Car and Driver recently published the results from their annual Lightning Lap test at Virginia International Raceway. Lightning Lap is a test to determine how the best performance vehicles on the planet perform on the track.
This year Car and Driver has made some interesting inclusions, one of which is the Acura TLX Type-S. I think we can all agree that the TLX Type-S is one of the best sports sedans on the market. It is a fantastic alternative to the quintessential German sports sedan. But a track car? We’re not sure the TLX Type-S is the right car for track day duties.
The 2022 Lightning Lap test revealed a lot about the cars taking part. In the case of the Acura TLX Type-S, exposed its biggest weakness. Let’s take a look at Acura’s super-sedan and find out how it stacks up to the competition.
Weight is the enemy of fun
We’ll cut right to the chase; the TLX Type-S is enormous. It weighs in at 4,221-pounds, that’s 242-pounds more than BMW’s M340i xDrive and 374-pounds more than Audi’s S4. Weight is the enemy on a race track. It has the effect of slowing things down, wearing things out, and heating things up.
When you’re driving a car as big as the Type-S, you’ll definitely notice the weight. Acura does a fantastic job of managing the heft with a tweaked version of the SH-AWD system and a retuned suspension, but you cannot escape physics. Those physics dictate that a car has to work harder to move more mass around, and in the Type-S, that has consequences.
Car and Driver noted that the Type-S worked its tires so hard that only one fast lap was possible before they began to overheat and lose grip. The same is true of the braking system. Acura has fitted the Type-S with 14.3-inch brake rotors gripped by four-piston Brembo calipers. Even with uprated brake pads fitted, the massive Acura burned through a set of pads and rotors each day it was on track.
This is all due to the weight of the car. More weight puts more force through the vehicle’s systems, and in terms of the brakes, they have to work harder to slow the vehicle down.
With great weight comes a need for great power
There is no way the TLX Type-S could ever be called slow, but it lacks speed compared to its rivals. Acura has given the Type-S a 355 horsepower 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. That’s enough shove to propel the Type-S from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. By comparison, Audi’s S4 can make that run in 4.2 seconds but does so with 349 horsepower. The BMW M340i will run 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and has 382 horsepower.
Just looking at the horsepower numbers of the BMW and Audi, the Type-S compares quite well, but as you can see from the acceleration times, the big Acura is just not as swift on its feet. Several factors affect acceleration, but the Type-S’ weight does it no favors.
This is no more apparent than when you put the Type-S on a race track. As Car and Driver noted, “…the Acura’s engine lacks the pull of the CT5-V’s 360-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. It’s also missing the thrust of the 382-hp inline-six in the BMW M340i and it can’t keep up with the 472-hp V-8 in the Lexus IS500, both of which will shrink a TLX in their rearview mirrors.”
While we all would like to see a TLX with the NSX’s drivetrain in it, Acura doesn’t need to go to those extremes. A simple diet would up the speed and help the tires and brakes cope with the occasional track day.
What have we learned about the Acura TLX Type-S from Lightning Lap 2022?
Simply put, keep the TLX Type-S on the road and skip the track day. Acura’s super-sedan is a brilliant piece of engineering and an engaging drive, but its home is a twisty canyon road and not the race track.
The biggest weakness that the TLX Type-S has is its weight. That bulk slows down directional changes, acceleration, and increases braking distances. If Lightning Lap 2022 has taught us anything, it’s that if you’re going to take a Type-S to the track, pack extra brakes and tires.
If we set aside the fact that the racetrack is not where this car belongs, we can appreciate it for what it actually is; a phenomenal sports sedan with comfort, style, and driving engagement that can rival anything the Germans produce. Enjoy it on the street and use the money you saved over the BMW and Audi to buy a dedicated track car.