CARLOS LAGO: Hey, Carlos Lago here with Edmunds. And that is the 2021 Acura TLX Type S.
We're going to explain why it's important, what makes it special, and you might want to consider it if you're looking for a fun-to-drive, luxury, compact-ish sedan that doesn't break the bank.
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So what is Type S, or what's the best way to describe it? I don't know if Acura is ever said what S stands for. But you could think of it as special or sport.
This is essentially an upgraded version of their regular TLX. It's got a bigger engine with more power. It's got a nicer interior. It has more features. And it has a really sophisticated all-wheel drive system.
The best thing about it, though, overall is the value proposition. This thing, as it's equipped right here, is in the low $50,000 range. And that fares really well against the junior performance rivals from the Germans, like the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and the Mercedes Benz AMG C43.
Let's talk about why it's so special. The engine upgrade-- the heart of the TLX Type S is a 3-liter single turbo V6. You can actually see the turbo like right here-ish.
Now this packed power train makes 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission and that all-wheel drive system, which we'll cover later.
If you care, the engines made in Ohio, so that's neat. And it's rated at 21 MPG combined. We'll talk more about how it feels on the road and the acceleration it gives you when we're driving it, but I just thought it's neat that you could see the turbo over there-ish. There's even a QR code.
When you get the Type S, you also get 20-inch wheels and Brembo branded brakes, which always look great. What you should know, though, is there's an $800 roughly tire and wheel option. Acura calls these the lightweight wheels. And these are definitely summer tires. They're Pirelli P0, size 255, 35.
Now this is definitely going to make your driving experience better-- better handling, better steering feel, and all that. But I call it out because these wheels just look fantastic. Just look at them. They're great-looking wheels. They're so good that we actually made sure that the emblem was the right side up, because we just want to do them justice.
When we get to the trunk, the space is pretty generous. It's wide and deep, although the lift-over height does seem a touch tall. The thing I really want to call out is the bracing back here that blocks-- oops, there it goes, that's no fun either-- but it does block a bit of space back there.
But that's a trade-off for fun handling. You probably won't be able to fit two snowboards back here. But that's probably not a problem. If you've got a Type S with summer tires on it.
The interior of the TLX Type S makes a really positive impression on first blush. I really like the layout in terms of aesthetics and the material and the overall style. There's a lot of really expensive-looking nice materials on the dash and the steering wheel and all the places that you would touch.
As far as organization goes, the layout of the center stack compromises interior storage in ways that we'll talk about a bit later. In terms of comfort and space, I really like these seats. They've got great adjustments, including side bolstering. They're really comfortable to sit in, and there's plenty of room for front passengers.
Back seat passengers, it's a little tight, but nothing that kids won't mind. They won't like that there's no power outlets back there. That's a big bummer. No 12 volt, no USB ports, no nothing.
Connectivity up here, though, is great because you've got two USB ports and a wireless charging pad. That's where my faithful companion Ernie is hanging out.
There's going to be a couple small complaints. None of them are really deal killers. And some of them are kind of petty.
The first thing I noticed when I started driving this car is the gauge cluster. In a nod to previous Acura performance vehicles, they are white with red letters. Unfortunately, the white is a little dark and the red isn't that bright. So in the wrong light, it comes kind of low contrast. So it's actually hard to see what the gauges are displaying, and that's unfortunate.
The center, though, is a digital screen. And that's really easy to read, so that offsets it. And I like how that, the top left, there's a little boost gauge that looks like Hal from 2001-- a Space Odyssey. On the right, there's a little accelerometer graph that only works when you're driving, but that's a really cool little touch.
The thing about this car that it's the most annoying-- how you interact with this center display. The display up there looks nice, it's a good size, it's easy to read. But instead of it being a touch screen or using a dial to control, it uses this touchpad.
Now Acura gets credit for installing a pad here to rest your arm on so that when you move your finger on it, it's comfortable to use. But this gets you the worst aspects of a touchpad and the worst aspects of a dial-based system, where, in order to use it, you have to make sure your hand's touching this pad down here, and then have to see how that corresponds with the screen.
You can learn that. But this screen can be delayed and slow and that upsets the thing that you're trying to touch. So sometimes you'll accidentally be changing screens and you're trying to wonder where your fingers at or how it's represented on the screen.
You do get Apple CarPlay You do get Android Auto. I've had a couple of instances with Apple CarPlay where it just refuses to connect until I turn the car off and turn it back on. So all that stuff is just minor frustrations that you could possibly live with, but stuff you should be aware of. Lastly, I got a call out, you've got auto buttons for the seat heating and the seat ventilation, and that's just nice.
TLX Type S, a little handling assessment. We'll talk about the engine and transmission and all that stuff later. The first thing we have to get out of the way is the understanding that this is not a car intended for racetrack use. It just isn't.
So this isn't a competitor to the BMW M4 the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG or the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. This is a car meant to be driven around town, commuted with, and enjoyed on curvy roads.
And when you think about it in that context, it really begins to shine. Part of that reason is the way this car is laid out. The TLX is primarily a front-drive car, even in this super handling all-wheel drive version. But the way this all-wheel drive system works is really nice.
So primarily, your engine power is going to go to your front wheels. When this all-wheel drive system determines it, it's able to root up to something like 70% of available torque to the rear wheels. And then it will bias all of that torque to the left or the right rear wheel accordingly.
And that creates this really enjoyable handling phenomenon where, when you apply the gas, the car turns more. That's backwards from how it should work. When I come out of the sweeper here, I'm going to roll into the gas, and I'm going to feel the back end help maneuver the car around the corner and help it almost tighten its line.
Now when you combine that with a willing front end, a willing front tires, you end up with a handling package that, once you get into the throes of understeer like there you get on the gas, and the car starts steering more. It's totally backwards than the usual state of things, but it is a lot of fun.
And yeah, if you were to drive it like a maniac on a racetrack, you're going to run to the limits of the capabilities. But again, this is a street car. If you think about this on a curvy mountain road or any curvy road where it's more point-to-point corners, this thing's going to feel like a lot of fun.
And I think conceptually there's some real genius to this layout. Because when you have a rear drive car, you have a platform that you need to dial some stability into, some understeer into, so it's safe for people to drive fast. Because let's face it, not all of us are great drivers.
When you have a front drive platform but with this kind of all-wheel drive system, you can dial in some yaw, some of that oversteer sensation, because you know behind that is a lot more stability. So instead of turning in like you would in some of these luxury sedans and having to manage your way around through some initial understeer because you've come to the corner too fast, this you apply the gas and it drives you right out.
So it's really clever from that conceptual standpoint. This is a really fun car to drive. So that's the super handling, all-wheel drive in a nutshell. And as far as I can tell, there's really nothing like it in the segment that delivers this experience with regard to handling. It's really fun.
This turbocharged V6 makes good power, but this isn't a very quick vehicle. When we tested it, we did zero to 60 in something like five seconds, which is OK. That's adequate, even though you'd probably be expecting more from a modern sports sedan.
A Model 3 Performance will blow the doors off this thing. So you have to accept that and be OK with that if you decide to do this. And I think, given the handling benefit, some people might be OK with that.
I'll say the engine is loud, but doesn't sound intoxicating or exciting. It sounds fine, nothing particularly wrong with it. It has that soundtrack that you might remember from old Gran Turismo where it just sounded like a very trebly noise of the engine rising-- not the most exotic sound, but totally gets the job done.
It's also interesting that the gauge cluster says it revs to 6,200 RPM, even though it always seems to shift at 6,000 RPM. And I wonder if that just means the tachometer is slow. I don't know.
Now beyond the engine response, which is adequate and enjoyable, you have a 10-speed automatic transmission. I've got the whole car set up in its Sport-Plus mode, and it activated the Sport-Shifting mode. And for, again, largely a streetcar, it's ending up most of the time in the gear I want it to be for the corners that I'm navigating. That's pretty much all we can say.
In general, though, I like the feel, I like the balance. This is a really enjoyable package for a streetcar, a commuter, something that's still going to be comfortable on the roads. And it's still going to be fun, something that you could drive to work every day and not really experience the performance benefits of. But when you find that one on-ramp or off-ramp, or you have a series of corners on your commute, you can attack them and have a good time.
Now of course, you really need the summer tires to maximize that handling experience. But hey, we already covered that. You want those really attractive wheels.
What we're going to come back to is that extra degree of handling enjoyment that you get from that all-wheel drive system. That really is what makes this experience special.
Despite some minor annoyances, the TLX Type S has some really nice things going for it. It's comfortable to drive, fun to throw around, and it's really good looking. There's no denying the road presence of this thing. Just got to make sure you get those wheels.
All that makes the TLX a really compelling vehicle, especially when you consider it against the more traditional German rivals. This costs a lot less, feature for feature. And there are a lot of features in here.
So if you've decided that, for whatever reason, a Tesla Model 3 Performance doesn't fit your lifestyle and you can live with the somewhat annoying interior, the TLX Type S gives you a really compelling alternative to the traditional sports sedan establishment and at a really good price.
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Also, if you're looking to sell a car, do it at edmunds.com/sellmycar. Also, check out the links in the description for information. We'll see you next time.