2021 Acura TLX Type S long-term update: Snow time

In which I tackle a 2,000-mile holiday road trip to see if the pros of Acura's all-wheel-drive tech can make up for the cons of all-season tires.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
3 min read
2022 Acura TLX Type S

Standard all-wheel-drive tech is a big help.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The last time I drove our long-term Acura TLX Type S, it was a warm, sunny day and I was carving my way up a canyon road with a Diet Dr. Pepper in the cup holder and a grin on my face. This time, however, it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit and I'm at 11,000 feet above sea level, driving through a snow storm atop the Eisenhower Pass on I-70 in Colorado.

I took the TLX on my usual winter holiday road trip, so I'm no stranger to inclement weather. The road is full of ice and snow and I'm about to head down a 7-mile stretch of highway at a 7% grade.

Before taking this trip, we swapped out our TLX Type S' optional summer tires for a set of Michelin Pilot Sport all-seasons. This is no substitute for proper winter tires, which is what Michelin was going to provide, but supply chain issues and not being able to source other winter options left us with all-seasons. Better than nothing, I guess.

All-season tires are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Proper winter tires use different rubber compounds that can remain soft at colder temperatures. They also feature wider grooves to expel snow and water and little cuts in the tread called sipes that can prevent a car from sliding. All-season tires don't have any of these benefits and they aren't nearly as good as summer tires in dry-weather conditions, either. Still, like I said, better than nothing.

Our long-term Acura TLX Type S hits the snow

See all photos

Thankfully, the TLX Type S has two things that really help its foul-weather performance: all-wheel drive and paddle shifters. Sure, Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system is tuned for maximum dry-pavement performance, but it's still very helpful on this steep, slippery descent. By distributing the engine's power between the front and rear axles, as well as side to side, the TLX can send torque to the wheels that have the most grip. You can feel it working: I hit a small patch of ice and the TLX slips for a split second, but then the SH-AWD tech helps rein everything back in.

Of course, all-wheel drive does not equal all-wheel stop. Braking on snow and ice can easily lead to loss of grip, sending a car sliding forward. So during my 7-mile descent I relied heavily on the 10-speed automatic transmission's paddle shifters to manually select lower gears to let the engine braking slow the TLX down. This means I can avoid using the brake pedal until absolutely necessary. The Type S is happy to rev high and hold second gear, gradually slowing the car down while I drive down the hill. The 10-speed transmission's paddles might be too lazy for proper sporty driving, but here, I'm happy to use them.

Once back at sea level and in the warmth of California's desert, I could let the TLX stretch its legs a bit and really open up the 3.0-liter turbo V6. The engine's 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque are plenty -- and just like our old TLX 2.0T Advance, the Type S loves to eat up highway miles.

2021 Acura TLX Type S
Enlarge Image
2021 Acura TLX Type S

Tiger Eye Pearl looks good in the snow.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Overall, I covered 2,212 miles on my holiday excursion, most of which were on the highway. My observed fuel economy for the trip was 23.2 mpg, which is below the EPA's 25-mpg highway rating, but obviously high elevation and bad weather played a part here. Oh, and a final note: Don't put suitcase wheels on the seats if you get the white leather option. Our fancy new Acura now has some black marks.

All told, while not an ideal choice, these Michelin Pilot Sports did a pretty good job. Still, major credit for this all-weather prowess goes to Acura's SH-AWD system. Put a proper set of winter tires on this thing and it'd be a foul-weather beast.

Check in with Roadshow's other long-term testers: