The revival of Acura’s Type S moniker looks promising, but it wasn’t exactly successful last time

Acura has introduced the Type S Concept, a model that not only serves as the official reintroduction of Acura’s Type S performance division, but it also serves as a preview to what the next-generation TLX will look like. According to Acura, two high-performance Type S models will make their debut by 2021, one of which is the TLX, but there’s a big elephant in the room – the Type S name, while revered by Honda and Acura Fanboys, only lasted eight years the last time it was a part of Acura’s lineup.

So, that raises a few questions: Is Acura’s reintroduction of the Type S name a strategic move in a time where some automakers are dropping cars from their lineup altogether or is it pure coincidence? Does the Type S Concept represent that Acura is ready to step back into the performance car battlefield yet again? Will the Type S name have a bright but short existence this time around or with it thrive? I intend to answer these questions, and we’ll start by exploring the new concept.

The Acura Type S Concept – A Preview of Great Things to Come?

We first got word that Acura would dust off the Type S name from Toshiaki Mikoshiba – President and CEO of Honda Motor Company – back in January of 2018 after the new debut of the new Acura NSX and Acura’s new “Precision Crafted Performance” Mantra. That was the last we heard of it, but that’s because Acura has spent that last year and a half (give or take a month) developing the Type S Concept. This concept, ladies and gentleman, will heavily inspire the TLX Type S, a trim-level based on the next-gen TLX that should debut sometime in early 2020 as a 2021 model. So, now we know, for the most part, what the TLX Type S will look like as Acura tends to maintain a close relationship between its concepts and production models. Furthermore, we can now say for sure that the next-gen TLX will be much sportier than the current model. It will ditch the family sedan look and feature a Sportback appearance that will move Acura into a position to compete with BMW, Mercedes, and Audi should it follow suit with interior design and under-hood performance.

Acura Type S Concept Performance – Performance of the Future

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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Acura has said very little about what the Type S Concept is capable of, but that’s to be expected given is conceptual status. It does ride on 21-inch wheels and features Brembo, four-piston brake calipers. We know that the TLX Type S will feature a turbocharged V-6 which could be a derivative of what we see in the Acura NSX. If Acura is going to do the Type S performance division right, it will come correct with power. The thing is, however, that this performance will only go so far. The Type S models will offer better materials, better aerodynamics, and more power but they won’t be supercar fast. Historically, Type S models featured anywhere between 25 and 35 extra horsepower over the model that sat below them in the lineup. Acura may go a little further this time around so that it can compete with the big German 3 and Lexus, among others, but Acura is about luxury too, and it’s finally adding true performance back into the equation.

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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For what it’s worth, the current TLX offers up 206 horsepower in four-cylinder configuration while the V-6 model offers up 290 horsepower. If Acura is really going to compete with the big boys, it will need to offer more. The next-Gen TLX could offer up as much as 340 horsepower while the Type S derivative could go as high as 380 horsepower – enough to potentially give it a firm foothold in the performance car segment.

When will the Acura TLX Type S Go on Sale?

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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There’s no official word as to when we’ll see the official production version of the next-gen (second-generation) TLX, let alone the TLX Type S. However, with the current model being on the market since 2014 (as a 2015 model), we expect Acura to introduce the production-ready TLX sometime in early-to-mid 2020 with the next-gen model going on sale for the 2021 model year. Acura could go all-in and introduce the TLX Type S first, before the entry-level models, but that would be a very bold move. With the brand planning two new Type S models over the next two years (so, by the end of 2021), the timetable is quite short, and Acura wouldn’t make a promise like this if it wasn’t nearly ready to break new ground in the performance sector.

Acura Type S – a Brief History

2001-2003 Acura 3.2CL Type S

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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As you can see from the picture above, the first Acura Type S – a model based on the 3.2CL of the early 2000s – wasn’t exactly aggressive. The 3.2-liter V-6 under the hood was massaged to deliver 260 horsepower, a 35-horsepower gain over the range-topping Non-S model, and it was limited to a five-speed automatic that could be shifted manually. It also featured a quicker steering setup, 17-inch wheels, and “sport-tuned” suspension that basically made it ride a little rougher and sit just a hair lower to the ground. If you’re lucky enough to find one from 2003, you might find it with a six-speed manual, but that was the only year the manual transmission was offered in this Type S and it is quite rare.

2002-2003 Acura 3.2TL Type S

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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The only real difference between the 01-03 3.2 CL Type S and the 02-03 3.2 TL Type S was the size. It featured the same 3.2-liter V-6 with 260 horsepower, similar 17-inch wheels, and the same sport-tuned suspension. It only lasted on the market for two years but was never available with the six-speed manual transmission.

2002-2006 Acura RSX Type S

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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At the same time Acura was killing off the CL and TL Type S models, it introduced the Acura RSX Type S which was, for all intents and purposes, the Acura version of the Honda Civic Type R. It was nearly the same as the seventh-generation Honda Civic aside form a few aerodynamic enhancements, but it did feature a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder. That engine was good for an unimpressive 200 horsepower, but that was an improvement of the 160 horsepower offered by the range-topping non-S model. In 2005, Acura increased the output to 210 horsepower and gave it a larger rear spoiler, but it remained unchanged otherwise until it was phased out in 2006. Acura was starting to come into its performance roots with this model, though, as it offered the RSX Type S exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, but it wasn’t as performance-oriented as Type S that sent the name into retirement.

2007-2008 Acura TL Type S

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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It took Acura a year to come out with a new Type S model after the RSX Type S was discontinued. This model was based on the TL, and it featured a 3.5-liter V-6 that was tuned to pump out 286 horsepower. This power output wasn’t much to write home about, though, as it only represented a 28-horsepower increase over standard TL. Acura did equip it better than the Type S models that preceded it, though, as it also featured four-piston Brembo brakes, true sport suspension, a rumbly (for a Japanese car) quad exhaust system, and a six-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately, the 2008 TL Type S was the model that sent the Type S moniker into retirement more than a decade ago as Acura shifted its focus more toward luxury than performance.

Final Thoughts

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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When I look back on Acura’s history with the Type S, it becomes painfully clear that the company didn’t do all it could to really portray itself as a performance car maker. All of the Type S models did include some power gains over the standard models, but it was very little while the appearance of all the previous Type S models were bland compared to what anyone would expect of a true performance car. One can argue that this was the downfall of the Type S name to begin with. Little power and subdued looks didn’t really give the Type S models a chance to truly compete and, therefore, had at least something to do with the brand’s decision to shelve the Type S project altogether.

Does the Acura Type S Concept Make a Good Case for Revival of Acura's Performance Arm?
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This time around, more than a decade later, Acura’s models eclipse the old Type S models in terms of power and performance without a Type S badge. They are also more aggressive and stylistic as whole in comparison. If the Type S moniker can really be associated with true performance and aggressive design, the Type S name could truly live on and give Acura a fighting chance in the shrinking but crazy performance car market we see today. The Type S Concept represents what could be a turning point for the Acura name, and it comes at just the right time as the hype over the new NSX begins to die down. I believe that Acura has the means to do its performance arm right this time around, and I’m excited to see what happens over the next five years.

Further Reading

2018 Acura TLX High Resolution Exterior
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read up on the 2018-2020 Acura TLX

2015 - 2016 Acura TLX High Resolution Exterior
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Check out our full review of the 2015-2017 Acura TLX

The Acura NSX Just Got a Lot Better for 2019
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Check out our in-depth review of the second-gen 2018 Acura NSX

2019 Acura RDX
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Since Acura Will Likely Apply the Type S Treatment to an SUV, Check out our full review of the 2019 Acura RDX

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