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The performance version of the completely redesigned SUV is impressive both on and off the road.

COURTESY PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S showed off its impress off-road capabilities at Mudfest 2022, the annual outdoor activity vehicle competition organization by the Northwest Automotive Press Association.
For years Acura has boosted its performance image by sponsoring successful IMSA race cars while allowing their retail versions to languish. But Honda's luxury brand has suddenly made amends with two new genuine high-performance vehicles, Type S versions of the 2022 TLX sedan and the subject of this review, the 2002 MDX crossover SUV.

Both are based on completely redesigned 2022 models that are very impressive even in their base versions. But the Type S trim levels include a new turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that pumps out 355 horsepower, sport suspension upgrades, unique wheels, Brembo brakes, special exterior and interior trim, and more.

COURTESY PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The new air suspension on the 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S can increase ground clearance by two inches to better handle rough conditions.

The results were worth the wait. I reviewed the TLX Type S in October 2021 and found it to be a serious sport sedan you can live with on a day-to-day basis, thanks in part to its mode settings that range from Comfort to Sport and Individual. I first drove the MDX Type S at Mudfest 2022, where I was impressed by both its on- and off-road capabilities. Now, having spent a week with the three-row SUV, I am convinced it is it among the very best in its class.

Acura actually took a year off to redesign its popular MDX, not releasing a 2021 version before unveiling the practically all-new 2022 model. The only carry over is the base 3.5-liter V6, which produces 290 horsepower. Everything else is improved, which is a little hard to believe because the last generation MDX was already so good. But the updated one is larger, with more dramatic exterior styling and increased interior space, while the stiffer new platform offers a smoother ride. The all-new digital display is a first for Acura, and the larger 12.3-inch full-HD display screen is now mounted high on the dash for easier reading. And the materials are more upscale than ever before.

COURTESY PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The all-new turbocharged 3.0-lter V6 in the completely redesiged 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S enouraged hard driving at Mudfest 2022.

The result is an MDX that is ready to take on all challengers in the luxury three-row crossover SUV market, including the more expensive European models. But upgrading to the Type S version raises the stakes even higher. The more powerful V6 is mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmissions is especially responsive in the Sport mode that also stiffens the suspension, resulting in surprising permanence for such a large vehicle that doesn't include the letters AMG. I personally think the ride is better than the Mercedes performance SUVs, which are so stiffly sprung they can be uncomfortable to drive on broken pavement.

Naturally, the Type S comes with Acura's excellent Super Handling-All Wheel Drive system for additional traction. And it includes the company's first-ever air suspension system, which increases ride comfort and dynamic capability, augmenting MDX's premium driving experience. With a new Lift mode, the air suspension also allows the driver to increase the vehicle's ride height by nearly two inches, improving ground clearance on demand for more extreme conditions, such as deep snow or emergency road hazards. It can also lower the suspension when parked, easing entry and exit, as well as cargo loading and unloading.

COURTESY PHOTO: ACURA - The interior of the completely redesigned 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S is the classiest yet for the popular three-row SUV.

Of course there are some shortcoming, like all vehicles. Some reviewers have faulted the touchpad that controls the infotainment as difficult to use. Touchpads have always taken more practice to master than review drives allow. And the third row of seats are only good for children. That is a limitation of all but the largest three-row SUVs. Honestly, if you need to carry seven or eight adults very often, Honda will be glad to sell you an Odyssey minivan that will meet your needs.

Three-row SUVs don't normally attract a lot of attention during test drives. But the 2022 Acura MDX Type S did, and not only because of the dazzling Tiger Eye Peal paint that changes between yellow and gold, depending on the light. Several people who asked for a closer look were already familiar with the new version, saying they had read about it online but not yet seen. That should bode well for future sales.

COURTESY PHOTO: ACURA - Second and third row passenger ride in comfort in the 2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S.

A previous review of the 2022 Acura MDX can be found here.

2022 Acura MDX SH-AWD Type S

Base price: $67,895

Price as tested: $73,595

Type: Midsize three-row SUV

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter (355 hp, 354 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive modes: Snow, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual

EPA estimated mileage: 17/21

Overall length: 196 inches

Curb weight: 4,032 to 4,350 pounds

Final assembly: East Liberty, Ohio

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