2024 Acura TLX Type S First Drive: Give it some more credit

The latest generation of the Acura TLX wormed its way into our hearts from the moment we got behind the wheel. It’s a driver’s car, and Acura’s made that clear from the get-go. Then we tried out the TLX Type S and liked it enough to even give it the nod over a BMW M340i in a head-to-head comparison test. Now that it’s been a few years since the sport sedan came out, Acura has a mid-cycle refresh ready to sweeten the pot a little more.

Our first go-around with the updated model is this 2024 Acura TLX Type S, but most of the updates apply to the pared-down collection of other trim levels (more on that later). The interior sees the most substantive upgrades, including a new set of screens for both the infotainment system and the analog-turned-digital gauge cluster. The latter is the more controversial of the bunch because even though a digital cluster is largely seen as an upgrade these days, the white-trimmed gauges of the pre-refresh car were a beautifully distinctive touch in an age of mostly anonymous digital clusters.

Nevertheless, the cluster is now a 12.3-inch screen that comes standard on all TLX models. There are a few different views including a traditional two-dial approach, one that pushes the gauges all the way to the edges, and exclusive to the Type S, a third that features a horizontal tach reminiscent of the S2000’s rev counter.  The ADAS graphics in the center are a nice touch, and the screen is rather crisp, though we’re not sure that everyone will find it to be an upgrade over the analog cluster. At the very least, couldn’t Acura have replicated the old white-trimmed gauges (below, white) to maintain some continuity and appease purists like us? The 2024 Mustang’s retro Fox Body gauge design shows such things are possible.

TLX Type S gauges 2021

The infotainment display is bumped from 10.3 inches to 12.3, though the ever-controversial Acura Precision TouchPad remains. It responds quicker and more fluidly to inputs than before, and the newly-added wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability is a nice-to-have. And as the cherry on top, Acura added a new customizable head-up display and a 360-degree camera to the Type S.

The rest of the TLX’s interior is familiar. You sit low and are surrounded by easy-to-operate buttons, knobs and scroll wheels aplenty. The rear seat is still a scrunched affair for the TLX’s footprint, but Acura never meant for this sedan to be a limo. Step outside, though, and you’re met with some subtle but impactful design changes.

A new front fascia with a mesh pattern for the grille stands out initially. Look closer, though, and you’ll notice the unsightly radar sensor that previously backed the Acura logo is gone. Instead, Acura integrated the radar into the Acura logo itself, leaving you with a far cleaner look than the pre-refresh grille. For the Type S pictured here, new 20-inch wheels finished in Berlina Black are the standard setup with all-season tires. Thankfully, you can still spec the copper-painted 20-inch Y-spoke wheels that are wrapped in high-performance summer tires. Lesser trims get 19-inch wheels standard now (up from 18s previously), and A-Spec cars get new, dual, round exhaust exits and a glossy black rear spoiler. Urban Gray Pearl (pictured here) and Liquid Carbon Metallic are new paint options for 2024, with the former being exclusive to the Type S. And don’t worry, the beautiful Tiger Eye Pearl paint is still in the color palette for the Type S, too.

The powertrain lineup is identical to the pre-refresh car, and while we didn’t have many complaints about how any versions of the TLX drove, a horsepower increase would’ve been appreciated. That sentiment most strongly resonates with the Type S variant and its 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. It makes 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, which is respectable on its own, but lags behind more powerful competition like the BMW M340i and Mercedes-AMG C 43.

Despite wishing for a little more go, the TLX Type S is a hoot to pilot. Despite a low redline of just 6,200 rpm, the V6’s tuneful and high-winding sound urges you to rev it out. The shifts come quickly from its 10-speed automatic transmission, and it’s plenty smart in Sport+ to sort out downshifts all by itself. The paddles are responsive enough that you’ll have just as much fun tapping through them, though we wish it didn’t automatically shift up every time you run near to redline.

Acura says the only update to the driving experience was the throttle tuning in Sport+ mode. It’s hard to say that the go-pedal feels much different without a direct comparison, but it’s feels plenty responsive. It doubly helps that every time you select Sport+ mode the transmission instantly downshifts into an aggressive and ready-to-pounce low gear. Note that Sport+ is exclusive to the Type S – lesser versions therefore don’t enjoy those sharper, more immediate transmission responses.

The TLX’s handling continues to shine as brightly as it did before. The big difference with this second try of the Type S is that Acura fitted the standard all-season tires instead of summer rubber (it’s cold here in Michigan these days). As a result, the steering, particularly in Sport and Sport+ modes, is less satisfying. There’s a touch of light vagueness off-center before it transitions to much heavier – and natural feeling – steering. That off-putting, stepped transition disappears when you put the steering into Normal or Comfort, and ultimately Normal ended up being the most natural and feelsome mode to be in.

SH-AWD is dynamite to play around with in tighter corners where you feel the torque vectoring shoving you through from the outside rear wheel. Switch off traction control, and you’ll even get the Type S to give you a fair amount of slip angle should you ask for it with the throttle. It does a lot of great work in masking the Type S’ 4,221-pound curb weight. That said, the poundage is still enough that you’re going to feel it under braking and on twisting roads, but don’t let it be forgotten that the TLX is only a few inches shorter than a 5 Series and considerably larger than the 3.

Acura says it’s added sound deadening, but it’s not entirely apparent on the highway. We weren’t necessarily of the mind that the TLX needed to be quieter to begin with. Hearing the V6 and its accompanying valved exhaust is a vital part of this Type S experience. For the four-cylinder variants, we’re completely fine with some road or engine noise disappearing.

And when it comes to those four-cylinder variants, Acura reduced the number of choices from seven down to two based on what customers were overwhelmingly getting: the front-wheel-drive TLX with Technology Package and the SH-AWD-equipped TLX A-Spec. That puts the A-Spec on a higher performance pedestal, as it should be, but you still can’t get it with adaptive dampers. They were previously exclusive to the now-discontinued Advance trim level and are therefore now extinct on the four-cylinder TLX. That’s a shame.

The price for all TLX trims is up for 2024, but not an insurmountable amount with the biggest increase being $1,750 for the Type S. Eliminating the base model is perhaps the biggest downside there, as it effectively makes the new “entry” price $5,540 more than 2023. You wouldn’t have found us opting for a base model anyway, and if it’s true that the surviving four-cylinder models were indeed the most popular, we weren’t alone in that opinion. To go one step further, opting for one of the two SH-AWD models is a requirement since it’s just so darned good, going above and beyond the typical all-wheel-drive system in a meaningful way.

As a whole, the refreshed TLX feels like a step improvement in the right direction. It looks better both inside and out, has some smart feature add-ons, and continues to be an utterly delightful driver’s car.

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