2021 Acura TLX Type S
After more than a decade, the 2021 Acura TLX Type S marks the return of a Type S performance variant to the Acura lineup, powered by a new turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission, sport suspension and standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. The last time Acura offered a Type S performance variant was the 2008 TL Type S. This new Acura TLX Type S joins the lineup above the TLX A-Spec, followed by the 2022 MDX Type S and 2022 NSX Type S.
2021 Acura TLX Type S
The vehicle we drove for testing was a 2021 Acura TLX Type S finished in Tiger Eye Pearl with the Ebony interior — Tiger Eye Pearl is exclusive to TLX Type S — and a high-performance tire and wheel package that includes lighter NSX-inspired split 5-spoke wheels and Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. Starting MSRP for 2021 Acura TLX Type S is $52,300 with 20-inch multi-spoke wheels and Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season tires, or $53,100 with the high-performance wheel and tire package. Price as tested for the TLX Type S stickers at $54,125, including a destination charge of $1,025.
This second-generation Acura TLX closely follows the design of the Type S Concept (shown during Monterey Car Week in August 2019) with a low, wide stance and a high-performance look. The silhouette of the 2021 Acura TLX showcases new hood sculpting and accent lines in the doors that flow into larger rear wheel arches. The flowing roofline gives TLX the look of a fastback and extends almost to the rear edge of the short decklid, with a smooth arch that flows from the base of the windshield to the taillights.
TLX Type S
The exterior design of TLX Type S is more aggressive with a Diamond Pentagon mesh grille that allows more airflow, a gloss black grille surround, a front splitter, dark headlight accents, Type S badging, matte black window surround and red brake calipers. At the rear, the TLX Type S features a gloss black spoiler, a gloss black diffuser, dark taillight accents and quad exhaust outlets.
Under the Hood
The latest player in a long line of excellent performance engines from Honda, the new Type S 3.0-liter Turbo V6 features a single twin-scroll turbocharger. The powerplant incorporates technology from the mid-engine NSX to produce 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. The V6 gets mated with a sport-tuned 10-speed automatic transmission and torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive exclusively tuned for the Type S. Active exhaust opens a valve for added exhaust sound above 4000 rpm; at all times in Sport + mode; in Normal mode at idle and acceleration; but not when cruising in Sport mode.
Super Handling All-Wheel Drive
Acura offers the new TLX with the latest version of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive; the high-tech AWD system can send up to 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels. Torque vectoring allows up to 100 percent of that torque to be directed to either the right or left wheel, improving handling and control — particularly during hard cornering.
Integrated Dynamics System
The Integrated Dynamics System of the TLX Type S allows the driver to choose from among four drive modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. For each mode the system adjusts throttle response, shift map, active exhaust, steering effort, active dampers, torque vectoring, idle stop and interior lighting. Sport+ offers an exclusive setting on the TLX Type S for throttle response, shift map, active exhaust and torque vectoring.
The sporty, more aggressive design of the 2021 Acura TLX Type S carries over to the interior with Milano leather seats with Ultrasuede inserts, as well as red accent stitching for the seats and throughout the cabin. The Type S also features a flat-bottom sport steering wheel, metal sport pedals, Type S sill plates, a black headliner and patterned Aluminum Deco trim. At the center of the dash sits a 10.2-inch HD infotainment display with a new implementation of Acura’s True Touchpad Interface in the center console to control navigation, infotainment and vehicle functions. A 7-inch color display in the center of the gauge cluster is standard equipment.
Acura’s Iconic Drive Ambient Cabin Lighting is standard equipment for the TLX Type S. Using the center touchpad, the driver can choose between 24 modes inspired by performance driving destinations and racetracks such as the Pacific Coast and the Suzuka racing circuit in Japan.
The 2021 Acura TLX Type S gets built on a new dedicated sedan platform that features an all-new chassis and body structure that increase torsional stiffness by 50 percent. The new platform is the most rigid ever for an Acura vehicle, with the exception of the brand’s high-performance NSX sports car. The sport-tuned chassis features double wishbone front suspension and electro-servo brake-by-wire technology derived from the NSX, in addition to red Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers and 14.3-inch front discs. The variable-ratio electric power steering is specially tuned for the TLX Type S. The car also features an aluminum hood and front fenders for weight savings, and a trunk-mounted battery for better weight distribution.
On the Road
We were impressed by the TLX A-Spec we had driven previously, powered by the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but the TLX Type S really ups the ante with an additional 83 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. With all that torque available as low as 1400 rpm, the TLX Type S leaps quickly off the line and remains incredibly responsive at any speed, even without any downshifting. In Sport or Sport+ modes the throttle response and shift map are much more aggressive, making the TLX Type S even more snappy.
Firm, balanced and responsive, the 2021 Acura TLX Type S features a sport-tuned adaptive damper system and additional chassis bracing. Drivers new to the car will immediately discover it feels like a performance sport sedan. The TLX steering is direct and responsive, making the car incredibly fun to point and shoot; the TLX Type S has admirable acceleration and a quick-shifting transmission. When accelerating through and out of tight corners, the SH-AWD directs more torque to the outside rear wheel to keep the car stable and balanced.
Acura’s bespoke Super Handling All-Wheel Drive not only instills confidence during adverse weather conditions, it also adds a performance advantage by directing more torque to the rear axle, balancing performance as needed. When entering corners aggressively, drivers can feel the TLX engage turns with additional torque transferring to the outside rear wheel, providing a feeling of stability and control in sporty driving situations. Acura’s SH-AWD is a must-have option for an optimum driving experience.
2021 Acura TLX Type S
We like the exterior design of the TLX Type S, with its balanced proportions and an aggressive design that differentiates the car from the other trim levels. The interior is comfortable and well designed to make nearly everything easy for the driver. The most notable inconvenience of the TLX Type S is the center touchpad control, which is designed to be easy to use, but ends up being difficult an unintuitive. Although the Type S has physical buttons for climate control functions, we would prefer the same for entertainment functions, combined with the touchscreen to eliminate the need for the touchpad.
Challenges the Competition
The 2021 Acura TLX Type S is an engaging, fun-driving sport sedan that would be a great choice as an everyday car for a driving enthusiast. However, the biggest challenge TLX faces across the Acura model line — including Type S — is buyers choosing a crossover over a sedan. Acura even offers its own TLX competitor in the RDX crossover; with the RDX A-Spec already in the lineup, don’t be surprised to see an RDX Type S in the future. Add established performance models from luxury brands such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and others, and the TLX Type S is up against some stiff competition.
This car’s aggressive new design, new turbocharged 3.0-liter engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and standard SH-AWD create a fun TLX Type S sport sedan that also functions as a practical everyday driver. The A-Spec and Technology packages add even more to the sporty yet sophisticated appeal of this second-gen sport sedan.