2022 Acura MDX Type S Review:Driving Impressions

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 14, 2022

Introduction

Acura is actively getting back to its roots as a Japanese luxury performance brand. Though low sales are forcing the cancelation of the company’s excellent NSX sports car after the 2022 model year, Acura is returning the beloved Integra to showrooms for 2023. At the same time, it is readying its first electric vehicle for arrival mid-decade (perhaps wearing the legendary Legend nameplate). Recent redesigns of the TLX sport sedan and MDX SUV have also moved the needle for Acura, especially in the newly revived Type S performance specification.

The 2022 Acura MDX Type S amounts to more than just fancy paint, nice wheels, and a smattering of badges. It gets the following equipment upgrades:

  • Twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine
  • Exclusive Sport+ driving mode
  • Performance-tuned adaptive air suspension
  • NSX-inspired electro-servo braking system
  • Stout 4-piston Brembo front brakes with larger rotors
  • Quad exhaust outlets
  • 21-inch alloy wheels
  • Self-sealing 275/40 performance tires

Styling changes add some attitude to the 2022 MDX Type S while improving the engine cooling. Inside, the cabin receives a flat-bottom steering wheel, metal pedal covers, a black headliner, black simulated suede seat inserts, and lots of contrast stitching. Additionally, the Type S is exclusively available with a Tiger Eye Pearl paint color and an Orchid white leather interior, both seen in the accompanying photos.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the redesigned 2022 Acura MDX A-Spec. This review focuses on the Type S with observations gleaned from an hour of driving and evaluation time in Southern California during a media event.

2022 Acura MDX Type S Price and Release Date

Acura offers the 2022 MDX Type S with standard and Advance equipment packages. The base price is $66,700, not including the $1,195 destination charge. Choose the Type S Advance and this Acura will set you back $72,050, plus destination. The Type S versions of the MDX began arriving at Acura dealerships at the end of 2021.

For this review, Acura furnished an MDX Type S Advance with extra-cost Tiger Eye Pearl paint. It had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $73,745, including the destination charge.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility

2022 Acura MDX Type S Tiger Eye Pearl Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

When Acura redesigned the MDX for the 2022 model year, it added a blunt nose, tapered waist and tail, and a distinct forward-leaning stance. Overall, the design builds on the previous-generation model’s styling cues, evolving them for Acura’s return to what it calls “precision-crafted performance.”

Within the MDX lineup, the ultimate manifestation of that manifesto is the Type S. In standard spec, the MDX Type S comes with 21-inch wheels painted Shark Gray and fronting red brake calipers. The wheel finish complements the Type S model’s blacked-out exterior trim, black exterior mirror caps, and dark lower body cladding. I prefer the standard wheels to the Advance package’s machined-finish, split-spoke design.

Inside, the standard upholstery includes black simulated suede inserts, while the Advance package adds full leather upholstery. Again, I prefer the base trim’s look. Unfortunately, both versions of the MDX Type S have lots of gloss-black plastic trim that collects dust, fingerprints, and smudges. It looks awful if you let it get dirty.

While I prefer the appearance of the standard MDX Type S, it is the Advance package that provides the most desirable features. In addition to full leather, the MDX Type S Advance has:

  • Open-pore wood trim
  • Enhanced ambient lighting
  • 16-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, ventilation, and massage
  • Heated rear seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • High-end, 25-speaker audio system
  • Hands-free power liftgate

In the Type S Advance test vehicle, front and second-row seat comfort was excellent, and rear-seat passengers can fold the center portion of the seatback down to create a wide armrest with storage space and cupholders. The third-row seat is cramped for adults, but kids will find it acceptable. Both MDX Type S models have a panoramic sunroof.

The low, wide dashboard design emphasizes the SUV’s Integrated Dynamics Systems (IDS) and transmission controls, reflecting Acura’s renewed priority on driving. But there is an element of form over function here, as the automaker sacrifices real estate that it could dedicate to added storage for style. Furthermore, the company doesn’t offer a touchscreen infotainment system, so Acura must reserve space for the tech’s physical controls on the center console.

Nevertheless, you’ll find just enough storage for your phone, keys, and whatnot. Cargo space is adequate, too, and represents a substantial improvement over Acura’s smaller RDX SUV model. Behind the third-row seats, cargo space measures 16.3 cubic feet, expanding to 39.1 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. The maximum capacity measures 71.4 cubic feet.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety

2022 Acura MDX Type S Orchid Interior Dashboard Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Every 2022 Acura MDX Type S has a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation panel and a 12.3-inch static infotainment display screen. Acura places the infotainment screen relatively close to the driver and front passenger, but it isn’t touch-sensing because Acura thinks touchscreens are distracting to a driver. (Unless they’re in the new 2023 Integra, where a touchscreen infotainment system is apparently A-OK.)

Since you can’t touch the display, you have three ways to interact with the system. The first way is the steering wheel controls, which are helpful for adjusting the stereo. The second way is the Amazon Alexa Built-in digital assistant that recognizes naturally spoken commands, which is useful for avoiding the third way. What’s behind door number three? Acura’s True Touchpad Interface (TTI) technology.

The touchpad lives on the center console, just forward of a thoughtful wrist-rest. The square pad on the left controls the sizeable left side of the 12.3-inch infotainment display, while the narrow rectangular pad on the right controls the smaller side of the display. The “true touchpad” part of this system is that when you put your fingertip on the pad, its position corresponds to the same location on the related part of the infotainment screen.

On the one hand, this approach is superior to what Lexus uses in vehicles that still have its awful Remote Touch Interface (RTI) technology. But on the other hand, your brain still needs to perform mental hurdles to marry fingertip location to screen location and then press on the proper virtual control. That alone is distracting.

Meanwhile, every other car company except for Mazda offers touchscreens that operate like a smartphone or tablet computer, familiar devices to anyone born since 1980. But there are signs that, like Lexus, Acura may relent. As mentioned above, the Honda Civic-based Integra has a touchscreen, most likely to save money, which throws the premise that touchscreens are too distracting right out the window.

In addition to the TTI, the MDX Type S model’s infotainment system includes SiriusXM satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AcuraLink connected services including access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless smartphone charging. The Alexa Built-in natural-voice recognition is terrific, and the Advance package’s 25-speaker Signature Edition ELS Studio 3D audio system is sensational, filling the MDX’s cabin with deep, lustrous sound.

Additional technology features include a 10.5-inch head-up display, a surround-view camera system, and front and rear parking sensors with automatic low-speed braking. The company’s AcuraWatch collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) is also standard equipment.

In the MDX Type S, AcuraWatch includes:

Additionally, the MDX Type S has a traffic-sign recognition (TSR) system and traffic jam assist, which pairs the adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and lane-centering assistance at lower vehicle speeds.

During testing, the forward-collision warning proved somewhat sensitive. In one instance during suburban driving, as I approached stopped traffic with my foot on the brake, the Type S briefly flashed warnings on both the head-up display and within the digital instrumentation.

In addition, the lane-departure warning system issues its alerts by wobbling the steering wheel. I find this irritating, instead preferring a steering wheel vibration. But at least Acura tones down the wobble over the previous-generation MDX.

The TSR system also gave inaccurate data. At one point, while driving on a suburban boulevard, it was telling me the local speed limit was 80 mph. I can assure you that it was not.

Overall, the MDX Type S’s ADAS is too obvious about what it’s doing, but the evidence is subtle rather than aggravating. Note that when running adaptive cruise control on the freeway, the system reacts smoothly when other motorists cut into the gap ahead.

Regarding safety ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Acura MDX a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only rated the MDX with front-wheel drive, giving it an overall rating of 5 (out of 5) stars.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2022 Acura MDX Type S

2022 Acura MDX Type S Tiger Eye Pearl Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

To ensure the MDX Type S lives up to its promise of performance, Acura installs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine making 355 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque between 1,400 rpm and 5,000 rpm. Those figures represent gains of 65 hp and 87 pound-feet over the MDX’s standard engine. Acura says the MDX Type S can tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

A 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters delivers the power to all four of the MDX Type S’s wheels through a standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. It features torque-vectoring technology that can put up to 70 percent of the engine’s output to a single rear wheel, and you can feel it working when you step hard on the accelerator pedal while rounding a corner.

The sizeable metallic knob on the MDX’s dashboard controls the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), giving drivers a choice between six driving modes and a Lift function for the Type S’s adaptive air suspension. The driving modes include Comfort, Normal, Sport, exclusive Sport+, Individual, and Snow. The Individual mode allows an owner to mix and match specific settings.

For this evaluation, I drove the MDX Type S in Normal mode on highways, freeways, and suburban streets, switching to Sport mode for twisty mountain roads. The Type S averaged 16.8 mpg overall, coming up short against the official EPA fuel-economy rating of 19 mpg in combined driving.

In Normal mode, there is what feels like a touch of turbo lag, but with peak twist arriving at just 1,400 rpm, that’s unlikely. Instead, the slight delay in response to the driver pushing the accelerator is probably caused by the IDS software doing its thing. Don’t worry. Sport mode solves this issue.

In any case, the power is prodigious once the MDX Type S is rolling. This SUV effortlessly rockets to extra-legal speeds and supplies plenty of passing power to dispatch slow-moving obstacles, er, motorists. However, based on my test drive, the MDX Type S is too quiet inside. The engine has a delightful note, whether genuine or artificially amplified, and Sport mode does enhance it. But Normal mode muffles it and other potentially intrusive sounds, emphasizing the luxury part of Acura’s luxury performance mission.

Running the MDX Type S on winding mountain roads in Sport mode demonstrated more of this SUV’s capabilities. The paddle shifters are fun to use as long as you’re not working the steering wheel through sharp S-curves. But the 10-speed automatic does a fine job of picking the right gear at the right time without intervention by the driver.

Better yet, the adaptive air suspension delivers a commendable blend of ride and handling qualities on rumpled, uneven blacktop, preserving the MDX Type S’s composure at speed while filtering unwanted harshness. Similarly, the P275/40R21 self-sealing performance tires offer superb grip in corners while keeping quiet about your speed. And the upgraded brakes performed beautifully on a hot summer day.

Dynamically, aside from the vague sense of detachment you get while driving the MDX Type S in Normal mode, the steering wasn’t particularly satisfying. When accelerating out of corners at higher speeds, the steering wheel exhibits an irritating desire to return to center. Also, I think the ratio could be faster and the weighting lighter, though setting up the Individual driving mode in the IDS likely solves that last critique. In any case, during this evaluation, it felt too disconnected from the road to offer proper confidence in the SUV’s capabilities.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2022 Acura Type S

With the 2022 MDX Type S, Acura puts the sport-tuned versions of models such as the Audi Q7BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GLE in its cross-hairs, pulls the trigger, and wounds rather than terminates the competition. Greater driving engagement and better-connected steering are necessary if Acura wants to run with that German-engineered trio. Still, the Type S comes closer to doing that than any version of the MDX in history.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with nearly 30 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. He has held editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, and others. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals, including Autotrader, Capital One Auto Navigator, CarGurus, Kelley Blue Book, WardsAuto, and more.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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