They say your teens are your formative years, and for a weird car nerd like myself, the “cool” cars back then were the Infiniti G35 coupe, the Subaru WRX and STI—and I guess the Lancer EVO—and the Acura TL, among many others. And, man oh man, the 2022 Acura TLX Type S takes me back.
See, the 2000s were a transformative time for Acura. The RSX was busy filling the Integra’s shoes, the NSX embarked on a hibernation to prepare for the electric age, and the TSX and TL were darling sport-sedan underdogs. Acura was on a roll, but as time went on, the magic faded: the “beak” happened, the NSX’s slumber dragged on uncomfortably, and of course, SUVs and crossovers took over. This resulted in the TSX and TL being merged into one—in 2015—to create the “first-generation” TLX. Tried as it may have, it never quite hit the spot. So for the second-gen car, Acura went back in time, hoping to recapture some of that magic.
Much to our surprise, that magic is there. The outgoing TLX’s proportions seemed just a touch off; the slightly too-high beltline and smallish windows made the car look a little too chunky—a significant departure from the TL’s handsome looks in its heyday. But this new TLX? It’s distinctive, not overly outlandish, and the long hood, short rear deck, and wide proportions trick your brain into thinking this is a RWD-based platform. The Type S trimmings add a just-right amount of visual punch; the NSX-inspired 20-inch wheels show off the blood-red Brembo brakes exclusive to the S, while the five-point grille, slim headlights, and quad exhaust tips are neat little throwbacks to the last TL to wear the Type S badge. This is a straight-up good-looking car.
Speaking of the last TL to wear the Type S badge, its Achilles heel was the fact that it didn’t quite have the performance credentials to back up the looks. Sure, 280 horsepower out of a normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you could get it with a six-speed stick, but that power only went to the front wheels. Womp womp.
This time around, the Type S badge denotes a 3.0L twin-turbo V6, good for a stout 355 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive is standard. It’s a wonderful powertrain under the right circumstances; you’ll need to play around with the drive modes a little bit before fully tapping into the TLX’s potential. In its default setup, it’s a bit slow to respond to your inputs, almost as though the car needs a moment to figure out what exactly you want to do when you mash the go-fast pedal.
But flick the TLX Type S into its most hardcore settings—drive mode in Sport or Sport Plus, and the transmission in sport mode—and it instantly wakes up. Power delivery is strong, the active exhaust is much more vocal, and wet or dry, Acura’s clever AWD system puts the power down without breaking a sweat. There isn’t a lot of feedback to the steering, but it’s quite responsive. And despite the TLX’s weight—the Type S tips the scales at just over 4,000 pounds—it’s surprisingly spry and grippy when you push to its limits.
Our only real bone to pick with the TLX’s driving manners is its ride quality. The Type S rides firm; anything beyond its softest suspension setting is nearly unbearable on anything but freshly paved tarmac. There’s a fair bit of road noise, too, but that’s the price you pay for 20s. It’s a shame the TLX Type S doesn’t default to its last drive mode setting—set up Individual to everything-sport and keep the suspension in comfort, and it strikes a good balance between sportiness and livability.
Inside, the TLX Type S checks all the sport-sedan boxes. The steering wheel is meaty, the seats hug you tight and keep your posterior in place as you carry just a bit of extra speed into a corner, and material quality is top notch. Metal accents brighten up the cabin nicely, and the minimal use of gloss black plastic is refreshing—as are the analogue gauges and physical switchgear handling climate control duties. Acura’s 17-speaker Panasonic ELS sound system is a banger, too, and will turn anyone into an audiophile
What does take some getting used-to is Acura’s infotainment setup. The whole shebang is controlled by a touchpad on the centre console; Acura says where you tap the touchpad corresponds directly with what’s on the display. In theory, this minimizes distractions by eliminating the need to futz with a touchscreen, but in practice, it’s a little trippy. That being said, the 10.2-inch display running across the dashboard is crisp and sharp, and works well with the 360-degree camera system. As someone who can’t park nose-in to save their life, the multitude of angles works wonders.
Passenger and cargo space is another so-so element to the TLX’s interior. There’s decent headroom up front, but the rear seats are on the tight side. Cargo space punches in at 382 litres with the seats upright; it’s possible to fold them to allow the car to swallow larger items, but the Type-S-exclusive rear-seat brace limits you on what you can feed through.
Acura asks $60,500 for the TLX Type S, plus another $500 for a colour that isn’t the same grey as your neighbour’s base Civic, bringing the as-tested price for our particular tester to exactly $61,000. That’s right in the sweet spot of the sport-sedan segment; it’s on par with the twin-turbo V6-powered Genesis G70, and it undercuts the BMW M340i and Mercedes-AMG C43 by a fair amount, but the Kia Stinger and Cadillac CT5-V undercut the TLX by a few grand—but not by much.
A lot has changed since Acura’s good ol’ days. Despite a few foibles, the 2022 Acura TLX Type S handily recaptures the magic with handsome looks, an interior that nails the sport-sedan basics, and the performance to back up the looks. It took Acura long enough, but the TLX Type S is a return to form.