2022 Acura MDX Type S First Drive Review: Fledgling Performance At A Price

If you’re an auto enthusiast, especially one with JDM predilections, you’ve already heard this song and dance: Acura is keen to shake off the previous decade’s dust of mediocrity and return to its well-engineered, fun-to-drive roots of the 1990s and early 2000s. A key element of that retromorphosis is adding a sporting variant of every vehicle it sells, and now it’s the SUV’s turn. Meet the 2022 Acura MDX Type S.

Using the same turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 as the TLX Type S, the sporty MDX variant isn’t a direct rival to hot SUVs from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. But it’s nonetheless the most athletic SUV that Acura has ever sold, clearing that admittedly low bar with room to spare. What’s more, the MDX Type S also boasts a few Acura firsts, like a standard four-corner air suspension, available massaging seats, and a new flagship audio system. That puts the Type S in the enviable position of being the sportiest and most luxurious vehicle in the MDX lineup.

Quick Stats2022 Acura MDX Type S Advance
Engine:Turbocharged 3.0-Liter V6
Output:355 Horsepower / 354 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH:5.3 Seconds (est.)
Seating Capacity:7
Base Price:$66,700 + $1,045 Destination

Go Juice

Down 0.5 liters of displacement and up one twin-scroll turbocharger compared to the base MDX’s V6, the Type S has plenty of power under the hood. Output rises from 290 to 355 horsepower, while torque goes from an unremarkable 267 pound-feet to a grunty 354 (available between 1,400 and 5,000 rpm). The engine is well-matched to Acura’s corporate 10-speed automatic transmission, retuned and strengthened for Type S duty with a new valve body and torque converter, as well as stronger gears and clutches. Turbo lag is barely noticeable, and Acura says the gearbox shifts 30 percent faster – I believe it.

In the most aggressive Sport Plus drive mode – exclusive to Type S models – the throttle is sharp and alert, and the transmission selects gears well. The Type S is reportedly a second faster to 60 miles per hour than lesser MDXs, so one could expect it to hit that benchmark in less than 5.5 seconds. Only a ho-hum exhaust note lets down the responsive, muscular powertrain; otherwise, the Type S provides the MDX family with a very useful injection of strength that finally feels equal to the turbo

Straight-line performance is just one aspect of the sportfolio. As on other Acuras, the standard Super Handling all-wheel drive is able to route up to 70 percent of power to the rear axle and 100 percent of that to a single wheel, reducing understeer when accelerating out of corners. However, the sophisticated torque-vectoring rear differential only improves handling when using the throttle, so in other situations, the Type S’ firmly damped air suspension, stiffer front anti-roll bar, and Brembo four-piston front brakes step in.

The net effect of all these mechanical alterations is significant. Although contending with some rain during my time in the Type S, the SUV boasted more immediate turn-in than its slightly aloof siblings, although there’s still minor understeer when trail-braking into corners. The SH-AWD torque vectoring works as advertised, noticeably tightening up the driving line on corner exit. However, this behavior was a bit unsettling at first – I allowed the Type S to take a set on corner entry, but applying throttle near the apex resulted in far less plow than expected and required some mid-corner adjustments.

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