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The all-new midsize sport sedan is ready to take on the best, especially with the return of the legendary performance option.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The all-new 2021 Acura TLX is dazzling to look at and a world-class luxury sport sedan when equipped with the Type S package.A funny thing happened to Acura when it decided to bolster its high performance image by going professional sports car racing — it forgot to offer an affordable version to customers.

Yes, Honda's premium brand brought back the NSX as an expensive supercar. But, even as the company was making an impact in the IMSA Weathertech series, it dropped the Type S option that had been offered on the more affordable CL, RSX and TL in 2009.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The 2021 Acura TLX Type S competes against high-end European sport sedans that cost thousands more.

But all is forgiven with the return of the Type S package for the 2021 TLX. Not only is the completely revised midsize sedan dazzling in its own right, the option provides the most serious high performance upgrades ever offered on an Acura short of the NSX, which costs thousands more.

If you opt for a Type S version of the 2021TLX, you'll be rewarded with an all-new exclusive twin turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 355 horsepower and 354 foot-pounds of torque, a specially tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, a Sport+ drive mode, standard torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, Brembo front brakes, 20-inch wheels wrapped in 255-series Pirelli P-Zero tires, and Ultrasuede trimmed 16-way power front bucket seats with adjustable side bolstering and Type S embossing on the headrests.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The interior of the 2021 Acura TLX is completely redesigned and can be ordered withthe most advsanced automotive technologies.

The combination is more than enough to challenge far costlier optional versions of European sport sedans. But that is on top of the impressive redesign of the foundational model. Put simply, even the base model of the all new version is exciting on every level, from looks to interior design to handling.

The 2021 TLX is much sleeker than the model it replaces, with an even more refined interior and a far stiffer chassis that improves the ride and steering response, even without the Type S goodies. The base turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces a healthy 272 horsepower channeled through a standard 10-speed automatic transmission.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - The twin turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 in the 2021 Acura TLX Type S produces an impressive 355 horsepower and 344 foot pounds of torque.

Acura's excellent SH-AWD system is optional on all five trim levels. They range from entry Base, which starts at $38,545, to Technology at $42,525, A-Spec at 45,275, Advance at $47,325 and Type S at $53,325. In case you don't read that closely, these prices are thousands below comparably equipped European sport sedans. And the Type S challenges the best of them.

As proof of Acura's commitment to reclaiming its performance reputation, the new turbo V6 engine boasts 97 horsepower more than the normally aspirated 3.5 V6 in the last Type S and 58 more than last year's TLX A-Type version, which was the performance version. That is a serious commitment that is also reflected in the other Type S upgrades.

COURTESY PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO. - The wheel package for the 2021 Acura TLX Type S includes Brembo front brakes and 20-inch wheels wrapped in 255-series Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Thankfully, in a week of test driving, the 2021 Acura TLX Type S excelled without being punishing. The suspension was firm but not harsh, a blessing in genuine high performance sport sedans. Even in the Sport+ mode, the ride was not bone jarring over bad roads.

Shifting into both the Sport and Sport+ modes also activates the tuned exhaust, generating a muscular growl that does not grow tiresome at cruising speeds. The biggest change is the difference in performance, however, with the throttle becoming increasingly more responsive, the suspension ever firmer and the steering even more precise. The only disappointment is that is shifts back to the Normal mode when the engine is turned off, requiring the driver to reset it every time.

COURTESY PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO. - The Dynamic Mode selector in the 2021 Acura TLX Type S includes Sport and Sport+ for better performance.

The only other drawback is the touchpad that controls the infotainment system. While better than most, it still requires a precise touch that takes practice to master while driving. Best to make the adjustments while parked before heading out.

But those are small qualms for a sport sedan as exciting as the all-new 2021 Acura TLX — especially the Type S version that is both impressive and affordable. Welcome back to the performance heights, Acura.

COURTESY PHOTO: AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR CO. - Dual twin exhaust tips are part of the Type S package for the 2021 Acura TLX.

2021 Acura TLX

Base price: $38,545 (Base)

Price as tested: $53,825(as tested)

Type: Midsize sport sedan

Engines: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four (272 hp, 280 lbs-ft); turbocharged 3.0 V6 ( 355 hp, 354 lbs-ft - as tested)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 21/29;

Overall length: 194.6 inches

Curb weight: 4026 pounds

Final assembly: Marysville, Ohio


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