The 2021 Acura TLX Type S is currently being shined up in showrooms around the country in the hopes of catching the eye of people that still remember the brand formerly produced a handful of downright excellent performance vehicles. It’s specifically trying to recapture the magic of the TSX — which the rest of the world knew as the fun version of the Honda Accord — and appears to have been built under a similar philosophy.
Rather than committing itself to ludicrous levels of power or an overabundance of attitude, Acura has attempted to deliver a balanced, tasteful luxury vehicle that can still scramble like an egg. While the previous offspring of this mindset made do with roughly 200 horsepower, the TLX Type S produces a much more meaty 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque and recently dropped some additional marketing materials to drive that point home now that it’s on sale.
Developed by a team of Japanese and American engineers that were responsible for the Honda Civic Type R and Acura NSX, the TLX’s 3.0-liter, 24-valve DOHC V6 with a single twin-scroll turbocharger. Mated to a 10-speed automatic, the unit borrows a lot from the company’s familiar 3.5-liter V6 but has undergone a multitude of changes to ensure it’s capable of taking a fair amount of abuse and fits snugly within the engine bay.
Numerous engineering steps were taken to ensure the new engine’s compact size and low profile that enabled it to fit in the TLX engine room. This includes the placement of the turbocharger adjacent to the engine above the transmission and the use of low-profile cylinder heads. Separate cam bearing caps have been replaced by caps directly incorporating into the valve cover itself, lowering the engine’s height and reducing the number of parts. Fully assembled, the engine is 8 mm shorter than the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6.
Featuring a robust rotating assembly to meet the demands of extreme performance and durability, the Type S Turbo V6 employs a high-stress forged steel crankshaft and forged steel connecting rods. To help reduce emissions, the top piston ring carrier of its pistons is a high-density Ni-resist cast iron, which features better wear characteristics and better sealing.
There was also a bunch of talk about optimizing the turbocharger, exhaust system, and catalytic converter in a manner that’s designed to manage heat in a way that’s more environmentally sound. But that’s incredibly boring and not something anybody buying a performance sedan is likely to be interested in. Here’s what’s important: the turbo boost kicks on early, peaks 15.1 psi, and results in the full 354 lb-ft of torque being delivered at 1,400 rpm.
Engine assembly is completed in Anna, Ohio, and the unit is supposed to pair exceptionally well with the TLX’s upgraded suspension and “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive” system. Acura has also chosen to outfit the exhaust with butterfly valves that let drivers tailor the fervor of the sounds it makes via several drive modes. These selections also change throttle response, steering inputs, shift program, suspension dampening, torque vectoring, and even the look of the vehicle’s interior display.
While transformative, nothing about the car makes it seem as though it’s supposed to be riding on the bleeding edge of performance and it’s been electronically limited to 155 mph. But that’s largely fine when the sedan was clearly designed to be a luxury vehicle first and foremost. Nobody expects to see the TLX Type S mixing it up with the Mazda MX-5, Nissan 370Z, Mustang GT, and BMW 3-Series on weekend track days with any regularity. It’s tastefully restrained and meant to convey passengers around in a respectable and reliable manner, retaining the option to shake things up with serious on-demand performance.
Interested parties will need to be ready to drop $53,325 for the top-trimmed TSX. But you’ll probably want to spend another $800 to get the High Performance Wheel & Tire Package. This swaps the Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires for a set of aggressive P Zeros and substantially lighter wheels — cutting nearly 24 pounds of unsprung weight from the car. Considering the TSX Type S tips the scales at 4,221 pounds, we imagine it’ll make an appreciable difference at the limit.
There are certainly cheaper ways to get more horsepower from a comfortable car. But Acura is trying to offer a relatively complete performance package that’s capable of providing all-day comfort, engaging handling, and just enough panache to make you wonder if you really need to go with a fancier nameplate. We’re liking what we’re seeing thus far and are curious how the model stacks up against the V6-equipped Genesis G70, as well as the sea of European executive cars both are obviously targeting, in a road test.