Acura’s most legendary high-performance cars have all worn the same badge: Type S.
Now Honda’s upscale brand is applying that badge in a way it never has before by putting it on the biggest, most family-friendly SUV it sells.
Whether you think the new MDX Type S is blasphemy or not, much like when Porsche first started building the Cayenne, it doesn’t matter. It’s the reality of what many of today’s luxury buyers want.
Why choose between exciting performance and everyday practicality when you can have both in one vehicle?
The MDX Type S answers that question with a whole slew of performance upgrades that make it dramatically sharper, faster and more thrilling from the driver’s seat.
Not surprisingly, that starts with extra power. A turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 makes 355 horsepower, a whopping 65 more than in the base MDX.
What I like about this engine isn’t just the raw speed, which is nice, but how fast it responds to throttle input. I couldn’t notice a hint of turbo lag, and with peak torque of 354 pound-feet arriving at just 1,400 RPM, it makes the nearly 4,800-pound vehicle feel much smaller than it is.
Fortunately, in true Type S fashion, the upgrades don’t stop with a power boost. Everything about the go-fast MDX feels different from the regular version I drove a few months ago.
Gigantic Brembo brakes—with calipers painted look-at-me red, of course—bring the MDX’s significant mass to a stop with confidence. The 10-speed automatic transmission is tuned for faster shifts, and seven different driving modes let you alter the MDX’s personality from mild to aggressive.
Years ago, a Type S would also come with a suspension tight enough to knock out your fillings. The MDX Type S feels firmer than the regular version for sure, but it’s also capable of supreme comfort when you need it thanks to the modern miracle of adaptive dampers. Three different damping profiles let you pick how hard or soft you want the suspension to feel for any given drive.
The Advance package, the only option on the Type S, adds premium features including a 25-speaker sound system, power liftgate and head-up display. It also delivers a more premium experience with open-pore wood trim, acoustic laminated glass in the rear doors and thicker floor mats and carpeting.
The Advance package also adds massaging seats, one of my favorite features you can get on a modern luxury car. The seats in my tester had nine modes to “calm the driver and front passenger after a spirited drive,” as Acura puts it. I found it more fitting for long, boring highway trips and daily commutes, pretty much the opposite of the Type S ethos.
An all-new design makes the ordinary MDX a great starting point for Type S visual updates, with its elongated hood and sharper, muscular lines. The performance model is designed for both style and function, including a distinctive grille and front air splitter that provide roughly 10 percent better airflow to the engine.
It’s also proof that a three-row luxury SUV doesn’t have to look like an angry Mack Truck to be attractive.
It’s actually good design, which is more than I can say about most of the three-row SUVs being introduced today that look more like heavy-duty work trucks than luxurious machines designed for comfort and fun.
In contrast to some of the over-the-top grilles from Lexus and BMW SUVs in particular, the MDX stands out for being tastefully restrained. It’s handsome and eye-catching without being outlandish.
Pricing starts at $66,700 for the MDX Type S, which is roughly $20,000 more than the base MDX. With the Advance package, it’s priced at $72,050.