Driving the Acura MDX Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like a Pilot

Yes, the Acura MDX Type S Advance is a 3-row SUV, but with cockpit-like technology, premium power and luxury details, your whole crew will feel like they're on a private jet

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Whether at dawn or dusk, the Acura MDX is captivating. Photo: Sara Lacey

This zippy 3-row SUV makes you feel like Maverick.

Acura isn’t going for an airplane theme with the 2022 MDX all-wheel drive Type S Advance, but they absolutely could. The MDX, which starts just a hair under $50K and tops out at just over $74K for the top of the line Type S Advance, looks modern and sleek on the outside, and the inside is spacious, flexible, and very tech-forward. The features are not all hidden behind a screen; there are a lot of controls out in front of you that make you feel very, well…in control.

In an era where so many features are behind a screen, I loved feeling like a pilot with all the buttons and knobs out in the wide open. And yes, I especially enjoyed the handrest that looked like I could push it forward, and we would lift off up into the sky. It made me feel a little like a kid again.

Related: Why We Love the Acura RDX

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Acura Mdx Side Angle

The side angle of the sleek Acura MDX Type S Advance. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Acura MDX Type S Advance Looks Smaller Than it Is

The sleek exterior lines of my test Acura MDX Type S Advance create a sophisticated, sculpted look reminiscent of a private jet. The front LEDs add a bit of flair, but I love the rear LEDs the most because the red color combined with the dipped-line design gives it a real pop. Acura calls this taillight light pattern “Chicane” LED lights. There are red Brembo brakes and sharp-looking 21-inch wheels, reminding you that this SUV has some performance chops. If the MDX Type S Advance were a plane, it would be more like a private jet with a bit of flash.

What must be said about the MDX is that it could also be a stealth fighter because, at first glance, it looks like a normal, 2-row SUV. But the MDX is actually quite large, accommodating three rows and up to seven passengers. It drives smaller, only reminding me how long it is when I park.

All MDX models have a power liftgate; the Advance packages have a hands-free feature and a walk-away close mode, called “lock and walk.” This feature works by pressing a button inside the cargo area, and within 30 seconds of walking away, the door will close on its own. 

Related: Five Awesome Things about the Acura MDX

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - I Absolutely Love The Chicane Taillights

I absolutely love the Chicane taillights that jut out on the Acura MDX Type S Advance. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Acura MDX Type S Advance is Premium- and Premium Priced

The Acura MDX Type S Advance model has a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 engine, making it the most performance-focused of all MDX trims. It rings up at $73,595. It offers 355 horsepower and gets an estimated combined 19 miles per gallon. If you are less interested in the high-performance features, you should know the MDX starts at $49,550. That’s a lot of car and a lot of seating for just under $50,000.

The base model has a V6 engine that is paired with a front-wheel drive drivetrain (though you can swap that for an all-wheel drive powertrain; it will cost more), provides 290 horsepower, and gets an estimated combined 19 miles per gallon, too. Lastly, my souped-up test MDX could tow up to 5,000 pounds, and the base model can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Related: Let’s Tow All the Things!

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - All The Controls To Make You Feel Like Maverick

All the controls in the Acura MDX Type S Advance will make you feel like Maverick. Photo: Sara Lacey

How Does the Acura MDX Type S Advance Drive?

The Acura MDX Type S Advance drives and handles with vigor, and I am glad for the sportier engine. If I want a peppier drive, I can use the paddle shifters and put the MDX in sport mode or sport plus mode. Sport Plus mode is the most performance-focused mode, with different shifting patterns and more exhaust noise. The MDX has a comfort mode and snow mode, too. And it’s possible even to customize my own setup!

Sport mode is where I had the car for most of my testing time. Another interesting mode is lift mode, where I can raise and lower the MDX for my needs without adjusting the overall drive modes. The system was really cool, and I enjoyed that I really had a driving experience in each mode. Even pilots would appreciate these setups, even though planes don’t have drive modes.

For more challenging terrain the MDX Type S has an adaptive air suspension; you can raise and lower the car depending on your needs and the conditions outside. Raise it if you’re towing or if there’s snow on the ground. Lower it in sport or eco mode to make the most of aerodynamics and fuel consumption. 

Related: The Nissan Z Will Remind You How Much You Love to Drive 

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - The Hand Rest And Wireless Charging Pad Are Cool. The Track Pad Not So Effortless

The handrest and wireless charging pad are cool. The trackpad – not so effortless. Photo: Sara Lacey

A Cockpit-like Command Center Takes Some Getting Used To

The driver’s seat feels very much like the cockpit of an airplane; there are a lot of buttons and displays. It’s a bit overwhelming in the new age of minimal interiors and integration of multimedia systems that manage most tasks by way of a screen.

As much as I loved all the buttons and knobs, this is where I also had my biggest gripe. The touchpad that manages the multimedia system is frustrating to use and, for me, doesn’t seem to improve with repetition. The cursor doesn’t always stay where you want it to, and if you don’t tap on your desired icon or menu just right, the cursor re-centers, forcing you to start the task over. If tech is a tough thing for you to get along with, it’s worth investigating this system in a test drive.

The gear shift is not actually located in the handrest, where it looks like it would be. The gear selector buttons are just forward of the handrest, a small oval panel with distinct buttons for each gear. I got used to this setup after a few starts and stops. At least the uniqueness of the gear selector buttons are enough to not be confusing about their function. 

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Gonna Drive Into The Danger Zone.the Underground Parking Garage

I’m going to drive this MDX into the danger zone…the underground parking garage. Photo: Sara Lacey

A Massaging Seat so Good, I Forgot All My Worries

The front seats offer redemption for my tech woes in what is probably my favorite in-car massage system I’ve experienced. It’s got just the right touch, and it covers a lot of your body. This means it’s not just a seat-bottom or seat-back massage, and the system extends wider than most. Combine the massage with the heat, and you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed, no matter how frustrated you are with managing the multimedia system or traffic congestion. The leather is soft and also offers ventilation. So, in terms of comfort, the MDX’s seating rules. It’s like first class or a private plane, I imagine.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Look At All The Cool Details

Look at that speaker and all the other cool details in the Acura MDX Type S Advance. Photo: Sara Lacey

Rocking Out in the Acura MDX Type S Advance

The Acura MDX TypeS Advance also has an amazing sound system. This was another highlight for me. It’s a premium system with 25 speakers, and Acura even included a thumb drive of uncompressed tracks to listen to so I could experience the system in all its glory.

Per the Acura team’s recommendation, I played Enter Sandman by Metallica and rocked out. I loved the crispness of the speakers and even thought they sounded great with my sad, Bluetooth-connected Apple Music tunes. And I needn’t have worried about my device running out of power when I played all my music and connected to the MDX via Apple CarPlay because there is a wireless charging pad (if you have an Android device, Acura has Android Auto as well). This is quickly becoming one of my favorite upgraded features, I love not having to manage a cable.

Acura also includes Amazon Alexa if you like to have a voice-activated system assist you with your endeavors. Lastly, a heads-up display makes me feel like I’m in the future, with all my most pertinent information displayed right in front of me on the windshield.

Related: Listen to This Playlist Right Now

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - The Customizable Details Are Especially Fun At Night

The customizable details in the Acura MDX Type S Advance are especially fun at night. Photo: Sara Lacey

Plush Interiors Will Give You the Feels in Here

The passengers also may get an in-flight vibe; the upholstery looks like it could belong in a private jet. What I love is that the MDX is light and bright inside, thanks to a panoramic moonroof that opens and tilts. This is a standard feature on all MDX models, which is excellent.

At night, the MDX looks especially cool because you can customize the interior LED lights to make it your own. These lights, combined with the wood-grain interior trim, aluminum sport pedals, and cool patterns on the speakers look so good. I had fun working out my favorite patterns. I can’t do that on a United flight, even if I sat in first class.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Second Row Flexibility Rules In The Mdx

Second-row flexibility rules in the Acura MDX. Photo: Sara Lacey

Passengers are Treated Well in the Acura MDX

Let’s talk about the second row. The seating configuration is really cool. The outboard seats are heated, and they have the same cool, stitched pattern as the front seats. The center seat back can be folded down to access cupholders and a tray. And guess what? Your passengers don’t need to use this as a way to get into the third row because the MDX has a button on the second-row outboard seats that will tilt them forward for access! No stepping on that center seat.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - The Lever Below The Center Seat

The lever below the center seat makes removing it easier, so passengers can freely move about the cabin to find their seats. Photo: Sara Lacey

Press a Button, Move Around

If you require more flexibility, the center seat is removable! Yes, the top folds down and locks. Then, you squeeze a latch on the bottom to unhook it from its tethers, and you can remove it! This creates a two-captains-chairs situation in the second row, or since we are talking planes, a dual window/aisle seat.

Second-row passengers can access climate control, USB charging ports, a 12v charger, and an outlet. All devices are welcome. They also have manual sunshades, which is nice when you’re watching your devices or your infant needs protection from the bright sun.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Third Row Legroom Is Good

Third-row legroom is good in the Acura MDX Type S Advance. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Acura MDX Third Row is Inviting and Comfortable

Third-row seating is less flexible as there are only two seats. But that means they are wide and comfortable. The moonroof extends pretty far into the back, so it doesn’t feel cavernous and dark back there. The floor is a little high in relation to the seat bottom, which isn’t a huge issue for smaller kids, but you may not want to put a tall passenger back there for long stints. The good news is you can remove that center seat so rear passengers can stretch their legs in that space.

I am not tall and was comfortable sitting there because I moved the second-row seats up a smidge. I could have moved them more, too. Third-row passengers have cupholders and USB charge ports back there, and vents as well. The MDX has tri-zone climate control, so you can adjust the system for those in the way back. The rear seats fold flat, 50/50, and there are no lower anchors, but there is a top tether anchor in both positions.

In the back of the MDX, there is a decent amount of space but not a ton. I liked that Acura gave us an underfloor bin; it’s so handy for either mucky gear or dividing up the cargo space for your eggs and bread stashed under the floor. Do not stow your mucky gear with your eggs and bread. With the third row up, you can probably get three carry-on-sized suitcases in there, and maybe a couple of backpacks too.

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving The Acura Mdx Type S Advance Made Me Feel Like A Pilot - Acura Mdx Grille1

The grille on the Acura MDX Type S Advance. Photo: Sara Lacey

Control Your Own Destiny in the MDX

Whatever type of plane the MDX makes me think of, I loved that there were so many possibilities. The athletic drive, comfortable ride, and surprising flexibility really dazzled me. I had fun feeling like I had a lot of control over the systems, and loved that it reminded me that I am the captain of my own ship!

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey