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2023 Acura Mdx Type S vs. BMW X5

1. Introduction

Firstly, the 2023 Acura MDX Type S is a 3-row SUV crossover. It is quickly becoming popular in the crossover marketplace because it has been engineered and developed in the United States. It has a 3.5L V6 with 290 horsepower, VTEC-based engine, a drive-by-wire throttle system, and a 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine and Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) give the MDX the most performance-oriented chassis in its class. The 2023 MDX Acura has a new braking system, including an antilock braking system (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), and assist brakes. They work together with the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, helping to maximize braking control as a standard feature whether on dry pavement or slippery surfaces. The MDX has excellent crash test scores, which will give drivers peace of mind when driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives its highest rating of "Good" for its performance in protecting passengers in frontal offset and side impact crashes, and a "Good" for its ability to protect against whiplash in rear impacts.

1.1 Overview of the 2023 Acura MDX Type S

2023 Acura MDX Type S is a luxury mid-size SUV that comes with an attractive design and detailed concern on its features that will greet market next summer. As an accurate model, it is well known for its advanced concepts of performance. This Type S series is expected to bring this SUV to become an outstanding mid-size SUV. Starting from its powertrain, this car brings the high-performance powertrain combined with the power of torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and sport-tuned chassis features. Based on the press release, the Type S is stated as the most powerful Acura model ever developed with an estimated 355 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft of torque. Well, based on the concept, Acura sure brings a powerful SUV now as you can compare it with the base concept of the regular MDX which is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 producing 290HP and 267 lb-ft of torque. This Type S will upgrade your driving experience with its high-output engine and also supported with the standard 21-inch light alloy wheels, Lagos exclusive exterior paint, and lower stance. The Type S sure will look more aggressive than the regular MDX. Acura's know-how in performance is also reflected in the details of the features that support this car to deliver the power. Starting from the feature of the Dynamic System that integrates the engine power and SH-AWD performance with suspension systems, the driver can adjust the car's dynamic behavior according to the driving situation with just pushing the button. Step into the cabin, Acura can deliver a premium concept with the Type S exclusive interior that features the contrast stitching and ambient cabin lighting. Regarding its suspension and chassis performance, Acura fills this car with the special tune suspension for enhanced handling and vehicle body control and also the largest disc brakes ever. It looks like Acura is very serious to give the best performance for this Type S. The last thing that you will concern about a high-performance car is safety. Acura understands this, so they implemented the latest AcuraWatch safety measures with more advanced features and more driver recognition to improve the preventive safety and also the Collision Mitigation and Braking System, which have been improved for better performance. (Jin & Eapen, 2022)(Cohen, 2023)(ABUBAKAR, 2024)

1.2 Overview of the BMW X5

The 2023 Acura MDX Type S is a three-row luxury sport utility vehicle characterized by its peppy power, dynamic handling, lavish room, and a trendy and chic design, reflecting its great versatility in a myriad of driving situations. It is available in six package options of standard Type S, Tech, Entertainment, Advanced, and top-of-the-line with the all-inclusive rare package available only for Type S and Advance pkg. All 2023 Acura MDX Type S is powered by a 3.5-liter VTEC V6 engine producing 290 horsepower and 267 lbs. ft of torque, and is available with the acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. The SH-AWD system significantly enhances dry-weather handling and delivers a new degree of driver confidence in a broad range of weather and road surface conditions, one of the very few VTM systems available in the U.S. With the combination of torque-sensing power distribution to all four wheels and revolutionary intelligent management, SH-AWD has the ability to overdrive and distribute up to 70% of available torque to the rear wheels and continuously apportion different levels of torque between the rear wheels, thereby vastly improving overall vehicle maneuverability. An active front engine mount, noise control measures, and an active control engine mount system reduce noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) throughout the vehicle, enhancing ride quality and driver/passenger comfort. SH-AWD system comes standard on Type S, Tech, and Entertainment pkg, while the Advance pkg is available only with the SH-AWD system. For the standard Type S and Tech, there is the option of selecting the MDX with a 5 Speed Automatic Transmission and a Grade Logic Control system or the newly developed 6-Speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted F1 style paddle shifters. The Sequential SportShift transmission comes standard with the Entertainment and Advance pkg. Although both automatic transmissions achieve exemplary smoothness and fuel efficiency, acceleration performance is noticeably better with the Sequential SportShift Transmission. In addition to SH-AWD and the 6-Speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission, the Type S will feature an exclusive sport-tuned suspension and steering to maximize the vehicle's performance and road-handling characteristics. Acura's mantra known as The Synergy Between Man and Machine is clearly evident here, enhancing the precise and responsive handling normally expected from a sport sedan, with no sacrifice to the MDX's versatility and capability of meeting the demands inherent in family use and active lifestyles. This is further highlighted with an all-new wheel available only for the Type S, and an all-season tire that has been specifically engineered for the model. Both the wheel and tire have been designed to complement the vehicle's sport-tuned suspension and overall driving dynamics. The MDX Type S and the remainder of the package lineup features four-wheel independent suspension system designed to maximize vehicle stability, ride comfort, and to provide responsive and predictable handling in a wide range of driving situations. The suspension system, combined with a variable power assist rack-and-pinion steering, contributes to nimble and accurate vehicle maneuverability.

2. Performance

The heart of a driver's car is always its engine, and both of these SUVs back up their sporting claims with production V8s. The BMW's 4.4-litre unit is well tried and tested, and in this application it produces a healthy 355bhp and 369lb ft. However, BMW is justifiably proud of its all new 'modular' engine design that allows it to produce different outputs from the same basic unit. Step forward then, the MDX's 3.0-litre turbo V6. It's from a family of engines that have been winning accolades in various Honda and Acura products, and the word is that this high performance variant is just the beginning. This engine will in all likelihood power a number of Acura products, but with different states of tune. In the MDX's application it punches out 355bhp and 354lb ft, nearly as much as the X5. Yet, and this is where the MDX has a strong ace in the hole, it will be mated to Honda's excellent 10-speed automatic gearbox, and the only gearbox available for the MDX. This is in stark contrast to the BMW, which will still be using the ubiquitous ZF 8-speed. Theory and marketing is all well and good but the proof of the pudding will be office. But on paper the MDX has a good chance of matching or bettering the BMW's acceleration figures. When it comes to torque vectoring, this is a technology that's growing in popularity in high performance vehicles, and is often the preserve of very expensive models. One could write an entire book on the subject, but for our purposes it involves using the engine and electronic systems to overdrive the outside wheel in a corner, thus moving the car's apex more closely to the driver's input, and creating a yaw movement about the car's vertical axis. Torque vectoring is a substitute for the traditional limited slip differential, and is usually more effective. The MDX Type S will be offering Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, which uses a combination of torque vectoring and more conventional systems to enhance both traction and handling. The X5 is available with a variety of all-wheel drive systems, but if you want something similar then you need to tick the box for the optional Dynamic Handling package, which includes the variable torque split Integral Active Steering setup mentioned earlier. This is an expensive option, and the overall cost will not be far off that of the MDX. But it's commendable that Acura is offering SH-AWD as standard, illustrating once again how the brand is attempting to offer more performance technology for less money than its rivals. When it comes to towing there's not much to differentiate the two vehicles, and given the V8 power of both cars, they should happily tow up to 5000lbs. Moving to the overall dynamics of the vehicle, mature readers might remember a time when SUVs were notorious for their poor handling. This is really no longer the case, and SUVs that drive like high performance cars are becoming increasingly common. Both Acura and BMW are energetic proponents of the notion that handling should not be sacrificed for ride comfort, and this is reflected in their respective uprated models. But whether all customers are really looking for a sporting edge is an article for another time.

2.1 Engine power and acceleration

Although the X5 is much lighter than the barge-like 7-Series and its engines are a bit more powerful and responsive, it's not significantly sharper to drive. Power comes from BMW's familiar range of straight-six petrol and diesel units, with the most popular choices being the 3.0-litre petrol and same size diesel. The petrol is smooth, effortless, and refined – and of course quicker than the diesel – but it won't sound like a BMW six. If you desire more power than that, BMW also provides the X5 in petrol V8 4.4i or 4.8i guise, or the storming X5M model. All of these are fast, but none really feel like a true BMW driver's car, especially the underwhelming diesel. This is because the powerful engines in the X5 are needed just to move its mass and aren't sharp or high-revving enough to match the 3-Series or 5-Series. The MDX is a smaller and more nimble SUV, and the Type S is supposed to be Acura's most thrilling driver's car since the original NSX. This is reflected in its powertrain – it has a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, bestowed with 355bhp and 354lb ft of torque. It's a decent engine on paper but still falls short of the X5M's massive V8, and the MDX shares this engine with other Hondas and Acuras which could dilute its prestige. The MDX Type S has the special addition of Acura's Super-Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which we will go into later. So, while the MDX's engine may not be as large or potent as the X5's, the fact that the MDX is lighter and has a sporty new drivetrain could make it a more involving drive than its German counterpart.

2.2 Handling and driving dynamics

The driving character of the BMW X5 is sportier than the MDX, especially in ride and handling where the BMW feels better connected to the driver. The X5's steering is more responsive and has better feel and feedback, and the X5 can be driven as if it were a sport sedan. And while the MDX has always been a capable handler in the past, handling has not been a priority for Acura with this model and it is the furthest thing from sporty. These attributes continue with the Acura's high performance variant, the Type S, and it is clear that if the feel from behind the wheel and superior handling are a priority it is at a significant compromise compared with the BMW. This is still the case on the flip side, when considering the X5's off-road capabilities. With the X5 the default being rear-wheel drive it remains a sportier drive than most in class on the road, but the clever xDrive all-wheel drive system makes it one of the best all-wheel drive SUVs for on-road biased driving dynamics. Even so, when faced with slippery grass, muddy inclines or gravelly off road tracks, the X5 proves more than capable. The MDX on the other hand, is highly capable off-road and the SH-AWD system is a step above the X5 when faced with adverse conditions. With various terrain modes and torque vectoring abilities it can tackle most off-road scenarios competently. This advantage gives the Acura superior driving dynamics when off the road, however it's highly unlikely this makes up for the lack of on-road sporty driving character for those considering the Type S over the X5.

2.3 Fuel efficiency

Acura MDX has direct injection for all V6 models, while the BMW X5 has it for their base V6 model. However, only the X5 V8 model includes a transmission that optimizes fuel efficiency, which results in the Acura MDX and the X5 V6 model having a fuel efficiency dead heat. The SH-AWD MDX's fuel efficiency rates 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, while the 2WD MDX rates 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. The X5 V6 rates 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, while for the V8 it has an approximate 2 mpg gain for both driving conditions. Pricing will not be a worry for Acura's RDX, as the entry-level price currently has a $2,880 difference. However, the top of the line Acura MDX package only has an $880 difference compared to the X5. The MDX has a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. The X5 has a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, 4-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a 12-year rust perforation warranty. This is important for consumers focusing on long-term ownership and the comfort of being covered in the case of mechanical or body damage. MDX Type S and BMW X5 customers may have an interesting cross-shop on their hands, as the X5 has had 2019 IIHS's Top Safety Pick Award. Since the MDX and X5 are similar in pricing and fuel efficiency, the capability to provide Acura's highest safety features and X5's luxury feel will become a deciding factor in the luxury midsize SUV culture.

3. Interior and Technology

Upon entering the Acura MDX, you'll immediately notice the beautiful bronze and black interior. You are greeted with a remarkable Acura ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio system that contains 16 speakers. Technological advancements in the Acura also include a 10.5-inch Head-Up Display that comes standard. The head-up display shows vital information directly in the driver's line of sight, allowing them to remain focused on the road ahead. The display is adjustable and can show information such as speed, directions, incoming AcuraWatch alerts, and fuel status. There is also a 12.3-inch ultra-wide center display that is perched up high, giving it an easy line of sight for the driver. This infotainment system also uses a touchpad that acts as a dual function, allowing the user to input information on the screen or by the touchpad itself, to make the operation more intuitive. Note that Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay® are included as standard. Wireless charging and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot are standard on the MDX, which keeps you connected on the go. Standard models come with a 9-speed automatic transmission and will come with Acura's renowned Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Acura's 4th generation SH-AWD system uses torque vectoring to send power to the wheels that need it and improve the overall handling and acceleration of the vehicle.

3.1 Spaciousness and comfort

The third row in both cars provides a challenge. According to the spec sheets, leg room is relatively close. The X5 is marginally worse than the MDX, so those 6-foot passengers might find knee space straight from the Acura to be a little tight. Same goes for the headroom, the MDX still manages to come out on top. Comparing trunk space, the X5 falls short of what's expected with 33.9 cubic feet. The MDX offers 2.1 cubic feet more and has an underfloor storage area and a toe-operated hands-free liftgate for added convenience. Both cars have engine compartments positioned more toward the center of car for better balance. This also means more trunk clearance where you need it. The third-row MDX has 0.2 cubic feet less than the X5 at 18.1 cubic feet. It's worth noting that the MDX should achieve slightly better fuel efficiency due to the 0.7 inches better drag coefficient. In terms of engine sound, just get the MDX. The turbocharged V6 already gives better acceleration than the X5 and adding the Type S engine will give satisfying power so you can leave the X5 35i in the past. Both cars have acoustic windshields and windows, and decent insulation to prevent disturbing sounds from entering the cabin. However, the MDX has active sound control and noise cancellation for an even quieter cabin. Lastly, the MDX provides a more simple climate control system for the rear seats and is able to filter and ventilate for all three rows. With the X5, it got pretty complicated. The third-row climate control defy the standard in simplicity compared to the dual-zone control and the rear center console controls require a weekly seminar in order to operate. With so much to control, it's best that the X5 come with 4-zone climate control which is only possible to get in the six-cylinder models. The complex system will leave you forgetting to change the controls for your rear passenger and it doesn't help that nobody remembers if you need rear manual or automatic climate control due to its complexity.

3.2 Advanced technology features

The MDX makes use of a myriad of technologies aimed at making daily life more convenient for the driver, while the X5 mostly focuses on how technology can enhance the driving experience. Acura's headliner technology for the MDX are the various driving aids that it now offers. The MDX will be equipped with a hands-free driving system called Traffic Jam Assist. This provides steering support in traffic jams on the highway by keeping the car within the lane and following the car in front. The vehicle will also feature a rear camera mirror, which acts as a wide-angle rearview mirror, but it is actually a camera feed of the back of the car. This will be useful in instances where the rear view may be obstructed by large cargo or rear seat passengers. BMW has an advanced driving assistant for the X5, but it does not measure up to the new Acura system. The main focus of BMW's driving assistant is the parking assistant feature, which aids in both parallel and perpendicular parking. Outside of the driving aids, both vehicles are equipped with the standard technological safety features such as an automated braking system and lane departure warnings, in addition to the instrument cluster and head-up display.

3.3 Infotainment and connectivity options

The Type S' German rival, the BMW X5, features the iDrive 7 system with a 12.3-inch high-res central screen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which can be had with an optional Gesture Control system for the user more inclined to use that than voice. The system is operated completely through the iDrive controller, which can alternatively take the form of a touch screen. Unfortunately, the touch screen currently is only available when the vehicle is stationary, and while iDrive is generally regarded as quick and reliable, the need to change between controllers for full operation is an inconvenience. The system does not make good use of the high-res screen, and though there are more advanced features such as onboard WiFi and over-the-air updates, they are not fully capitalized on. Due to be refreshed in the coming years, BMW's infotainment offerings will no doubt see positive change, and with luck it will be more of a wow factor than the aforementioned vehicles.

When it was first unveiled in the 2019 RDX, Acura's new infotainment system was met with heaps of praise. Understandably so; the 10.2-inch HD display and Acura's new touchpad controller look stunning, and the performance late last year of said touchpad in the RDX prototype was promising. The system was due for deployment in the 2023 MDX, and would have been put to use perfectly in the Type S with its future sleek interior, but it was unfortunately delayed and will not be seen until the next refresh of the MDX. Step in the right direction that it may be, the delay disappointed many hoping to experience the full package of the MDX Type S.

While it is sufficient in operation and not lacking the necessary functions, the MDX's haptic-touch interface still has room to improve both in user-friendliness and response. The menus are easy to navigate, but the non-haptic portions of the screen can be too easily operated when the vehicle is in motion. Its screen is also a fingerprint and glare magnet, despite the matte finish. The system holds promise and generally makes you appreciate the aesthetic of the cabin, but Acura's interface needs to be more intuitive and reliable. Voice recognition is said to be a strong point for the MDX, but during testing we found it had difficulties recognizing more casual dictation. There are also glimpses of AcuraLink's safety and security system throughout the interface, but we did not explore them in detail during our week with the vehicle. A data package is required to use the service and it is very limited in function to other services found on the market.

4. Safety and Reliability

German engineering has always been known for exceptional safety, and the X5 upholds this reputation with an impressive array of safety features. AdvanceTrac stability control, anti-lock brakes, Dynamic Brake Control, and Hill Descent Control are all standard. In the event of a collision, the X5 provides front airbags, front and rear Head Protection System (HPS), and seat-mounted front side-impact airbags. All seven seating positions are equipped with three-point safety belts and automatic pretensioners. The two LATCH attachments for child seats meet both the standard and the child's needs. Side-impact door beams, interlocking door anchoring system, and crash sensor system further ensure passenger safety. The crash sensor system automatically disconnects the alternator, fuel pump, and starter, unlocks all doors, and activates hazard lights and interior lights in the event the airbags deploy. A very practical feature is the front and rear Park Distance Control with graphic display. This is a significant advantage over many luxury SUVs, as it is not only useful for parallel parking in tight spaces, but it also aids in off-road situations by providing a better indication of ground terrain. Finally, the standard alarm system with interior motion detector and automatic fuel cut-off in the event of an impact provides the X5 with excellent theft prevention and post-collision safety. With all of these advanced safety features, the X5 has earned good ratings in IIHS and NHTSA crash tests. Localized damage repair cost is average; however, total damage repair cost is less than average, both indications of relatively good real-world collision safety. Given that safety has been a hallmark of Acura, it is assumed that the new MDX will also have exceptional safety features and crash test ratings.

4.1 Safety features and ratings

Acura MDX Type S features better standard safety features like headlight visibility, parking assistance, and passenger protection. Injury mitigation passengers are installed in all seat positions in the Acura MDX Type S. This is intended to reduce injuries to passengers and boost safety in a collision. BMW X5 features ample safety technologies such as active protection, which reacts to an imminent accident by pre-tensioning the safety belts, closing windows and moonroof, and activating post-crash braking. This helps to prepare for an accident in terms of passenger safety. Active Protection also includes Fatigue and Focus Alert, which monitor the driver for signs of fatigue and automatically activate an extended duration of tension on the safety belt to hold the driver in the correct position during an imminent front-side collision. During an impact at speeds between 9-18 mph or higher impact with multiple/lateral acceleration, the Active Protection system will automatically apply the brakes to deal with/avoid a collision. Both vehicles feature frontal airbags, seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, side curtain airbags, and front side airbags. The Acura MDX Type S has airbags specifically designed for the driver and passenger's knees and air curtains installed in all three rows. The BMW X5 has frontal/thorax airbags for the driver and passengers. Both vehicles undergo comprehensive levels of safety protection to ensure passenger safety in a variety of circumstances.

4.2 Reliability and maintenance costs

The safety features are complex and tied directly into the Acurawatch™ system, which "is a suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies that helps us realize our ultimate goal—injuring zero." Acurawatch™ is standard on every 2023 Acura MDX. The X5 has similar standard safety features including lane departure warning and blind spot detection, which are commendable, but still lack the comprehensiveness and proven execution of Acurawatch™. Both 2023 models expect to achieve the highest safety ratings, but the advanced engineering and comprehensive design of the 2023 Acura MDX makes it the better choice for consumers seeking the safest vehicle. Reliability ratings have not yet been determined for these vehicles. However, BMW consistently has reliability ratings below average for all models; the current X5 receives a troubling 27/100 rating by Consumer Reports. When compared against the tremendous long-term reliability of all Acura vehicles, regardless of model, throughout the years, consumers can expect drastically lower maintenance costs and repair bills with the 2023 Acura MDX Type S versus the BMW X5.


Jin, T. & Eapen, A., 2022. 'Delayed Forbearance': Multipoint contact and mutual forbearance in inaugural and subsequent competitive actions. Journal of Business Research. [HTML]

Cohen, B., 2023. The Einstein Effect: How the World's Favorite Genius Got Into Our Cars, Our Bathrooms, and Our Minds. [HTML]


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