2025 Acura MDX Type S First Drive Review: Loss of a deal breaker is a game changer


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MALIBU, Calif. – One of three things usually happens when testing a three-row SUV on a twisting mountain road. First, I wonder why I thought doing so was a good idea in the first place. Second, I end up saying, “well, I guess that wasn’t so bad.” Neither happened with the 2025 Acura MDX Type S, a three-row SUV that somehow feels perfectly happy and at home on the sort of roads that make competitors feel like elephants in a horse race.

Placed into Sport or Sport+ modes, the latter of which is exclusive to the Type S, the air suspension lowers 15 mm, and the adaptive dampers tighten to the extent that body motions are just about as level as you could get without making the ride chattering. If anything, certain choppier bits of pavement made the suspension’s reduction of suppression and rebound too jostling and queasy, but selecting a softer ride setting in the Individual drive mode option corrected that. The steering displayed a spot-on amount of extra heft in the Sport modes, being pleasantly firm on center and through initial turn-in, but seeming to loosen ever-so-slightly up in slower, tighter corners and hairpins. It’s pleasurable driving the MDX Type S, but not a workout.

The real star, as has been the case for nearly two decades of sporting Acuras, is the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system, now in its fourth generation. This torque-vectoring system can send up to 70% of available power to the rear axle, and then 100% of that to the outside rear wheel while turning. The result can’t be missed. Brake hard with the fat Brembo brakes (they measure 14.3 inches up front and benefit from an electric servo that effectively makes them adaptive to the amount of effort applied to the pedal), turn in with the beautifully contoured sport steering wheel, feel the front end bite, and the rear end not only comes around, but does so with authority. Thanks to the more aggressive power distribution in Sport and Sport+, there’s even a whiff of oversteer at a few moments. Tremendous. “Makes it shrink around you” is a tired cliché, but it applies here. The MDX feels about 700 pounds lighter than its 4,776-pound curb weight would suggest.




The engine is actually the least impressive element of the Type S, a 3.0-liter V6 with a single twin-scroll turbo good for 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. A 0-60 time in the mid-5-second range is nothing to sneeze at, and indeed, the Type S had no problem blitzing up to highway speeds as traffic bared down on me while exiting a photo spot on the Pacific Coast Highway, but a lot of vehicles are that quick these days. Many three-row vehicles are considerably quicker. It’s the response that’s ultimately more impressive, especially the 10-speed automatic, which happily downshifts when braking hard into corners and upshifts 30% sooner when in Sport+ by using a brief fuel cut during the gear change. The active exhaust also gets louder sooner in Sport+ (the second flap opens at 3,250 rpm versus 4,750 in the other modes), but that’s harder to notice than the Active Sound Control that “enhances the natural engine, intake and exhaust sound inside.” It sounds cool, but ultimately artificial cause it’s oddly more indicative of a V8 than a smooth, Honda-bred V6.

Thing is, though, all of that could’ve been written about the MDX Type S last year. That it’s hard to think of a more agile three-row SUV has not changed (I personally can’t think of one I’ve enjoyed more in total). Thanks to one specific update for 2025, however, you’re now more likely to jump at the chance to own what is effectively quite the sleeper automotive choice. That change resides on the center console, or rather, what no longer resides on the center console.

Acura's True Touchpad interface was unloved since it debuted on the current-generation RDX and subsequently spread throughout the Acura lineup to everything not named Integra. This interface that paired a dash-top screen with a unique touchpad on the center console (pressing on the touchpad would select an icon on the corresponding spot on the screen) was not exactly a critical darling. The entire system felt like Acura was being contrarian, as if a touchscreen or even knob-and-display setup was somehow beneath them. Well, they’ve joined the unwashed masses now. The new touchscreen is shared with the top-of-the-line Honda Accord, but ignore that. The new system is well laid-out, looks good enough and Google Built-in means an enhanced version of Google Maps is on board along with various apps from the Google Play store. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present, and there’s a Home and CarPlay (or Android Auto) button permanently docked on-screen for easy back-and-forths. Satellite radio, sadly, is not present. Hope you’ve downloaded some songs to your phone if you go out of cell service.

Speaking of songs, the 2025 MDX is the first actual Acura to be fitted with a Bang & Olufsen sound system, rather than the Panasonic/ELS systems that have been a staple for nearly two decades. Standard on the MDX Technology, A-Spec and Advance packages/trims is a 19-speaker system, while the Type S Advance (the only Type S version there is) gets 31 speakers, 12(!) of which are in the ceiling, 24 channels of power, two amplifiers and an 8.8-inch subwoofer. The latter is a bit too aggressive, though, especially when using the 3D surround levels. And although I’m not an audio expect, I was ultimately underwhelmed. I found it very inconsistent between audio tracks and had a hard time finding appropriate levels despite the Beosonic one-touch control (you move a round dot within a larger circle divided between higher and lower treble/bass settings) that’s admittedly a bit fiddly to operate while moving.

Elsewhere in tech land, the AcuraWatch driver assistance suite gets a hardware upgrade, resulting in improved adaptive cruise control performance, further-seeing blind-spot warning and a smarter forward collision mitigation system. The Type S with Advance Package gets even higher-grade stuff, including better sensors, that improve the various existing ADAS systems and make it possible to add automated lane changes to adaptive cruise control (must tap the turn signal), automatic steering intervention to the blind-spot warning system and front cross-traffic warning. It seems strange to keep all that exclusive to the performance model and not include it with the standard MDX’s Advance package/trim.

The interior continues to be a high-quality and visually appealing space, with leather, faux suede, open-pore wood and pleasingly clicky switchgear all serving to declare the MDX as a genuine luxury vehicle. Those Bang & Olufsen speakers look pretty ritzy, too. Ditching the dopey touchpad also freed up some space on the center console – the volume knob migrated west and, a narrow bin appeared, perfect for a sunglasses case. No need to drop it into one of the agreeably large cupholders. The dopey touchpad’s wrist rest that used to hover over the wireless phone charger, blocking your easy access to it, is obviously no more.

The best MDX interior trick continues to be found in the second row, where the middle seat can be removed, thereby eliminating the need for owners to choose between a seven-passenger bench or six-passenger captain’s chairs configuration. You get both! That middle seat doesn’t fit underneath the cargo area as it can in the Honda Pilot, but who cares? That seems more like a bonus anyway.

Beyond the second row, the third-row remains tight on headroom for teens and adults of above-average height. The seat bottom’s pretty low, too, hoisting your knees toward your chin. Removing that second-row middle seat sure is helpful, as is asking those in the second row to slide on forward. Their subsequent legroom should still be just fine. Cargo space takes a big hit compared to the Pilot, but benefits from the same removable floor panel that expands the space behind the third row to much more than what you’ll find in competitors.

There are some exterior tweaks, but they are blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em minor. The grille mesh of every version is now different, and the mustache of trim found above that grille (be it chrome or gloss black) is gone. The lower air dam has is reshaped on all, with unique elements for all three looks, though most noticeably in the Type S. There are new wheels all around, too.

Not that any of that is bound to move the needle. Basically, the MDX is just as family-friendly as it was before, and the Type S is just as surprisingly enjoyable to drive as it was before. That it doesn’t make you want to smack a dopey touchpad with a hammer every time you just want to select a podcast really is the seemingly small but ultimately dramatic improvement. The loss of a deal breaker is a game changer.

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