Although Acura fans welcomed the all-new 2021 Acura TLX when it launched in September 2020 as a welcome return to form, true aficionados have been awaiting word on what comes next.
And finally, Acura has scratched their itch.
Come May, the 2021 TLX Type S returns for the first time in more than a decade, with prices starting in the low $50K range. The new TLX will be powered by an exclusive all-new 3.0-liter Type S turbocharged V-6 generating 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed “sport-tuned” automatic transmission.
That’s a significant jump from the base TLX 2.0T’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder’s 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Type S model ever produced.
Super handling to go with the power
Better yet, the Type S comes standard with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive with torque vectoring for the first time, although the system is optional on TLX 2.0T models. A Type S-exclusive Sport+ driving mode produces additional power, while the double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear with adaptive dampers makes sure it’s delivered with maximum alacrity. Look for Brembo four-piston front brakes to help bring proceedings to a stop, when needed.
But there’s more to the Type S than under-hood power; numerous exterior flourishes denote its performance status, including a diamond pentagon grille pattern for improved airflow, quad exhaust tips and an NSX-inspired lightweight wheel option wrapped in a 255-series Pirelli P-Zero summer tire. Pirelli 255/35 R20 97Y all-Seasons are standard, another upgrade from the standard TLX’s Bridgestone 235/50 R18 97V Turanza all-seasons.
A nice place to be
Inside, Acura lines its 16-way power seats in ultrasuede with adjustable side bolstering and Type S embossing on the headrests. Other standard features include items that are optional on the TLX 2.0T, including genuine aluminum trim, heated and ventilated front seats, flat bottom sport steering wheel, ambient LED lighting, remote engine start, power folding side mirrors and rain-sensing wipers.
The tech package includes a 10.2-inch infotainment display screen that’s controlled though a touchpad and includes a navigation system with a 3D viewing mode, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, wireless charging, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, and a 17-speaker, 710-watt ELS Studio 3D premium audio system.
The TLX Type S will be offered in six exterior colors and three interior shades, including an all-new Tiger Eye Pearl paint and Orchid leather interior, both exclusive to the Type S.
Acura said that more specific information would be revealed closer to the vehicle’s launch in late May.
Two decades later, Acura’s sub-brand resonates
The Type S debuted in 2001 on the CL coupe, powered by a 3.2-liter V-6 with as much as 260 hp with a number of performance upgrades and, eventually, a 6-speed manual gearbox with a limited slip. The following year the TL Type S joined it, although its five-speed automatic transmission remained a TL hallmark.
That same year, 2002, the RSX Type S appeared, powered by a 200-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a number of performance enhancements such as bigger wheels, larger brakes and thicker anti-roll bars.
But the 2007 Acura TL Type S would be the brand’s swan song until 2021. Other variants weren’t replaced after 2006, leaving this TL to soldier on with a larger 286-hp 3.5-liter 6 mated to a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual.
The model would last until 2008, after which Acura’s performance-oriented image atrophied along with its sales. But new managers and new products that tapped its heritage stabilized Acura’s market share in 2018 after 13 years of declines. It’s now on the rise.
While the new TLX won’t account for a majority of TLX sales, it should bolster the sedan’s image, along with the parent company. It’s a lesson Acura is relearning.