Best-selling luxury SUV with a touch of performance

Acura’s MDX luxury SUV has passed the million-selling mark, with more than 50,000 annual sales in 15 of its last 22 years. The MDX claims the title of best-selling 3-row luxury SUV of all time, helping Acura sell 160,000 vehicles last year, slightly more than in 2020 despite supply chain challenges facing are currently facing all car manufacturers. Acura officials told us they consider the MDX the flagship of the group, and with that sales history to back it up, we won’t argue that point. The Acura MDX’s pedigree adds to its latest claim to fame: the first Acura SUV to wear the “Type S” badge.

The Type S enhancements follow last year’s complete redesign of the MDX, which featured an all-new platform based on double-wishbone suspension, front and rear. S-type enhancements to this platform include the MDX’s first air suspension with active dampers, revised steering and brake tuning, larger brake rotors squeezed by 4-piston Brembo calipers and a mounted battery on the boot for better weight distribution. A new 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine, developing 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, replaces the MDX’s standard 3.5-liter engine, increasing peak power to 65 horsepower and peak torque to 87 lb-ft. . The MDX’s 10-speed automatic has also been retuned for Type S service, as has Acura’s signature Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).

Driving the new Acura MDX Type S quickly conveys the impact of these upgrades. The twin-scroll turbocharger delivers up to 15.1 pounds of boost in a responsive yet refined manner, while the revised 10-speed automatic transmission selects and shifts without hesitation. Acura claims the MDX Type S is a full second faster in zero-to-60-and-1/4-mile acceleration than the standard model. It also features Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) to cut three cylinders and save fuel at low revs. Even with VCM, the Type S only manages 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, a slight drop from the standard MDX’s 19/26 mpg. Power delivery is aided by new sub-radiators behind the front bumper that provide cool air to the engine.

The increased power is complemented by improved driving dynamics that add confidence without compromising the luxury ride quality of the MDX Type S. The air suspension actually reduces spring rate when selecting “Comfort” ride modes. or “Normal,” compared to the standard MDX, while significantly increasing spring stiffness in Sport or Sport+ mode. This results in a 52% more compliant overall ride quality, expanding the dynamic range of the SUV. The air suspension can lower the ride height of the MDX Type S by 15mm in Sport/Sport+ mode (or for easier entry/exit), and it can raise the MDX Type S up to 50mm off-road at low speeds or in deep snow driving. Automatic load leveling, which compensates for additional cargo and passengers, is also provided by the new air suspension.

Additional Type S upgrades include a stiffer front stabilizer bar, standard 21-inch wheels, and the revised SH-AWD torque-vectoring system. This system can send up to 70 percent of torque to the rear wheels and up to 100 percent of torque to the left or right wheels, depending on driver input and sensor readings. This improves handling by sending more torque to the outside rear wheel during cornering, allowing the MDX Type S to spin faster through a corner. Another first for the MDX Type S is the use of self-sealing Continental tires that can seal up to 5mm of puncture without the need to stop or repair the tire.

Inside, the new MDX Type S features standard Milano leather seats with suede inserts, a Type S-exclusive flat-bottom steering wheel, contrast stitching on the doors and dashboard, improved mood lighting in the cabin and improved wood and metal trim. The MDX Type S is the first Acura to offer massage seats, with a dedicated button on the dash for quick access to massage settings. Audiophiles will appreciate the Type S sound options, starting with a standard ELS Studio 3D system using 16 speakers, 16 channels and 710 watts, or the optional ELS Studio 3D Signature Edition system with 25 speakers, 22 channels and more than 1000 watts. The optional system uses two carbon fiber woofers in the center console and 6 roof-mounted speakers, two speaker layouts we’ve never seen (or heard of) before.

The 2022 Acura MDX Type S starts at $67,745 and includes most of the features mentioned above. But buyers looking for massaging front seats, the upgraded ELS audio system, a head-up display, heated rear seats, open-pore wood trim, a surround-view camera and a hands-free tailgate free riders will have to choose the Advance Package, which bumps the price up to $73,095. This package also adds gloss black exterior accents and acoustic laminated rear glass. For $5,500, we think there’s solid value in the Advanced Package features, and we’d like to offer a shout out for the new Azurite Blue leather interior available on the 2022 Acura MDX Type S, as it is quite attractive.

As the most important product in Acura’s model line, the MDX must offer compelling functionality and a value story in a segment filled with impressive American, European and Asian alternatives. MDX’s track record confirms that it has held firm in this battle for more than two decades. Now, with a Type S version added to the arsenal, it looks and feels set to rumble for the foreseeable future.