Push the start button on the new MDX Type S and its electronic dashboard lights up in angry red—it means business! As the first Acura SUV to wear the Type S badge, it is powered by a V-6 turbocharged to 355 horsepower and 354 torques, and it rides on specially tuned adaptive dampers and Acura’s first adjustable air suspension. Other Type S baubles include 21-inch wheels, a Sport+ setting added to the drive-mode menu, and eye-catching red brake calipers. The front brakes (the important ones) are by Brembo, the Italian outfit that stops high-performance cars and motorcycles ranging from Aston Martin to Zonda—or Pagani, which made the Zonda.
Acura also has Type S-ed its 10-speed automatic transmission to respond more quickly to the throttle or the shift paddles on the wheel. Taken together, these changes make the hotter MDX notably light on its feet, especially as the engine torque comes on at just 1400 RPM.
Every Type S Acura stops, turns and accelerates better than the standard model without giving up any creature comforts. The first one in the US was the 2001 3.2CL Type S coupe; the current lineup includes the TLX Type S sedan and NSX Type S supercar. Honda is sufficiently proud of its amped-up Acuras that it produced this four-part Anime video series, “Chiaki’s Journey,” for its website.
Although nowhere near as powerful as the European hyper-SUVs, the Type S is now one of the rare breed of large, three-row SUVs that seem unfettered—or anyway less fettered—by the laws of physics, behaving more like sports cars than deluxe trucks. And if it’s a couple hundred horses down from its German, British and Italian counterparts, it’s nowhere near as costly, either. Plus it’s a Honda, with all that implies about longevity, reliability and value.
Other elements that contribute to this MDX’s liveliness include its extremely stiff chassis (which lets all the go-faster parts do their thing without having to first compensate for any built-in flex) and Honda’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. SH-AWD sends extra torque to the outside wheels in a tight corner. In smaller Hondas and Acuras, I’m aware of this directed energy helping to muscle the vehicle around a bend, but I am loath to push the big, heavy MDX hard enough on public roads to feel it. I’m sure it’s there, though.
A basic MDX starts at $48,000. Skip ahead three more trim levels and there’s the Type S, for $66,700. But wait, there’s more—ours is the flagship MDX, the Type S Advanced, with an MSRP of $72,050. The extra money buys Acura’s first massaging front seats, a premium audio system with no fewer than 25 speakers (where do they put them all?) and a cabin that is quite opulent, at least within Acura’s somewhat severe aesthetic. Naturally, all of today’s active and passive safety systems are present also.
My personal preference among Acura wagons is still the also new, also driver-focused RDX A-Spec Advance, only because it’s smaller and more nimble—but then we no longer have kids and a dog at home. Its bigger brother, the MDX Type S, is Acura’s most powerful, best-handling and most lavishly equipped SUV ever. Its refinement is such that any sporting edginess emerges only when we go looking for it; as a daily driver, the MDX Type S is a sweetheart.