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Acura MDX Type S: A performance crossover with plenty of plush and just enough bite

Acura strikes gold with this underrated gem that delivers genuine luxury and well-rounded sportiness, but can it stand up to the Germans?

Acura MDX Type SImage credit: Jeric Jaleco

“Come on, kids. Time for school! Yes, I know you’re late, but that’s not my fault your brother wanted to sleep in like a deadbeat. Now come on! We can still make it on time since we got the 2024 Acura MDX Type S and all 355 of its shirt-tearing, rip-snorting horsepower! What’s that, son? Sport+ all the way to school? You bet,” said some parent somewhere, probably. Okay, probably not, but I would. Okay, maybe not, but you get what I’m trying to say.

It’s time for me to throw some sensibility in with my usual dose of sportiness, and the 2024 Acura MDX Type S can do just that. Or at least it should, being the hotted-up performance variant of the standard MDX three-row family SUV that Acura has been touting since the early 2000s, with this current iteration having started its generation for 2022. From a distance, you may not think much of it. You could mistake it for a mere A-Spec, with it being not all that aggressive as far as performance crossovers or other Type S Acuras go. But then you start to raise an eyebrow at the red-painted Brembos and quad-tip exhaust outlets and wonder what Acura was cooking when they plucked this fairly average family SUV off the line. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that the final dish is quite the morsel.

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Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Price and specs

At $75,295, the MDX Type S ain’t cheap unless your idea of a posh family SUV has Alpina or AMG in the name. What you do get for that pretty penny is a fairly loaded, well-optioned vehicle that has just a bit of everything for everybody, as we’ll soon discuss. The Type S treatment also swaps out the normie MDX’s 3.5-liter V6 for a 3.0-liter, twin-scroll, single-turbo mill belching out a healthy 65 horsepower and 87 pound-feet atop the standard engine’s output. Acura’s acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is standard, as is the 10-speed auto.

Base price:$68,150
As-tested price:$75,295
Engine:3.0-liter twin-scroll single-turbo V6
Transmission:10-speed automatic 
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power:355 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
Torque:354 pound-feet @ 1,400 rpm
Redline:6,200 rpm
Weight:4,741 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:5.4 seconds
¼-mile:14.0 seconds @ 101 mph
MPG:17 city, 21 highway, 19 combined
Observed MPG:18.3
Fuel Capacity:18.5 gallons

(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from August 2022)

MDX Type S exterior design

“Mm, yes, this SUV is made of SUV. “

The MDX isn’t a particularly remarkable design, even with the mild dose of added aggression afforded by the Type S moniker. But I will say what’s remarkable is how unremarkable it is. It’s an appreciably tasteful and inoffensive design, devoid of the garish mugs that adorn other cars in its field, such as those from Lexus or BMW. But its creases and angles just keep it interesting enough to have it stand out from the overly-rounded blobs from Audi or Mercedes.

Frankly, I like it! But those seeking something more extroverted and shouty may wish for something with even more visual wow factor.

The decision years ago to ditch the Acura silver beak and adopt a traditional grille in the same shape has to be one of the strongest moves for the brand’s design language, and it gives the MDX a “just right” face that, while it may not attract the showy types, certainly won’t offend the more reserved buyers either. The quad-tip exhausts, red brake calipers, and machined wheels of the Type S are just sporty and modern enough, although the car could be more aggressive given its raucous-looking TLX and Integra stablemates. The lower-slung profile and somewhat elongated snout make the MDX slightly reminiscent of a bloated hatchback or a tubby station wagon, especially with the air suspension at its lowest height, and I mean that in the most respectful way possible.

What’s hot?– Buttery smooth powerhouse of an engine
– Drive modes for any occasion
– Admirable handling and steering
– Posh, airy interior earns its luxury car status
– Logical interior layout with physical switchgear
– Excellent second-row seating accommodations

MDX Type S pricing breakdown

The MDX Type S, even at its most affordable “base” trim, is no cheap bargain. At $68,150 before destination, you still get the adaptive air suspension (adaptive shocks plus air springs), LED headlights and taillights, auto rain-sensing wipers, Acura’s 12.3-inch display with the touchpad controller, and a glass panoramic roof. Step up to our tester’s $73,500 Advance trim, and Acura throws in quilted leather upholstery, a fancier set of machined 21-inch wheels, an upgraded 25-speaker ELS STUDIO 3D audio system, and 9-way massage seats for front occupants. Fancy! Acura’s suite of safety tech is standard across all models and includes traffic sign recognition, collision avoidance, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors, and adaptive cruise.

Add $1,195 destination charges and our tester’s $600 Liquid Carbon paint, $459 illuminated door sills, and $188 Acura logo puddle lamps, and we’re sitting at a lofty $75,295, a big step above similar rivals from a continent over. However, unlike those rivals, the MDX Type S comes fairly well-specced out of the box, even in its most spartan form, while its peers are more likely to nickel and dime you for every little option and package. Still, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a value deal, but it’s certainly of its class.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

MDX Type S interior and tech

A luxury interior for those with Old World sentiments

Such opulence. Much wow. If this is the very best Honda can pull off, then I’d call it a resounding success. The MDX Type S is nice! I mean, it better be for the price. I expected it to be. But I’ve grown more smitten than I thought I would with the interior design and fit.

Everything just feels properly snapped together and screwed in without the slightest creak to be heard, even after the long life I’m sure this press car had. Interior panels were sturdy, what plastics existed throughout felt dense and robust, and the infotainment screen was appreciably complimented by a suite of hard buttons that all actuated with a premium, satisfying click. How simple. If hard buttons are the first to be dated and left behind, then I don’t want to get with the times. Hard buttons are cool, people! They’re cool, especially when they’re this tactile.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The leather seats were plush and supportive, although the second-row seats could be a tad bit softer. At least they’re adjustable and feature their own chargers, climate controls, and a fold-down center armrest and cupholders when the generous-ish center seat isn’t in use. Rear cargo space is expectedly meh with the surprisingly usable third-row seats up but more than accommodating with them folded down, giving plenty of room for week-long excursions, beach days, and maybe a couple of mountain bikes with the front wheels removed. Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s refreshing to see the cargo area as airy as the rest of the cabin, devoid of spare tire kits, tool sets, or ill-fitting folding seats that eat away at space.

Loads of tech, not all of it so cool

As previously mentioned, the MDX Type S comes standard with a whole starter pack of safety tech, all of which serve noble purposes to keep you from pancaking yourself against a wall or truck. As we’ll soon discuss in further detail, everything works decently well, from the adaptive cruise to the 360-degree parking cameras when in reverse. It’s great stuff, but nothing new under the sun.

What isn’t so great is the controversial touchpad, akin to what aroused ire in Lexus models before making their way to Acura’s side of the street. Similar to them, it’s a haptic-feedback method of navigating the infotainment screen via an auxiliary tracking pad to keep the glass free of your filthy, disgusting prints. Because “resale value,” I suppose. The fact is any infotainment system that needs a learning curve warrants a sigh and an eyebrow raise from me, but its ease of use soon made itself apparent over the course of my loan.

The MDX is a proper luxury crossover

A lavish chariot for a thousand-mile commute

As you’d expect, the Acura MDX Type S is an easy choice for a daily driver. Enthusiasts will appreciate its blend of sportiness and power in every commute, and the average suburbanite will love, well, pretty much almost everything, from its supple ride quality to the spacious cabin.

The glass roof earns chef’s kisses for shining much-appreciated light into the already-airy cabin, helping shine the sun on the red leather upholstery and open-pore black wood trim and reinforcing nightclub vibes when the sun goes down and the ambient lighting turns up! The abundance of glass greatly helps with visibility, bolstered by bind spot monitors that help make the MDX just as usable as a downtown LA runabout as it is rocketing down the 405. 

Just know that the unremarkable fuel economy off of the 405 will remind you of olden times just as much as the interior’s collection of hard buttons will. I saw about 18-ish combined in my mostly city driving, but at least I beat the EPA highway estimate, scoring between 23 and 25 mpg when traveling between 70 and 80 mph on most stretches of freeway.

The high-mounted screen, digital gauge cluster, and heads-up display keep all necessary information within a glance, if not in your peripheral. And the safety aids work wonders in nearly all driving scenarios. As discovered in the spunky little pocket rocket that is the Integra Type S, adaptive cruise with lane keep works fairly well at kinda-sorta-not-really self-driving. 

How all that tech works on the road

However, unlike the Integra, which tracked commendably straight and centered in its lane, the MDX would occasionally ping-pong between lanes. At the very least, it’d track straight but heavily favor one side of the lane or the other. It didn’t do this all the time, but it did so more than enough during my six-day stint, and I’m sure Acura can easily iron it out with some minor software updates.

The touchpad turned out to be fairly simple to get the hang of within a day or so, but there are some functions you may wish to use, such as adjusting screen settings or the massage seats, that may require more than a quick peek for you to get right. Again, it wasn’t a big pain, and it wound up being more functional than any similar system I had used before, but the fact there’s a learning curve in the first place still incited annoyance, especially when the Civic-based Integra gets to keep its touchscreen. There’s the easy fix! Just move the screen closer by a couple inches and make it touchscreen! Bam.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Now it’s time to top off this compliment sandwich because there’s one bit of tech in the MDX I find quite infallible: that adaptive air suspension is God’s gift to the world. It can be sporty and firm when needed and perfectly supple otherwise. But even in Sport+, the ride is still compliant enough to take potholes and expansion joints with little fuss. It’s height adjustable, too, with up to 50 millimeters of lift available up to 37 mph for thick snow or water crossing. Clever! Every luxury crossover, no matter the brand, should dabble in air suspension at this price point, and the fact we can have it on what’s technically a Honda product is nothing short of spectacular. Speedbumps and road debris, be damned.

The Type S badge carries weight but could be better

Just sporty enough

The MDX Type S has some real pep in its step with the dance moves to match, more than I thought it would, and enough to put weight on that Type S badge. This soccer practice shuttle should have no problem catapulting the kids from the living room to the local game in no time at all.

The aforementioned 3.0-liter V6 is a soldier and a sweetheart in one, belching out just enough power to shove you back in your seat without inducing unwanted browning of the trousers. Plucked from the TLX Type S, it sports a reinforced block, squared bore and stroke, and forged internals to create the perfect tuner-ready canvas. Not that it’s lacking in grunt or anything. Of course, the stock 355 horsepower pushing a 4,700-pound SUV doesn’t sound like much in today’s world, but it’s more than enough, partly thanks to the snappiness of the heavily-revised 10-speed auto.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Four-piston, 14.3-inch front Brembos be brembing (new verb for the dictionary, someone get on that), doing a great job of reigning the MDX down from the lofty speeds it’s capable of without overheating, at least at canyon pace. In Sport and Sport+, the air springs sag 15 millimeters while the adaptive dampers stiffen slightly. Bunched with double-wishbone front suspension and Acura’s acclaimed Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, the result is an eager, nimble, and competent canyon toy for when the kids’ soccer match is atop Angeles Crest.

The SH-AWD system can send 70% of its power to the rear wheels and 100% of that power allotment to either the left or right wheel, which did wonders to quell understeer and help rotate around hairpins. In other words, this thing handles! Even the steering is precise and has an impressive degree of communication, going so far as to lighten up when the front wheels unload to inform you of road surface changes or a loss in front traction. The only real limiting factor was the Continental performance all-seasons, which let out faint howls in some of Angeles Crest’s tighter bends, but that’s nothing Michelin Pilot Sport SUVs can’t fix.

The MDX rips! It tears! Dare I say it even shreds? This three-row, seven-seater luxury crossover is genuinely fun. Ah, life is good. But it could be better.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Needs more bite to match its bark!

Yes, the MDX Type S is appreciably quick and plenty sharp. But it could be quicker. It could be sharper. It could turn in with even more ferocity and have the thrust needed to topple Civic Type Rs and Hyundai Elantra Ns. It could have a 10-speed that’s fully manual when hopping on the paddles and doesn’t auto-upshift at redline. But it doesn’t.

I’m unsure if that’s simply what the Type S badge means and if the ankle-biting Integra is the outlier, or if the Integra set the new benchmark and all other Type S Acuras should follow. But the MDX Type S is just a smidge too gentle for the message it wants to convey. It seems to occupy the same realm as the BMW X3 M40i and Audi SQ5, which are admittedly smaller but ring in at a lower base price and are much quicker. I’d liken it more to other big three-rows like the Audi SQ7 or BMW X5 M50i, but those monsters sticker for tens of thousands of dollars more and rock twin-turbo V8s pushing way more oomph.

Maybe it is I who fails to fully grasp the true identity of the Type S brand, having only experienced the Integra before this. Or perhaps I’m right. Maybe the Type S cars are just a quick ECU tune and a set of sticker summer rubber away from absolute perfection. 

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?– Could be faster
– Could be sharper
– Trackpad is a learning curve
– Unremarkable fuel economy
– Reserved styling may not be sporty enough
– Steep price tag encroaches on fierce rivals

An admirable product with plenty of posh and a splash of sizzle

The Acura MDX Type S has proven to be quite the underrated gem that I wish more people spoke about. But I get that its performance and price put it in an awkward position.

It seemingly has many direct rivals and none at all, leaving the Type S to be a purchase choice solely on you. Is it faster or slower than the next car? Is it bigger or roomier than the next car? If you’re really looking at the Type S above all trim levels, then who cares? This is a car you buy because it’s different, not necessarily a standout. And that’s to be taken in the most respectful way possible. It’s the ability to feel so distinct that makes it an all-star in its own right.

Acura MDX Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

If you want it, then clearly, you want it. Clearly, you’re keen on snagging a vehicle that seeks to make a statement against its peers while also living in its own little world of luxury and athleticism, free of the stigma of most German contenders and the gaudy mug of other Japanese options. If that’s your vibe, status without the stigma, then the Acura MDX is an easy go-to, granted you can get along with the touchpad controller. And if inoffensive high performance is a big plus for you, then the MDX Type S might just seal the deal.

Author

  • Jeric Jaleco

    A famous Mandalorian once said, "I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe." Formerly contributing to DriveTribe, The Drive, and HotCars, I'm but a simple auto journo trying to make my way in this ever-evolving field, now doing explainers, columns, and reviews here at Acceleramota! I've come a long way from collecting Hot Wheels, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Jeric Jaleco
the authorJeric Jaleco
Editor-In-Chief, Co-Owner
A famous Mandalorian once said, "I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe." Formerly contributing to DriveTribe, The Drive, and HotCars, I'm but a simple auto journo trying to make my way in this ever-evolving field, now doing explainers, columns, and reviews here at Acceleramota! I've come a long way from collecting Hot Wheels, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.