Smooth and powerful without unnecessary aggression, Acura's Type S treatment works well on the MDX crossover.
Acura's Type S models are not about hard-edged aggression. If you're trying to find a Japanese competitor for BMW M or Mercedes-AMG, sorry, you've got the wrong number. Instead, the Type S treatment focuses on confident power and smooth poise. And when applied to the redesigned MDX crossover, it makes for a compelling glow-up indeed.
A number of mechanical improvements do wonders to the MDX, but the real showpiece is the Type S' standard air suspension. This is Acura's first implementation of such a technology and it's super good. Combined with adaptive dampers, the Type S is both more comfortable and more agile than the base MDX. Even on large, 22-inch wheels with low-profile tires, the MDX rides like a dream over nasty stretches of highway while still being appreciably fun to hustle along a winding road.
The Type S comes standard with Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, which shuffles power front to back and side to side as needed, not only helping with traction in inclement weather, but overall grip on dry roads, too. Combined with light but accurate steering, the MDX Type S is easy to drive fast. It's not nearly as thrilling as a BMW X5 M or Mercedes-AMG GLE63, but again, it's not supposed to be.
Strong power is an important part of the Type S updo, and for that, Acura employs the same 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 used in the TLX Type S. This engine delivers 355 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque at just 1,400 rpm, meaning there's plenty of pull-away power for city driving and highway passing. The plentiful low-end torque means the 10-speed automatic transmission doesn't always have to drop a gear or two with regularity, either; the engine is very often humming along in the heart of its power band.
Acura says the MDX's 10-speed transmission was reprogrammed for Type S duty, delivering 40% quicker downshifts and 30% quicker upshifts. Yet it's still sluggish. Switching to the MDX Type S' Sport and Sport Plus driving modes help a little, though here, the transmission actually has a tendency to hold gears for too long, so you're just kind of revving away for no reason. A little more refinement would go a long way.
Because of the added power, the Type S takes a small efficiency hit compared to the standard MDX. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined are 2, 4 and 2 below other all-wheel-drive MDX models. On top of that, the MDX Type S trails other turbocharged six-cylinder SUVs like the Audi Q7 , BMW X5 and Genesis GV80, though only by 1 or 2 mpg.
However, unlike some competitors, Acura offers the MDX Type S with a full suite of driver-assistance tech. Forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and more are all standard. You even get Acura's Traffic Jam Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist for effortless highway commuting. This SUV is already pretty lovely as a daily driver and the easy-to-use driver-assistance tech bolsters that quality.
There's a whole bunch of tech inside the Type S, as well, though like the regular MDX, it's a little hit or miss. There's a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, but it displays a ton of information at one time and the design is a little messy. A 12.3-inch central infotainment screen offers high-res graphics and plenty of colors, but the touchpad controller takes some getting used to, and the absolute positioning functionality still isn't compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (which connect wirelessly, by the way). A 10.5-inch head-up display projects useful information onto the windshield, but... actually, I don't have any nits to pick about this. It's good.
The rest of the Type S' interior is lovely, all comfy and plush. I absolutely love the dark blue leather offered in my test car, and the seats in all three rows are roomy and supportive. All of the plastics are nicely grained and the leather is high quality; the MDX is a genuinely luxurious SUV. If you think you have to spend big on one of the Germans to get a fancy interior, you clearly haven't been in an Acura.
Acura offers the MDX Type S with or without the Advance package, which includes things like extended ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, third-row charging ports and a bangin' 25-speaker ELS Studio stereo. All in, you're looking at $67,895 for the base Type S or $73,245 for the Type S with Advance, including $1,195 for destination. That's hardly chump change, but if you option a less-powerful BMW X5 xDrive40i to the same level of equipment, you're paying closer to $80,000. Just saying.
That relatively low pricing further drives home the point that the MDX Type S is not meant to compete with performance SUVs like the Audi SQ7 or BMW X5 M -- vehicles that offer more power but cost tens of thousands of dollars more. And really, I don't think most buyers actually need the sort of overkill offered by those ultra-aggro Germans. The MDX Type S offers an excellent blend of comfort and premium features with just enough pep in its step.