An SUV…but not as we know it. Acura’s parent company Honda has always used its Type S insignia on mildly spicy performance models, saving its Type R badge for the full Carolina Reaper. So what, you might wonder, is a Type S badge doing on a seven-seater SUV? Well, throw it into a tight corner, and you’ll find out almost immediately. A turbocharged three-liter V6 sends 355 hp to all four wheels – though crucially it retains up to a 70:30 rear bias alongside torque splitting. Adaptive air suspension can raise or lower the car’s height, while stiffer stabilizer bars and 21-inch tires collectively ensure remarkable grip in the corners. When it’s time to slow down, Brembo brake calipers are reassuringly consistent, while the steering is precise (if a bit too light). All in all, it’s possible to have great fun hustling the MDX Type S along a winding road.

Don’t assume that lesser models are all flab and no muscle, either. They pair Honda’s venerable 3.5-liter V6 with a ten-speed auto box whose ability to blur changes makes the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel somewhat redundant. This 290 hp engine will hit 60 in around seven seconds, without feeling asthmatic even while fully loaded. If it’s not standard on your preferred model, AWD is a widely selected $2,200 upgrade.

Seats seven but flatters four. Versatility is the name of the game here. By default, the MDX is a seven-seater, with a three-row middle bench and two seats in the back for children or adults of restricted verticality. Access is easy, thanks to the push-button sliding on the middle row. The center middle seat can collapse to provide a console table, or it can be removed altogether to leave more space for the outboard occupants to enjoy their 38.5 inches of legroom.

You’ll be comfortable wherever you sit, but especially in the front where 12-way power adjustment is standard; only the base model misses out on power lumbar and leather. Anyone below six feet tall should be fine below the standard-fit sunroof, while the cargo space is 16 cubic feet as standard, increasing to 48 and 71 cubes depending on how many seats are folded down.

Dare to be different. At a glance, you wouldn’t think the MDX was a seven-seater. Acura has created a design that cleverly shrinks the car externally, with a wide and low stance featuring clean lines and a very Mercedes-like approach to balance and proportion. It looks particularly fine in metallic gray, while design isn’t at the expense of practicality – the second-row doors open wide and the tailgate places minimal obstructions in the way of anyone trying to load objects into the back.

The interior design is mostly a success, though some might find the center console too button-heavy. The touchpad is an ergonomic fail, and we hope Acura replaces it with a touchscreen – unlike Mazda’s rotary dial (which you can get used to with time), this remains perennially irritating. The siting of the wireless phone charging pad is a minor irritant, but we do appreciate the quality of materials and standard of fit and finish throughout the cabin. Detailing like the ELS speaker vents and cross-stitching contribute to the premium aura buyers of Honda’s luxury brand might expect. We’re also big fans of the twin 12.3-inch screens fitted as standard for instrumentation and infotainment, though only Technology Package models and above receive navigation.

2023 Acura MDX Interior

What trim should I consider? We’ve already covered the performance enhancements of Type S models, but even the base model has its charms. As well as those twin screens, it includes a panoramic sunroof, wireless device charging, and 12-way power front seats. Move up to the $54,945 Technology Package and there’s navigation and a 550W ELS audio system, leather, and ambient lighting. A-Spec models add AWD and ventilated sports front seats, while the Advance Package brings a head-up display, surround-view camera system, and a heated steering wheel.

Whichever model you choose, safety is a given. The IIHS and NHTSA have both given the MDX full marks, while front and rear automatic emergency braking is standard alongside blind-spot monitoring and low-speed braking control. Other standard fitments include adaptive cruise and a driver attention monitor, while the Advance Package is the first to receive a head-up display or surround-view cameras.

Final thoughts. There’s a great deal to like about the MDX. Acura’s three-row crossover looks compact outside, yet it feels spacious inside. It’s great to drive, but the ride remains compliant even in Type S models. The seats are comfortable and flexible, without sacrificing cargo capacity or oddments storage. It’s well-equipped in any guise, impressively safe, superbly built, and powered by Honda engines which simply Do. Not. Go. Wrong. Ever. The four-year warranty is unlikely to be called upon for anything significant, though two years of free scheduled maintenance is a welcome bonus.

Is there anything that would stop us from handing over our hard-earned money for an MDX? Probably not, though it’s certainly not perfect. Combined fuel economy hovers around 20 mpg, the touchpad will be a constant irritation, the dash is rather busy and cluttered, and third-row occupants will rightly feel they’ve drawn the short straw. However, these are minor quibbles about an otherwise very well-judged SUV.

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