2002 Acura TL Type S

A Legacy Of Performance Continues

Like the fastest line around a track, every turn setting up the next, the momentum of our future comes from the speed of our past. From legends like the TL and RSX Type S models, Precision Crafted Performance has always been our pursuit. Fueled by that heritage, the Type S returns in its most powerful incarnation, ready to conquer new roads. And now, the MDX makes history as the first Acura SUV with a Type S performance variant.


The TLX Type S Upgrades

The Type S goodies start with the engine, a completely new 3.0-liter single-turbo V6 that puts out 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Though it does share a V angle (60 degrees) and bore spacing with the 3.5-liter V6 in the MDX, there’s enough re-engineering at play here to justify the all-new label. It has its own aluminum block, a forged steel crankshaft, strengthened pistons, and critically, special low-profile DOHC cylinder heads that accommodate the TLX’s low hood. The turbo’s twin-scroll design generates 15.1 pounds of boost to help bring on peak torque at a surprisingly low rpm—just 1,400. It’s also got active vibration-cancelling engine mounts, all-mechanical active exhaust settings, and even cylinder deactivation technology, which doesn’t actually do much to improve overall fuel economy. 

Acura says it threw a bunch of NSX and Civic Type R engineers at the new engine, and the result certainly shows some of that lineage. Impressive as it is though, the engine is just part of the picture—the real sin of the regular TLX is that unenthusiastic 10-speed transmission. Fortunately, Acura tore it apart for a similar amount of upgrades in the Type S. Everything from the torque converter to the cooling (there’s now an external trans cooler) to the gear sets themselves has been strengthened and optimized to deliver a claimed 40 percent quicker downshifts with the paddles and 30 percent quicker upshifts.

Kyle Cheromcha
Kyle Cheromcha

The last piece of the powertrain puzzle is Acura’s wonderful and wonderfully named Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, a twin-clutch torque vectoring system that can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s power to the rear axles and shuffle 100 percent of that torque between either the left or right wheels as needed. It too has been tuned for its application in the Type S, in particular overdriving the rear axle by 2.9 percent to enhance the car’s RWD characteristics in a corner. 

Type S Grows Up

Inside, the Type S is the same TLX, just with some nicer touches like a flat-bottomed steering wheel, metal trim, Milano leather seats, a standard 17-speaker ELS Studio 3D premium audio system, customizable LED accent lightning, heated and ventilated seats, and Acura’s driver-assistance safety suite that includes radar cruise control. Though it’s admittedly more feature packed and a bit louder overall than what was found in the Type S cars of the past, I think it fits a 2021 vision of subtle luxury quite nicely.

Combine that with its thoroughly updated driving dynamics and you arrive back at the point I made at the outset. The 2021 TLX Type S may be going about its business a bit differently, but it’s still doing exactly what its predecessors did—standing out as a competent and comfortable performance car, one that you wouldn’t think twice about daily driving or taking the scenic route home. It’s a real achievement for Acura, especially when you consider how lost the company seemed in the early 2010s. Not to mention how blah the previous-gen 2020 Acura TLX was.

It’s typically reductive and pointless to judge automaker efforts based our nostalgia for their past. More than most others, Acura makes nostalgia its business; its whole current turnaround is predicated on reminding 30-50 year olds that yes, it IS still the Acura we remember from our youths. That does seem to be the case here—even if Type S had to grow up a bit, too.

Kyle Cheromcha

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