German sports sedans are getting boring. I’m sorry, Germans, I love you, but if a guy who’s owned three 3 Series’ and an Audi A4 is getting bored of your schtick, it’s time to change things up a bit. That’s not to say modern German sports sedans are bad—quite the opposite, they’re excellent. However, every German brand has become so good at one-upping and then copycatting each other that they all feel like one homogenous recipe with different names.
The problem is, German sports sedans are what people know. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have been building new versions of the same cars for 50 years, earning their market share dominance. But that dominance, and almost frustratingly consistent competence, has grown stale for me and I can’t imagine I’m the only one.
Another problem is the sheer lack of genuine competition. Sure, the occasional Cadillac, Alfa Romeo, or Lexus will show up and offer an interesting, albeit flawed, alternative. Every time I drive the latest “3 Series beater” I always walk away thinking, “It’s close but it ain’t it just yet.” That is until I drove the 2024 Acura TLX Type S.
2024 Acura TLX Type S Specs
The TLX Type S isn’t anything new, it’s been out since 2021. However, for 2024, Acura wanted to spice it up just a teensy bit. It gets slightly updated looks (I honestly struggle to see the differences), a couple of new colors (Urban Gray Pearl and Liquid Carbon Metallic), and an upgraded infotainment system (we’ll get to that later). However, for the most part, the TLX Type S recipe hasn’t changed much and that’s good.
Updated looks or not, the Acura TLX Type S remains an icy-cool-looking car. It’s long, lean, and low to the ground but with muscular haunches front and rear. I hate cliché comparisons to big African cats, and I can feel your eyes rolling backward already, but it does remind me a bit of a cheetah in full stride. It’s the lean muscularity that does it. Its big 20-inch wheels fill the wheel wells nicely, it rides low enough for a stock car, and it just looks the part of a sports sedan more than anything hailing from Germany at the moment.
Unfortunately, the TLX Type S falls into a similar trap so many modern Acuras do inside. It looks great and the materials are mostly excellent but its usability and ergonomics are a bit of a mess. The design is awesome, with a waterfall-like center console, a fantastic steering wheel, and, in the case of my test car, bold, red seats. However, the new and bigger 12.3-inch infotainment screen, while nice to look at with its sharp graphics, is beyond annoying to use, thanks to Acura’s insistence on sticking with a laptop-style trackpad to control it. Lexus finally ditched its own dumb mousepad thing—you should follow suit, Acura. Fortunately, the company announced just this week that the 2025 MDX will trade its touchpad for a touchscreen, and if we had to guess, a touchscreen for the TLX should be around the corner.
Meanwhile, the new digital gauges are fine, but if you ask me, they’re a downgrade from the wonderful physical gauges of the pre-facelift TLX. I suspect most modern luxury car buyers may not agree, but when everybody is sticking a screen behind the steering wheel, there’s something charmingly quaint about a sweeping set of analog clocks.
One area of curiosity is the ELS Studio 17-speaker surround-sound system. It’s newly standard this year and it’s outstanding. Even with Spotify playing through wireless Apple CarPlay, it sounded perfectly crisp, clear, and free of distortion, regardless of volume level. Oddly, Acura recently announced that it is switching to Bang & Olufsen in future models. Hopefully, those new systems live up to this one.
As with all Honda products, though: what an engine. The TLX’s 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 makes 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, neither of which are overly impressive figures but numbers never tell the whole story. It’s the way the TLX’s engine delivers those ponies that makes it feel special. With a deliciously violent noise at full chat and an eagerness to be revved, the Acura V6 yearns to be pushed harder and harder. Where it’s let down is with its in-house 10-speed automatic transmission. For starters, 10 gears is two too many. Secondly, the transmission’s shift logic can be a bit sluggish at times compared to the ZF and Aisin eight-speeds used in countless new cars right now. It isn’t a terrible gearbox, but it can be frustrating because it feels like it’s holding that magnificent engine back at times.
Driving the Acura TLX Type S
Driving the TLX Type S will put a smile on the face of anyone who actually likes driving. Let’s start with the steering, though, because that’s my favorite part. It’s sharp, direct, and weighted properly so that it has great on-center feel. Combine that with excellent, albeit firm, suspension damping, and a well-screwed-together chassis, and the TLX will dance with the best of them. All of the TLX’s competitors are rear-wheel drive-based and they’re all more playful at the limit because of it. However, if you’re not trying to be a hoon and you just want to carve up some corners, the TLX Type S is a weapon.
My second favorite part of the Type S are its brakes. Despite being brake-by-wire, pedal feel is excellent. Initial pedal bite is right at the top of the pedal but it isn’t overly aggressive. It’s a gentle bite that increases drastically, with a commensurate pedal pressure increase, as you dig deeper into the travel. Having really strong brakes that you can rely on instills a ton of confidence when you’re pushing a car hard and the TLX Type S’ bright red Brembos do just that.
Then, you let the engine rip and listen to its rock-and-roll exhaust soundtrack and realize that it’s up there with the best-driving four-door cars on the road. I do wish its shifts were quicker, though.
Acura nailed the driving position, too, and the seats are sensational: supportive and firm, but also comfortable enough for long journeys. You sit nice and low, but even at five-foot-nine, I was still able to see over the scuttle and have a clear view of each of its front wheel haunches peaks, keeping an eye on exactly where my wheels were at all times. Too many cars get their seating positions wrong and it can ruin even a great driving car, but the TLX’s is excellent.
The Highs and Lows
There’s a lot to love about the TLX Type S but the biggest standouts are the steering, the engine, and the brakes. Those three are the holy trinity of what makes a great driver’s car and this Acura has ‘em. The stellar ELS sound system and near-perfect seats are just bonus cherries on the cake.
Is it perfect? Of course not. Its touchpad thing is infuriating, the digital gauges are pretty bland, and the transmission is a bit of a letdown. Nothing is a deal-breaker, though. The new TLX Type S is among the most well-rounded sports sedans I’ve driven in a very long time.
Acura TLX Type S Options, Features, and Competition
Buying the TLX Type S over the standard TLX really is about its engine and handling. The standard car is about $12,000 cheaper but can be optioned with most of the luxury kit that also comes with the Type S as standard. That includes the ELS Studio sound system with Amazon Alexa integration, its new digital gauge cluster, heated seats, a head-up display, and wireless Apple CarPlay, among other things.
How does the TLX Type S stack up against its main competitors? The BMW M340i has a better engine, is faster, and is more powerful but its steering isn’t as good and it’s a bit too soft. The Audi S4 has a great engine and an even better gearbox but its steering is weak and it’s getting a bit old. In a similar vein, the Lexus IS is basically a fossil at this point. I’d say the TLX Type S is better value than all of those cars, especially since it’s cheaper than both of the Germans with similar options. If there’s one car that I think offers the same level of fun and performance at a competitive price, it’s the Genesis G70.
While no one gets the sportier, more powerful version of any car for fuel economy, the TLX Type S’ fuel economy was still disappointing. The EPA rates it at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined, which is pretty accurate. I saw 21 mpg during my week with it. However, the BMW M340i xDrive, which has a similar engine layout but more power and torque, gets 26 mpg combined and can even stretch to 32 mpg on the highway. The Bimmer is faster and more fuel-efficient, while also having two fewer gears.
Value and Verdict
Acura has always been a more affordable option versus its German rivals. And while the M340i can be had for just a few thousand dollars more to start, equip them similarly and the Bimmer’s price bumps up to nearly $65,000. And, out on the road, the TLX Type S drives just as well and is just as fun, even if it is about half a second slower to 60 mph on paper, making it a very interesting value.
As someone very used to the German way of doing sports sedans, the Acura TLX Type S hit me like a breath of fresh mountain air. It did everything I would ask a sports sedan to do while having more style and a lower price than most of its rivals. I’m not saying you should put down your schnitzel immediately and buy one of these without testing the established German competition, but you should certainly consider it. The Acura TLX Type S is the best budget Bimmer beater I’ve driven in a long time.
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