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2021 Acura TLX long-term update: The Type S handoff

In which we say goodbye to our TLX 2.0T Advance and welcome a lovely Type S to our long-term fleet.

Choose your fighter.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

When the 2021 Acura TLX joined our long-term fleet one year ago, we told you an exciting second act was on the way. And now that we're closing the books on 12 months with our Phantom Violet TLX 2.0T SH-AWD Advance, it's time to meet its replacement. Say hello to the Type S.

This hotter TLX resurrects Acura's storied Type S nameplate, and we'll be spending the next several months investigating that from many angles. Is it a proper sport sedan? Does it skimp on comfort and luxury in order to prioritize performance? Is it worth the upcharge over the standard Type S? Will we ever get sick of that awesome Tiger Eye color?

We'll be digging into all this and more. But first, let's meet our newcomer and say goodbye to TLX No. 1.

How we spec'd it

Acura offers a few vibrant hues for the TLX Type S, including Performance Red and Apex Blue. But how on earth could we pass up the company's new Tiger Eye Pearl paint? It's incredibly fetching in the real world, changing between gold and yellow depending on the light. It also looks bangin' with the Type S' sculpted front fascia, gloss black accents and 20-inch dark-finish wheels. This color is $500 well spent.

The Type S pretty much only comes one way, which is to say, fully loaded. It has nearly all the same creature comforts as our 2.0T Advance tester -- except a heated steering wheel, oddly. The only available option (aside from premium colors) is a lightweight wheel and summer tire package that, at $800, is very reasonable. The wheels save 21 pounds of weight overall, and more importantly, the Pirelli P-Zero tires do a lot to help the Type S' handling without hurting its cruising capabilities. More on that in a minute.

All told, our 2021 TLX Type S checks out for $54,645 including a $1,045 destination charge. That's only $4,820 more than our previous TLX 2.0T Advance.

The TLX Type S has a 355-horsepower turbo V6.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The first 3,000 miles

Going from one TLX to another, the Type S' larger, more powerful engine feels like a major upgrade. The 3.0-liter turbo V6 offers 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, compared to the 2.0T's 272 hp and 280 lb-ft. Like our TLX Advance, the Type S has Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive technology, which is one of the best AWD systems in the business.

The Type S' V6 engine sounds pretty good, and the quad-pipe exhaust has a sonorous -- if somewhat muted -- tone. This is a massive improvement over the 2.0T Advance, which often sounded wheezy and strained under full throttle. Acura claims the TLX Type S can accelerate to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, but as Reviews Editor Emme Hall notes, "In the corners, this car is lit."

The SH-AWD tech expertly varies torque not just between the front and rear axles, but from side to side, as well. Combined with the added grip of the summer tires, the TLX Type S can really hang on during fast cornering -- much more so than the standard TLX with all-season rubber. "I'm not fighting the car and I don't feel any inside wheel spin," Hall notes. "It's just a point-and-shoot type of driving experience."

The rear three-quarter view is great on both cars.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The Type S is also proving to be a great long-distance cruiser. On several slogs through California, we haven't noticed any roughness to the ride, even with the summer tires. The TLX's adaptive dampers work well in the Type S, with the car's Comfort mode providing more than enough compliance to smooth out uneven highway surfaces without making the sedan feel floaty or disconnected. The steering is pretty light in this relaxed Comfort setting, but has decent weight in Normal mode and plenty of heft in Sport. Thankfully, the Type S has a Custom drive setting where you can set up all the individual parameters to your liking. We'll be playing with this one a lot.

So far, our observed fuel economy is a paltry 19.9 mpg. The EPA estimates the TLX Type S with the summer tire option should return 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, so we hope this number improves over the next few months.

On the comfort and technology front, the Type S is largely the same as our old TLX, which is both good and bad. This is an incredibly comfortable sedan with a quiet, plush interior. We still don't love the busy center stack, and that infotainment trackpad keeps causing problems, too. The driver-assistance technologies work as advertised, as well, though the forward-collision warning continues to be way too proactive with its flashing "BRAKE!" warnings -- a trait common among Honda and Acura vehicles.

The Phantom Violet paint is nice, though we wish it was a little more purple and a little less black.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

A mostly fond farewell

Our year with the Phantom Violet TLX 2.0T SH-AWD Advance was largely drama-free. It's not an exciting car to drive, but we firmly believe it's OK if Acura just wants to lean into luxury. Not every TLX needs to be sporty; let the Type S carry that torch.

Many of us maintain the TLX looks better than a lot of its rivals, and even after a year with our Type S-less tester, we kept finding ourselves attracted to that design. "The TLX makes a great first impression," writes Social Media Editor Daniel Golson. "It finally looks like a proper luxury car, and I love the rear-drive proportions that Acura was able to achieve."

A highlight of our year with the TLX was its excellent highway ride, allowing us to really pile on the miles with ease. The TLX found its way up and down the West Coast on multiple occasions, and became a road-trip favorite with our Los Angeles- and San Francisco-based staff. Off the highway, the TLX earned praise for its great visibility, robust suite of driver-assistance aids, capacious trunk and generally easy-to-like nature.

The interior feels great and perfectly held up to a year of abuse. We wish the center stack weren't so cluttered, though.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

We also loved how solid the TLX felt after a full year of abuse. The interior looked as good and felt as solid as it did on the day this car arrived, though we still agree the dashboard design is a bit of a mess.

"The dash layout is overcomplicated and could do with some real simplification in terms of where the buttons live," writes News and Features Editor Kyle Hyatt. "That big aluminum drive mode selector is dumb. It's an unnecessary focal point that most people probably won't use that often."

We also didn't love our observed fuel economy, though we did hit the EPA's marks. We saw 24.1 mpg after a year of testing, and the EPA says the TLX 2.0T AWD should return 24 mpg combined. Problem is, competing sedans do way, way better here. A BMW 330i xDrive is estimated to return 28 mpg combined and we regularly saw over 30 mpg while testing our long-term 2019 330i. The EPA also says the TLX should get 29 mpg highway, but we never saw anything close to that figure.

Thanks for the memories.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The worst issue, though? The tech. Acura's True Touchpad Interface multimedia system seemed like the type of thing we'd get used to after a year, but we just couldn't. That was made especially worse near the end of the year-long test, where the system was often slow to boot up and respond to initial commands, and would occasionally refuse to connect to Apple CarPlay. But the worst part was how the absolute positioning of the touchpad only worked while running Acura's native interface. Once we plugged in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto -- systems that work best with touch capability -- it was all swipes all the time. So annoying.

Overall, looking back on our time with the standard TLX, we're generally impressed with Acura's latest sedan effort. Easy to use, pleasant to drive and pretty to behold, the TLX is every bit as competent in the compact luxury space as segment stalwarts like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C300. It might not have the same edge on driver engagement, but it's not like any of those three Germans are beacons of sportiness these days.

Besides, that's what the Type S is for.

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