Should Acura Make a TLX Type-R?
A couple months back we did a piece on a 400-horsepower Honda Accord IndyCar safety car, and why we the consumer would love to own one. OK, maybe not the exact same version (all the livery decals are a bit much), but something with a healthy performance punch would be greatly appreciated since even the sport model of the Accord isn’t really that sporty at all.
The same goes for Honda’s opulent offshoot, Acura, and its line-up of luxury-laden sedans and crossovers. They are incredibly refined and well-crafted, offer sleek styling, and are somewhat sporty. But outside of the long-awaited NSX there is no true performance Acura available to us, and this is a bit of a blunder on its end. Based on America’s increased interest in fast cars, “performance vehicle sales around the world continue to grow — with sales up 70% in the United States.” That is a huge market share increase, but with both the Integra Type-R and GS-R long extinct, and the Brembo-clad TL Type-S fading from memory, it is looking like Acura is choosing to become a luxury brand with a single mid-engine supercar to wake people up when they start yawning.
With Lexus rolling out monsters like the recently reviewed 467-horsepower RC F, and BMW giving us a multitude of M-series variants that deliver on an increasingly reliable scale, we wonder if Acura is going to remain as dormant as fellow Japanese luxury maker Infiniti when it comes to adrenaline drives. While we cannot wait to get our hands on the new NSX, there is something undeniably appealing to us about a high-horsepower sport sedan that handles like a dream and has the brakes to back it up.
Fortunately, it looks like there’s been some signs of life in the performance department over at Acura. While it may look like a full-blown GT race car, this all-wheel-drive monster is a fire-breathing guinea pig for all things sport-related within the Honda/Acura family. With Honda Performance Development (HPD) leading the way much like it did with the previously mentioned Accord IndyCar safety car, and any increasing number of top-ten finishes on its resume, there is a hint of hope in the air for those of us who want a ton of torque to go with all that leather.
Before we start exploring what makes this TLX such a perfect platform, let’s review the cars it has been competing against to get a better feel for what a production model’s competitors would look like. There is the insatiable Audi R8, Chevy’s Corvette, the Dodge Viper, Lamborghini’s Gallardo, the mighty Nissan GT-R, the Porsche 911 GT3R, and the ferocious Ferrari 458 all in the same starting grid. Then there’s this thing: a luxury sedan with a bunch of vinyl decals and a wing that looks large enough to have its own zip code. But don’t let appearances fool you — this direct-injected, twin-turbocharged, all-wheel drive menace is kicking ass like you would not believe, and for good reason.
When Autoblog had the privilege of driving one of these spectacular cars the other week at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, it said that “the TLX-GT is barely TLX, but more Acura that you might expect.” While Autoblog was impressed with the car’s power, it was the vehicle’s handling and braking that truly made this car memorable to them. So what should Acura keep if it plans to make a “TLX Type-R” in the not too distant future?
The double-wishbone design is far superior when it comes to handling than MacPherson struts, so utilizing this upgrade alongside the modified multi-link rear set-up and some HPD suspension is a great place to start. Since the 600-horsepower 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6 found in the race version uses an engine that is virtually stock, we think a single turbo version would be more than sufficient enough, especially since Acura is already knee-deep in the turbo game with the new NSX. And while the all-wheel drive XTRAC six-speed sequential transmission that was originally developed for Dakar Rally vehicles sounds fantastic, it is a bit overkill. So maybe beefing up the standard nine-speed transmission might be all that is necessary.
We also like the aero upgrades a lot, and without the gargantuan wing, canards, and all those vinyl graphics this really would make a fantastic A-Spec aero kit for a production model. Sure, everything is made of aerospace-grade carbon fiber on this car, but who’s to say a plastic version could not be doable down the line? There are also massive StopTech calipers and rotors at the front and rear, and Acura has made quite a few fantastic stock big-brake kits over the years (look at the last generation of the RL). Finally there are the wheels and tires — which are extremely expensive options, since Acura opted for top-tier offerings from both Forgeline and Pirelli. So maybe HPD can help out in this department as well, since it has its own wheel line so we can get a set of sharp rollers to wrap some all-season tires around.
Art St. Cyr, President of Honda Performance Development and Vice President of Product Planning and Logistics for American Honda, recently said that “Acura has never shied away from strong competition, in the marketplace or on the race track.” Well, we sincerely hope he’s right, and the company is able to keep its word because a full-blown performance TLX is a great way for Acura to stand-up to its competitors — on and off the track.