The Acura TLX Type S is lightly refreshed for 2024 with mostly cosmetic upgrades. This is a car that Brad drove in 2021, so I wasn’t expecting a massively different car. What I was hoping for was some time with the TLX Type S in low-grip conditions where I could feel around for how the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) works.
Full Disclosure: Acura wanted me to drive the TLX Type S, so they dropped one off at my house for a week with a full tank of gas.
Ok, that’s the important stuff done with. A few years ago I had driven the non–Type S TLX and came away impressed with the overall package, especially the stereo, which is present in the new TLX Type S. We were doing a weird interview-format review thing back then, and I told Andrew Collins: “I wish I’d had a chance to drive it in the snow to get a better sense for what’s really happening with the AWD system. At road speeds, it’s hard for me to tell exactly what’s going on as it’s happening.” So, a few months ago when Acura offered us this refreshed TLX Type S, I signed up and hoped for snow, which we finally ended up getting.
Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz all build their high-performance luxury sedans with longitudinal engines. The Acura is an outlier with a transverse mounted engine, which is a mark against it among some enthusiasts. Do those same enthusiasts look down their nose at the Volkswagen Golf R and Toyota GR Corolla? Is that a fair comparison?
Not really. Despite the transverse mounted engine and all-wheel drive similarities, Acura’s SH-AWD isn’t the same thing as either of the AWD setups you’ll find in the VW or the Toyota, which is evident in the way it behaves on slick surfaces. When I drove the TLX initially, Acura emphasized the system’s ability to send 70 percent of available torque to the rear axle, and 100 percent of that torque to just one of those rear wheels. That idea is a SH-AWD hallmark, and the sensation is noticeable on dry pavement. When you accelerate out of a corner, the outside rear wheel begins turning faster than the other three wheels, and you feel a nice rotation sensation — kind of like a rear-drive car, but not quite. Here’s what Acura has to say on the matter:
Driving around in Sport Plus mode in the snow, you may decide to hang the rear of the car out a little on a corner exit. When you do, the system will very briefly try to catch you, then realize what you’re trying to do and let you hang the rear out a bit before actually catching you. SH-AWD will sense yaw and intervene, trying to give you the big on-power exit feeling. Even with the traction control off the car sometimes feels reluctant for a fraction of a second before it realizes you’re trying to do parking lot donuts, and then it does the “one-hundred-percent of seventy-percent of the power to the outside rear wheel” thing and gives you all the oversteer you want.
SH-AWD is a system that very ably recreates sensations that everyone loves about driving a well-balanced rear-drive-biased car, but it doesn’t make the TLX into a well-balanced rear-drive-biased car. There’s still a big motor hanging over the front axle. Where a car like a BRZ or Camaro will behave very consistently at the limit, which is approachable at very low speed in the snow, the TLX Type-S is another story. There’s a lot going on, and it’s going on in the service of keeping you pointed straight ahead with all four tires between the lines. It’s still fun and it’ll still oversteer, but sometimes you have to work a little to get the car doing what you want.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season tires that were mounted on my TLX. All-seasons are never a suitable substitute for real snow tires, but these worked way better than all-seasons should. Acura will sell you copper colored wheels with these tires for $2,228, or those same wheels with Pirelli P-Zero PZ4 summer tires for $3,360.
The good news is that away from the limit, like on a wet but not snow-covered back road, the TLX Type S requires no technical explanation — it’s just a hoot. The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, and it produces a great sound without getting silly with crackles and backfires. The Sport Plus mode was reconfigured for better throttle response, according to Acura, and the 10-speed automatic reliably selects the right gear for you. Acceleration is brisk, but not fast fast. This isn’t a car meant to go up against the full-flavor Blackwings, RSs, AMGs and M cars, anyway. The TLX Type S is priced at $58,195 including destination, so it sits with the regular V series and mid-tier performance cars from the Germans.
The steering effort felt good to me, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t see dry pavement and can’t really say how communicative it was. Brakes were similarly well calibrated from a feel standpoint, but I didn’t get to push them like you would on a track. On these tires the Type S is very settled over broken and even severely broken pavement. You can really just bash away with it, and the SH-AWD system shines, pushing you through corners.
Brad said he enjoyed his time lapping the Type S at Laguna Seca, and I believe him, but this is not the car I would buy if I was looking at regular track time — not when the same company would sell me an Integra Type S. If I was commuting and blasting around backroads, I could make a case for the TLX, especially when you consider the sub-$60,000 price.
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