Large three row people-mover SUVs like the Acura MDX need a performance version about as much as a pickup truck needs 700 hp. But Acura saw fit to give us one anyways with the MDX Type S. The fourth-generation MDX has been with us for a couple of years now and it is the first one to get a Type S badge affixed to its tailgate. The badge has always meant more power and better on-road dynamics and Acura has given it an $88,000 price tag that puts it up against some serious competition.
The standard MDX has a larger cabin and has added a lot of new tech, but the engine was a carryover, albeit an updated one, which we’re ok with it because the naturally aspirated 3.5-L V6 is a great powerplant. The MDX was the first luxury SUV to popularize the now ubiquitous three-row family hauler and has built up a loyal following over the years. With comfortable and luxuriously trimmed cabins, refined powertrains, and athletic handling the standard MDX is already an accomplished SUV, so the Type S needs to add something special to justify the nearly $16,000 price gulf between it and the next most expensive trim.
Exterior: The MDX wears styling that makes it much more successful as a premium luxury SUV than previous generations. Like they did with the TLX, Acura designers lengthened the MDX’s hood to stretch the dash-axle ratio as much as they could. This design exercise gives the MDX a “cab-rearward” silhouette similar to the rear-wheel drive-based BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE. All part of their plan to shift perceptions of their place in the premium space.
The Type S gets a slightly larger grille that flows more air and openings on either side of the bumper that directly feed air into sub-radiators for cooling. There are unique 21-inch wheels framing red Brembo brake calipers and a quad-tipped exhaust finishes off the rear end. Type S badges adorn the grille, fenders, and tailgate, but the overall look is understated for a performance model.
Powertrain and Drive: The naturally aspirated V6 gets replaced by a 3-litre turbocharged V6 that also sees duty in the TLX Type S. The motor makes 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque and Acura says that it makes this the quickest and most powerful Acura SUV to date. Power is routed to all four wheels via an uprated 10-speed automatic transmission. Acura’s torque vectoring all-wheel drive system is standard here and doesn’t just help with traction in slippery and snowy conditions, but it can actually help you corner faster as well.
While it’s a worthwhile power bump from the standard MDX, it doesn’t feel much quicker. Granted this isn’t a slow vehicle by any measure but when put up against players like the BMW X5 and Genesis GV80 it’s outclassed in the power department. With its much higher price tag the MDX opens itself up to a new clientele who have totally different expectations from their vehicles.
But the MDX makes up for it with a much longer list of standard features like an air suspension system that has adjustable height settings including a lift mode that provides an additional 2 inches of ground clearance for off-road trails or for when the snow flies.
Initial observations from behind the wheel point to the Type S as being more of a luxury vehicle than a sporty one. The ride is wonderfully damped and smooth. Even in the Sport + drive mode the rough edges of the MDX’s starchier suspension doesn’t seem to make forward progress any more brittle or choppy. And while that’s a welcome attribute it’s a bit of a head scratcher when taking the Type S badge into context. It’s the same news with the steering that’s a bit too light and a bit too lifeless to give the driver any sort of idea of where the tires are in relation to the amount of steering lock applied in a corner.
The MDX Type S is relatively quick and it does display a lot of grip even on winter tires but it never feels engaging. It prefers a more casual and sedate driving style. A bit more DNA transfer from the exceptional Integra Type S would have been very welcome here. Even a bit of exhaust noise, or a bit more power. It’s a good drive but I expect more spunk when there’s a Type S badge involved.
Interior and Tech: A subtler approach towards performance seems to be a bit of an ongoing theme with the MDX Type S when you step inside. It’s probably a direction deliberately chosen to position the Type S closer to the higher end of the luxury SUV spectrum and not necessarily anything to challenge something with and M or AMG badge.
You’re greeted with soft leather seats quilted in red stitching that continues onto the dash and the centre console. There’s dark wood trim and bright aluminum accents and intricately machined illuminated speaker grilles advertising the 25-speaker 1000-watt sound system which is exclusive to the Type S.
A first for Acura, the Type S gets massaging seats with multiple massage modes that extend down to your thighs, a rarity at this price point. They work very well.
Second row passengers get USB outlets and loads of room with seats that can move fore and aft but the third row is still best reserved for little ones. This is the type of SUV where you would leave the third row folded, freeing up a large amount of cargo space, until you absolutely need the extra seats.
A Type S badge on the steering wheel serves as a reminder that you’re in the special model but the driving position isn’t any better than the standard Type S nor does it feel any sportier. What it does feel is more luxurious which conflicts a bit with the Type S persona.
2024 Acura MDX Type S
2024 Acura MDX Type S
2024 Acura MDX Type S
2024 Acura MDX Type S
Conclusion: The MDX Type S is the quickest and most luxurious MDX to date. The massaging seats and sound system are exceptional and it’s equipped a whole lot better than its German competition for the same money. But its focus on comfort seems at odds with the performance image the Type S badge projects. The suspension tune is a bit too soft and ponderous, and some more power and noise would go a long way towards making it more exciting to drive. A great vehicle overall but misses the mark as a performance SUV.
2024 Acura MDX Type S Ultra
Price as tested: $88,408.50
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre single turbo V6/10-speed automatic
Power/torque: 355 horsepower/ 354 lb-ft of torque
Fuel (capacity): Premium (70 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 12.4 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 13.0 L/100 km
Warranties: 4-years/80,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Audi Q7, BMW X5 40i, Genesis GV80, Mercedes-Benz GLE 450, Lexus RX 500h
Website: Acura Canada