The 2022 MDX is the first SUV to wear the performance-denoting Acura Type S badge. We get behind the wheel to see if it lives up to the badging.
After a 13-year hiatus, the Type S suffix returned to Acura automobiles, reintroducing itself to the North American market with the 2021 Acura TLX Type S. Now, Honda’s luxury/performance arm applied the same logic, much of the same equipment, and indeed the Type S name to the MDX full-size SUV. That makes this the first performance SUV Acura has ever built.
Ugh. Another SUV gussied up to look “performance” just so the has-been owner can feel young and hip, when — in reality — it’s nothing more than proof of a middle-age crisis, or worse! Right? I mean, am I right? Actually, no. Not even close.
Yes, this is an SUV. A nearly 200-inch-long, three-row crossover with seating for seven or for two and 71 cubic feet of cargo space. Or choose one of several minivan-like variations of seating and space in between those bookends.
Also yes, the MDX Type S stands 67.1 inches tall and 78.7 inches wide, and it gets power delivered to all four wheels.
2022 Acura MDX Type S Review
Less Is More … Power
But look at what sends power to those wheels: a turbocharged 3.0L narrow-angle V-6, pumping out as much as 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. That’s 65 more horsepower and 87 more pound-feet than the larger (but naturally aspirated) 3.5L V-6 in the standard MDX.
And, before all muscle gets to the wheels, it first travels through a 10-speed automatic transmission and a torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Acura named said system SH-AWD, short for Super Handling all-wheel-drive.
The “Super Handling” part has merit, as it can send up to 70% of total power to the rear axle and up to 100% of that to either outside wheel. Moreover, SH-AWD has the ability to overdrive the rear axle by nearly 3%. All of the above improve chassis balance, especially at corner exit, and allows the driver to apply copious amounts of power the moment you kiss any apex.
And that’s just the powertrain.
Acura added agility to the MDX with both adjustable shock absorbers and adjustable air springs. Toggle the drive mode selector to Sport and especially Sport Plus and you get a firm, fast-reacting suspension that keeps the body in control and chassis balance near neutral. A stiffer-than-the-standard MDX anti-roll bar up front sharpens the front end further.
That’s proper sport sedan stuff right there!
Good Icing Really Makes the Cake
And, just to add icing on top of this delicious cake: You run on wider wheels, 9.5 inches instead of 9.0 inches, 21 inches in diameter. Inside the front wheels are larger (by 0.5 inches compared to standard MDX) Brembo brake rotors with four-piston fixed calipers clamping down hard.
And Acura redesigned the front grille to allow 14% more airflow into the engine bay to keep everything cool. Oh, for the 10-year-old in you, the exhaust has a valve that opens as early as 3,250 rpm, depending on drive mode, to make that 3.0L turbo louder. Yes!
Inside, you get supportive leather seats with a nice faux suede insert running the length of the center of the seat, which helps your backside feel secure. And the steering wheel includes a fat rim and flat bottom to keep things turning as intended. And, in case you forget, Acura wrote “Type S” all over this MDX. Good reminder!
See what I mean? This is legit. Acura didn’t merely add larger wheels and cladding for the Type S. No, Much like the TLX Type S, Acura transformed the drivetrain and the chassis to provide a noticeable upstep in performance.
In fact, both Type S models use the same turbo 3.0L engine and SH-AWD system, as well as employ similar suspension tricks. You could argue that the TLX goes farther with additional braces to the core structure, but the MDX stands alone with an air suspension.
Still Does All the Crossover SUV Things
And, yet, it is still a three-row crossover. A fancy one at that. You get three-zone climate control, a panoramic moonroof, second-row sunshades, a 379-speaker — I’m guessing — stereo system, and enough charge ports and cup holders to function as a boutique coffee shop uptown.
That’s in addition to two 12.3-inch digital screens up front, one for the instrument cluster and the other for the center console, which also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
But that brings up one controversial point. The center console is controlled by something Acura calls True Touchpad Interface. And it uses absolute positioning, meaning wherever you touch the pad represents touching the same part of the screen. It works well but takes a bit of getting used to. And, when and if you use Apple CarPlay, which doesn’t use absolute positioning, that takes a little more getting used to.
A Smooth Ride, Anywhere
Regardless, all the aforementioned kit complements a fantastic ride. In comfort mode, the air suspension adjusts spring rate that’s 40% softer than a standard MDX, which rides fine. And the shock absorbers match the springs.
Furthermore, Acura installed adjustable engine mounts to help minimize vibrations and balance any changes you may otherwise feel from cylinders deactivating to save fuel.
Altogether, the MDX rolls smoothly and quietly down the interstate. Wind, especially, keeps quiet at those speeds, with a well-isolated cabin, making conversations with passengers a pleasure.
The only thing to give pause for long road trips in the Type S is only achieving 21 mpg on the highway (17 mpg in the city, 19 combined). Especially considering the 10-speed automatic transmission and under 2,000 engine rpm at interstate speeds, you’d expect the MDX Type S to eke out a bit more mileage from a gallon of fuel.
Or maybe you should just drive slower, like a lot slower. After all, air suspension on the Type S offers adjustable ride height, too. Put the Type S in Lift mode and the MDX rises nearly 2 inches to help handle inclement weather or off-roading shenanigans.
Lift mode works at speeds up to 37 mph and technically counts as a drive mode. It’s one of seven, actually. There’s also Snow, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual.
I Wanna Go Fast! As Do My Spouse, Kids, and Stuff!
But, again, it’s Sport and Sport Plus where the MDX Type S really belies its Crossover shape and size. At the first turn of the wheel in anger, you feel much more immediate responses than anything this size not wearing a Porsche badge would provide. Despite 58% of the vehicle’s weight resting on the front axle, the Type S turns in willingly and quickly.
As tires squeal, clawing at the road, the fancy shock absorbers and springs keep the body well controlled, minimizing lean, pitch, and dive impressively well. And that gives you the confidence to feed in power as you begin to exit the corner. And this is where the powertrain starts to show off.
The computer knows to engage clutch packs and send power rearward, to the outside wheel, and mitigate much of any understeer you would otherwise experience. That means you just add more power, and the cycle happily repeats itself until you shoot out of the corner exit, full throttle, going way too fast for normal people, and loving the racy, raspy sound pumping out of the exhaust.
Yes, it’s fun to drive the Acura MDX Type S. It provides laugh-out-loud moments of joy and encourages more corners, sending positive feedback through the wheel and backside, which the seats do a good job to keep firmly in place, by the way.
2022 MDX Type S: Worth the Money?
The base price for a 2022 Acura MDX Type S is $67,895. That’s a lot of money for a family people hauler. But you do carry those people comfortably and offer plenty of cupholders and charge ports for all. You do get a quiet, comfortable ride. And you can even tow up to 5,000 pounds worth of toys behind you.
But you also keep your youthful car-enthusiast-self alive — the MDX Type S does all of the above and engages with the driver. Yes, it is a tall, long machine and has 4,741 pounds worth of seats and equipment to carry around. Yet, the performance it provides and the feel it offers the driver make it worthy of praise. And worthy of the suffix Type S.
Build your own online now, and find your local dealer, at Acura.com.