Acura MDX Type S Aims for the Upper Echelons of the Market in 2022

Acura's popular three-row SUV, with its 355-horsepower turbo V-6 and a starting price of more than $70,000, wants to be included in the true luxury-crossover conversation.

The Acura MDX Type S appears to be a high-performance model in the vein of Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S and RS badged SUVs. However, after driving this turbocharged, 355-horsepower version of Acura's three-row SUV, we believe the company's true strategy is more straightforward. Acura wants to move the MDX away from the pseudo-luxury segment, which includes slightly more upscale family crossovers such as the Infiniti QX60 and Cadillac XT6, and toward the upper echelons of the luxury-SUV segment, which includes more prestigious models such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and Genesis GV80.

The company is quick to point out that the MDX's traditional positioning has proven effective thus far, with over 1 million units sold across four generations. Thus, the current MDX's standard powertrain—a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6—will continue to account for the lion's share of sales, owing to the vehicle's attractive starting price of $49,045. However, the Type S model enables Acura to compete in the higher-priced segment, where profit margins are higher and customers are more discerning. Thus, the MDX Type S is equipped with a more powerful engine, a more sophisticated suspension setup, a slew of upscale optional features, and a significantly higher starting price.

For $67,745, you get the same turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine found in the TLX Type S sports sedan. It produces 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. This is more grunt than the Q7 55 and X5 40i (335 horsepower each), but falls short of the GV80 3.5T's 375 horsepower. Standard equipment includes Acura's well-known torque-vectoring SH-AWD system. Additionally, Acura added adaptive dampers and an adjustable air suspension to the MDX: It is 0.6 inch lower in Sport and Sport+ modes, but 2.1 inches higher in Lift mode.

The fully loaded MDX Type S with the Advance package is Acura's first vehicle (aside from the NSX) to break the $70,000 barrier, with prices starting at $73,095. It shares the same mechanical components as the base Type S but adds massage front seats, plusher upholstery, and a bass-heavy 25-speaker ELS audio system. This is precisely the type of equipment that Audi and BMW customers expect in a luxury SUV. Open-pore wood, quilted leather, and a blue color scheme all contribute to the cabin's convincingly upscale feel. The only niggle on the inside is Acura's touchpad-based infotainment system, which we haven't quite gotten used to.

On the other hand, enthusiasts such as ourselves might have expected something with a Type S badge to be a little more performance-oriented. Although the turbo V-6 is powerful enough to propel the MDX confidently, it lacks both character and responsiveness. Acura anticipates it will accelerate to 60 mph approximately one second faster than the standard model, which did so in 6.4 seconds during our testing. The MDX has long been one of the most agile three-row SUVs available, and the Type S's adaptive dampers further enhance body control—particularly in Sport mode. However, the all-season tires limit grip, and the steering feels overboosted and artificial for a car that claims to be genetically related to the RSX Type S.

Perhaps we place an undue premium on the given name. Because the MDX is one of the few Acura models that has remained sporty in comparison to its competitors over the years, it has less ground to make up in the sports-sedan segment than the TLX Type S. When compared to the BMW, Audi, and Genesis SUVs it is aimed at, the MDX Type S strikes an appropriate balance of refinement and driving dynamics. And if luxury-SUV buyers are willing to pay more than $70,000 for an Acura, they'll discover that the MDX Type S has the features, power, and luxury quotient to justify the premium.

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