond. All told, the Type S treatment transforms what was already a competitive three-row SUV into something truly enthusiastic.

355-horsepower turbocharged V6

The transformation begins in the engine bay where the standard MDX’s 3.5-liter V6 is replaced by the same 3.0-liter turbo V6 as the TLX Type S. With 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque at the ready, the hotted-up MDX boasts increases of 65 hp and 87 lb-ft over the standard model. On the road, that translates to a 0-to-60-mph sprint that’s a full second quicker, not to mention more than enough vigor for a good time once you get rolling.

Shouldering the 4,788-pound SUV chassis, the powerplant has to work a little harder here than it does in the TLX sedan, which is 567 pounds lighter. With that in mind, the MDX Type S features upgraded cooling with a pair of sub-radiators fed by intakes at the corners of its angular front bumper. The Type S’ 10-speed transmission is also beefed up with stronger internals and new programming that results in 40% quicker downshifts and up to 30% quicker upshifts versus the standard MDX’s automatic.

Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive is also standard equipment and can shift up to 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear axle, where it can then vector it side to side. This allows me to start rolling onto the MDX’s throttle earlier mid-corner, resulting in less understeer, higher exit speeds and a more planted feeling, even on roads dampened by morning rain.

The Type S is as much as 377 pounds heavier than the base 2022 MDX, but you wouldn’t notice while cornering.

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Get the rhythm right and the MDX Type S’ 113.8-inch wheelbase seems to shrink, delivering the handling and agility of a much smaller vehicle. But don’t go chucking Acura’s largest SUV into a corner with reckless abandon; SH-AWD won’t bend the laws of physics if you push too hard. Scrubbing off speed before a turn, you’ll need to make judicious use of the Type S’ bright red, four-piston Brembo front brakes with 14.3-inch rotors.

New air suspension

Complimenting the SH-AWD tech is Acura’s first air suspension, complete with electronically adjustable dampers. In its most comfort-oriented mode, the MDX Type S’ ride is up to 40% softer and 52% more compliant over bumps than the standard SUV. Double-wishbone articulation for the front wheels and a multilink rear setup keep that extra compliance from feeling too mushy. The air suspension can automatically level the ride while towing or when the MDX is loaded with passengers and cargo, and can even automatically kneel to an access height when parked for easier entry and exit.

Twist the Integrated Dynamics System knob to Sport or Sport Plus — the latter being unique to the Type S — and the MDX’s dampers firm up while the ride hunkers down by 0.6 inches. The Type S also features retuned electric power steering with 23% less assist, which creates a weightier feel and lets more feedback through to your fingertips. Along with adjustments to the throttle response, transmission shift timing, exhaust tone and SH-AWD tuning, Sport and Sport Plus dramatically change the character of the MDX Type S relative to Comfort and Normal.

21-inch wheels are standard equipment, making room for bright red, four-piston Brembo brakes.

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The air suspension also enables a Type S-exclusive Lift mode that raises the ride height by 2 inches for improved ground clearance, while also applying maximum damper firmness to keep the ride controlled. Exceed 37 mph, however, and the SUV will automatically return to its normal ride height. Along with a Snow mode and a user-customizable Individual setting, the MDX features seven IDS modes, all of which feel distinct.

The MDX Type S is shod with 275/40-series self-sealing performance tires. Unlike run-flats, which need to be serviced immediately when pierced, these tires can automatically seal punctures up to 0.2 inches in diameter and keep rolling for the rest of the vehicle’s regular service interval. Acura claims these tires avoid the ride and noise compromises of run-flats while retaining good traction for sporty performance.

Type S design changes

The big brakes and 21-inch wheels are the most prominent curbside indicators that this isn’t your average MDX, but there are also Type S badges visible from every angle just in case. Up front, the fascia features larger intakes with a body-colored surround for the brand’s pentagonal grille. Out back, you’ll find quad exhaust tips peeking through the rear diffuser. Gloss black trim for the windows, mirror caps and side details finish off the sporty, but not too aggressive makeover.

Inside, the MDX Type S features standard red, black or white Milano leather seats, though there’s also an Azurite Blue hide exclusive to the Type S. The Advance Package adds a nine-way massage function, which is nice. Ahead of the driver’s seat is a flat-bottomed steering wheel with Type S badging and metal sport pedals. Type S badges can also be found on the door sills and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster features a unique visual theme when the IDS knob is switched to Sport Plus. For the most part, however, this cabin doesn’t look dramatically different from the already nicely appointed MDX.

Available Tiger Eye Pearl (read: yellow) paint is exclusive to the Type S, but I prefer this example’s Apex Blue.

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Acura True Touch Interface

The Type S has the MDX’s same standard 12.3-inch center screen, which isn’t touch sensitive and is operated with Acura’s True Touch Interface pad. The pad features haptic feedback and absolute positioned touch inputs, so tapping in the upper right corner of the pad selects whatever is in the upper right corner of the screen and so on. When using Acura’s built-in menus, media controls and navigation, this is a fantastic control scheme with a bit of a learning curve that rewards with extremely intuitive operation. That is, unless you’d prefer to use the USB Type-A and Type-C ports or wireless connectivity to fire up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which are tedious to use because of their incompatibility with absolute positioning. 

Whether you bring your own streaming apps or use the MDX’s onboard sources, sound is piped through either a standard ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with 16 speakers and 710 watts or, with the Advance Package, a 25-speaker ELS Studio 3D Signature system with six Highline ceiling speakers, unique CenterParquet transmission tunnel speakers and over 1,000 watts of amplification through 22 channels. The Signature system can only be had in the Type S and sounds amazing from the front seats, creating a broad and believable soundstage from stereo and multichannel audio sources. I am especially pleased with how stereo imaging for rear passengers seems to turn with your head when looking out of the window or inward, because who just stares at the back of a headrest when stuck on the second or third row?

The MDX Type S comes with everything available on the standard model’s Technology Package and more.

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Standard driver aid tech

Like the base MDX, the Type S comes standard with pretty much the entirety of Acura’s suite of driver aid and assistance technologies. That means forward-collision warning with collision mitigation braking and pedestrian detection, lane-keeping steering assist, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control with low-speed following and traffic jam assist. Stepping up to the Advance Package upgrades the standard rear camera to a surround-view system and adds a 10.5-inch head-up display that shows speed, media and navigation info, and integrates with the collision-mitigation system to display warnings. 

Pricing and competition

Including a $1,025 destination charge, the 2022 Acura MDX Type S starts at $67,745 — a premium of $11,800 over a comparably equipped MDX with the Technology package. Acura priced the MDX Type S to be aggressively competitive with the likes of BMW’s X5, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and Audi’s Q7. It’s fiercest rival, however, looks to be the excellent Genesis GV80, which is a smidge more expensive, but also boasts more power and more intuitive cabin tech. That said, my enjoyment of Acura’s SH-AWD system is enough that it would be a very tough choice between the two.

This MDX could easily have been a dilution of the reborn Type S brand. But with a satisfying performance boost when you need it and improved comfort when you don’t, this big beauty definitely earns its extra badge.

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