Automobile

2021 Acura TLX Type S Review: The Best-Handling Acura This Side of an NSX

Around town, most of that is unapparent in the best way possible. It’s absolutely not a car that punishes you, or even makes you mildly uncomfortable—the steering is a little quick but nice and direct, the power is immediate and plentiful, and even in Sport+ mode (one of four) the adaptive dampers don’t get anywhere near the punishing stiffness of a jacked performance car. The 10-speed is fast with its business when left alone, but now changes gears quickly enough to make using the paddles a worthwhile time even on a normal drive. The Type S’ increase in power and resulting poise is the biggest tangible difference compared to the normal TLX behind the wheel in normal driving situations, but there’s also an undeniable tautness to the car that makes it feel inherently more capable.

Which is a good thing, because it also feels every inch of its 75.2-inch width, and then some. Though it’s technically a midsize sedan, that figure is a full three inches wider than a BMW 3 Series and on par with an Audi A7. The dashboard design inside also accentuates the width, and as a result the TLX Type S drives like a pretty big car. Like the NSX, the interior also has a cocoon-type quality to it—not in terms of visibility, but in the slightly-detached feeling the TLX’s excellent build quality and purposefully polite manners can create at lower speeds.

But pick up your speed—say, a few hot laps around Laguna Seca, as Acura arranged to show off the Type S’ abilities—and there’s a lot to like here. The low-end responsiveness of that turbo setup is immediately noticeable, as is the way that SH-AWD setup promotes throttle steer in a fast turn; it’s incredibly easy to coax a little rotation out of it. Though you’ve got 10 speeds and the engine redlines below 6,500 rpm, I never felt like I was running out of room bouncing between third and fifth gear on the track, and once again the newly fast shifts were much appreciated. It’s not a stretch to say the gearbox approached dual-clutch speeds a few times when I really laid into it. Overall handling? Superb through the famed corkscrew, and not just for a front-wheel-drive-based car. The optional 255/35R20 Pirelli summer tires definitely help there, however.

What impressed the most are the brakes. Again, this is a big, heavy car at 4,200 pounds, and one that’s not really built for track days either. Yet whipping it around Laguna for multiple laps at a time, I noticed absolutely zero fade or other issues with those NSX-sourced servo brakes, and in fact fell more in love with them with each passing lap. If you can get over the brake-by-wire trust issues, which I do understand, they’re a delight to use and utterly confidence inspiring. The firm pedal is entirely predictable and fun to modulate; I also like playing with it at a stop with the windows down to hear the servos go brrr.

Speaking of weight, the one thing I didn’t really notice on track were the optional lightweight wheels that save 21 pounds of unsprung weight. That’s a decent amount in the realm of high-end performance cars, but for something that already clocks in north of two tons, it’s hard to suss out the benefits from behind the wheel.

Type S Grows Up

Inside, the Type S is the same TLX, just with some nicer touches like a flat-bottomed steering wheel, metal trim, Milano leather seats, a standard 17-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio system, customizable LED accent lightning, heated and ventilated seats, and Acura’s driver-assistance safety suite that includes radar cruise control. Though it’s admittedly more feature packed and a bit louder overall than what was found in the Type S cars of the past, I think it fits the 2021 vision of subtle luxury quite nicely.

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