Acura TLX Type S vs. Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance


It’s certainly a good time for fans of Japanese performance vehicles, and no, we aren’t talking about the Civic Type R, upcoming Nissan Z, Supra or rumors of a high performance Toyota Corolla GR. Those might have been some the nameplates we lusted over in the 1990s, but Lexus and Acura have both recently released very grown up sport sedans that are tugging at the heartstrings — and wallets – of fans of those iconic models.

With that in mind, something of a crosstown rivalry has been brewing over the last few months with rumors of Lexus launching another fire-breathing, V8 IS… and then they did it in the form of the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance. In 2018, Acura teased the return of the “Type S” name, released the all-new TLX for 2021, and has finally followed it up with the performance-oriented TLX Type S which packs an all-new turbocharged V6 engine and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). While these vehicles are different in execution, both have the same competitive set: The Audi S4, BMW M340i, Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and Mercedes-AMG C43 to name a few.

The Type S moniker took something of a hiatus for 13 years, and in that time, Lexus’ F performance line has expanded across the RC and GS models, though the GS is now gone. When introducing the IS 500 F SPORT Performance, Lexus added a third, middle tier to their performance portfolio with “F SPORT Performance” slotting in between F SPORT packages and full blown F vehicles.

Enthusiasts and media alike began looking at specs of both sedans to see how they might compare, reigniting so many of the great debates for fans of Japanese performance cars: turbos or natural aspiration? Rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive? VTEC or VVT-i? Ok, the TLX Type S actually doesn’t offer VTEC, but you know what we mean.

To help shape this debate, we decided to compare the 2021 Acura TLX Type S and 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance on paper, but with a few important notes:

  • Acura has not published official performance numbers for the TLX Type S, but was quoted as saying “5 second range” for the car’s 0-60 time. That is how we came to the 5.0 second number in our performance chart, but no 1/4 mile time was quoted.

  • While we know most of the details about the IS 500 F SPORT Performance, there are still we don’t: price, weight distribution, and also 1/4 mile time, just like the TLX. For this purpose, we took educated guesses where possible and put “TBD – To Be Determined” where we were less sure.

2022 LEXUS IS 500 F SPORT

There are a few other nuances to compare between these two vehicles: The Lexus ES is probably the more natural competitor for the TLX in terms of size and price, so the Acura is a bit longer and wider than the IS: it’s 9.2 inches longer and almost 3 inches wider. The TLX is, by definition, a midsize car while the IS is a compact sedan. In performance guise, the TLX Type S and IS 500 F SPORT Performance are more squarely matched than any version of the ES. With that said, let’s take a look at the specs:

Exterior Design

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so this one is impossible to quantify. The 2021 IS has been praised as one of Lexus’ best designs, and while it is a restyling of what is technically an older vehicle underneath, the revised spindle with bulging fenders, wide rear end with stacked quad exhaust, and athletic side profile look absolutely gorgeous. The right mix of modern and menacing make the IS 500 F SPORT Performance arguably the best looking vehicle in this segment.

The TLX Type S is no slouch though. Acura’s “diamond pentagon” grill seems to have as many haters as Lexus’ spindle in its early days, but the rest of the car looks great: A long hood that helps hide its FWD underpinnings, swept back greenhouse, and short rear decklid give the appearance of a sporty sedan without a doubt. The Type S upgrades the proportions with dedicated front and rear bumpers, plus a quad exhaust, that all make the Type S seem special. When packaged with the optional split five-spoke wheels, the Type S certainly looks the part and is quite menacing.

Winner: Lexus

Interior Design

While the IS 500 F SPORT Performance sharpened up its exterior with a dramatic change from the 2014-2020 model, the interior didn’t see quite as much evolution. Lexus fans are aware of the updates, so no need to rehash the details. The biggest upgrade was a 10.3″ touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the rest of it follows the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mantra.” We’re ok with that, especially for a purpose-built performance sedan.

Whereas the IS uses a tried and true formula, the TLX Type S benefits from being an all-new design. Notable features include ambient lighting with multiple presets, ELS Studio 3D audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on a 10.2″ screen without touchscreen capability, and a design that just seems more fresh and updated than the IS. Whether you like the more set back screen, material choices and True Touchpad Interface are matters of preference, but we give a slight edge to the Acura here.

Winner: Acura

Performance

We’ll go ahead and say it plainly: The IS 500 F SPORT Performance seems to have the specs and firepower to put the TLX Type S squarely in its rear view mirror: A 117 horsepower advantage, 41 more lb-ft of torque and 330 fewer pounds. Those numbers seem hard for the Acura to overcome, even with a turbo and the trick SH-AWD system. While purists while likely favor Lexus’ naturally aspirated V8, many others might be just as interested in Acura’s all-new turbo V6.

For us, the Acura V6 is an interesting proposition. The lower end of the segment, including Acura’s own standard TLX, tends to offer 250 to 300hp generally from a 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder engine. The upper realm, occupied by vehicles like the Audi S4, BMW M340i, Mercedes-AMG C43 and CT4-V Blackwing produce more in the realm of 375-475 horsepower, so the Type S just barely bests the Audi, but is well behind the others. Considering how strong Honda’s own 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder has proven to be in products like the Civic Type R (153 hp/L!), we would have liked to see the TLX Type S closer to 400 horsepower. In addition, the weight penalty over the IS 500 and many competitors means the Acura could definitely use the extra power – and not just for spec comparisons.

Whether you prefer rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive will likely factor into a possible purchase decision because it does drastically change how these vehicles behave. Again, purists will probably gravitate towards the IS 500 F SPORT Performance’s rear-wheel drive layout with Torsen limited-slip differential, especially since rear-wheel drive V8 sedans seem to be a dying breed. Acura has built a strong name for itself with the SH-AWD system, so those looking for more grip or all weather traction might instead spring for the TLX Type S.

Comparing horsepower, torque, drivetrain layout, weight and engines begins to tell the story of who these two sedans really are: The IS 500 F SPORT Performance is a more raw performance machine, while with the TLX Type S, Acura has put together a compelling all around package that’s just not quite as aggressive.

Winner: Lexus

Price

Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for final pricing information from Lexus for the IS 500 F SPORT Performance, but we keep hearing the rumor of “Close to $60,000.” If Lexus can bring their performance sedan to market with a $6,000-8,000 premium over the TLX Type S, we think it’s money well spent. At a base price of just over $53,000, the Acura does offer solid performance in do-it-all package that is appealing at that price point.

The question becomes, “How much more will the IS 500 F SPORT Performance cost?” On paper, the Lexus is more car and a premium seems justified, but the Acura does make a compelling case for a versatile, flexible family sedan for just more than $53,000.

Winner: Acura for now, but too soon to tell.

Conclusion

All of the vehicles in this class offer impressive performance and ingenuity while being somewhat attainable in the realm of $50,000 – $60,000, and each one offers a unique personality that reflects its maker. The M340i asks if you really need an M3, since it does 80% of the same things for 25% less. The new CT4-V Blackwing brings an impressive spec sheet to the fight that makes us remember when Cadillac dropped the hammer on the M5 and E63 with the 640 horsepower 2016 CTS-V. The S4, while getting long in the tooth now, takes everything you like about the A4 and turns up the dial with more sure-footed performance. The C43, much like the M340i, makes a strong case for whether or not you need to move any further up the model line to get performance that will put a grin on your face. And now, lucky for us, Acura and Lexus have arrived.

So, that brings us to these two newcomers: The TLX Type S and IS 500 F SPORT Performance. While we’re partial to Lexus, we say that more performance cars are better, and it’s good for Lexus to have competition from Acura. The TLX Type S reminds us of the days when “Type S” surprised and delighted with incremental improvements over a base car: nimble handling, extra power and strong value packed into an attractive package. Acura seems to have done that here again, though we wish there was more power — mostly because we know Acura could have done it, and on paper, it’s short on oomph compared to the others.

While we await pricing information and a few more details about the IS 500 F SPORT Performance, it’s hard to deny its charm. Lexus might be late to the turbocharging trend in performance cars, but the classic combination of a meaty, naturally aspirated V8 and rear wheel drive is just too good to turn down. It does have a significant performance advantage over the Type S, which helps to overshadow the Acura’s slightly nicer cabin… but at what cost? Even if the IS 500 F SPORT Performance does ring in at or slightly over $60,000, you’ll be paying more, but also getting more.

Which would you purchase and why? Let us know in the comments.

ComparisonsF SPORTLexus IS: Third Generation

Jeonsa

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IS500 for me. I definitely see why some would pick the Type S though, especially the diehard Honda/Acura fans.
 

Faisal Sheikh

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TLX Type S is a solid effort and the Honda fans are celebrating returning the Type S brand return. The pricing advantage works for TLX Type S. It would win against KIA Stinger, Infiniti Q400 Red Sport and Genesis G70 because it is a much better all-rounder. Where I live, AWD is very popular so AWD will also make it compelling. Regarding IS500 vs TLX Type S, ignoring the value proposition it will be pretty much one sided in favor of the IS500. It will dominate in comparisons. It really is between IS500 and the m340i as far as I am concerned.
 
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SteVVT-i

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The TLX Type S is 4200 lbs?! I wonder if journalist will plague its reviews with "its too heavy" "the weight..." "its just so heavy"
 

Faisal Sheikh

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The TLX Type S is 4200 lbs?! I wonder if journalist will plague its reviews with "its too heavy" "the weight..." "its just so heavy"

4250 lbs official curb weight. In the reviews, they say the rear torque vectoring helps it mask its weight.
 
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TLX Type S is a solid effort and the Honda fans are celebrating returning the Type S brand return. The pricing advantage works for TLX Type S. It would win against KIA Stinger, Infiniti Q400 Red Sport and Genesis G70 because it is a much better all-rounder. Where I live, AWD is very popular so AWD will also make it compelling. Regarding IS500 vs TLX Type S, ignoring the value proposition it will be pretty much one sided in favor of the IS500. It will dominate in comparisons. It really is between IS500 and the m340i as far as I am concerned.

This is by far the most correct take here. Well written mate.
 

bogglo

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what keeps playing in my head is, what if the Acura number is underrated? We have seen how the accord trashes all its competitors. IMO performance will be close from the 0-60mph. above that HP will favour the IS.
 

Gecko

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what keeps playing in my head is, what if the Acura number is underrated? We have seen how the accord trashes all its competitors.

I think a lot of us, myself included, expected that to be the case but it does not seem so. I find it very odd that Acura didn't release official performance numbers for the car but said, "Around 5 seconds 0-60" or something similar. A lot of the YouTube reviews were people trying to get 0-60 times, and it seems like 4.8 - 5.2 seconds was most common. They're marketing this as a performance car - "Return of the Type S" - but with no performance numbers?

Anyway, we know Honda can build best-in-class engines, just look at that 2.0T for example. I think it was Motor Trend who said with the weight gain on the Type S and the 2.0T being so good, they'd rather have the standard car in A-Spec guise. Single turbo V6 with 355hp just puts the Type S in a weird position... something closer to 400hp would have made more sense just to create a stronger value proposition and more breathing room with the base 272hp car. Plus it would have helped to offset the weight gain.

Think about this: The MDX is 4,271lbs, so it actually weighs a bit less than the TLX Type S. We know that's the next candidate to get this engine and ~350hp in a 4,300lb SUV just seems like table stakes with BMW, Mercedes and Audi all offering something similar, which makes "Type S" seem a bit less special IMO. MDX should have a 350hp V6 and not in a special performance edition (Don't get me wrong - Lexus should too!).
 

Gecko

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I see a few people mentioning that the IS 350 is the better contender for the TLX Type S, compared to the IS 500.

IS 350 F SPORT
Base Price: $42,950
Horsepower: 311
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Weight: 3,748lbs
0-60: 5.6 seconds

TLX Type S
Base price: $52,300
Horsepower: 355
Torque: 354 lb-ft
Weight: 4,221
0-60: 5.0 seconds

The TLX Type S is $10k more than the IS 350 F SPORT, and probably going to be $7k less than the IS 500 FSP, so to me, the 500 seems to be the closer competitor. Regarding IS 350 F Sport vs TLX Type S, is .6 seconds 0-60 worth $10k?

Plus, while the TLX comes in cheap, that's also only for the gray color. If you want anything else, that's another $500. The wheel package is another $800. So, $1,300 is not a lot of money, but it does shave some $ off the margins between the IS and TLX Type S.
 

ssun30

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With a significantly downsized engine the TLX Type-S only has ~10% better fuel economy. Speaks a lot about the efficiency of the ESTEC 2UR.
 

GoHuskers

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I see a few people mentioning that the IS 350 is the better contender for the TLX Type S, compared to the IS 500.

IS 350 F SPORT
Base Price: $42,950
Horsepower: 311
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Weight: 3,748lbs
0-60: 5.6 seconds

TLX Type S
Base price: $52,300
Horsepower: 355
Torque: 354 lb-ft
Weight: 4,221
0-60: 5.0 seconds

The TLX Type S is $10k more than the IS 350 F SPORT, and probably going to be $7k less than the IS 500 FSP, so to me, the 500 seems to be the closer competitor. Regarding IS 350 F Sport vs TLX Type S, is .6 seconds 0-60 worth $10k?

Plus, while the TLX comes in cheap, that's also only for the gray color. If you want anything else, that's another $500. The wheel package is another $800. So, $1,300 is not a lot of money, but it does shave some $ off the margins between the IS and TLX Type S.
Isn't the Type S comes standard with AWD? Is it True that's $10k for Comparable options between Type S and 350 FSport?
 

Faisal Sheikh

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what keeps playing in my head is, what if the Acura number is underrated? We have seen how the accord trashes all its competitors. IMO performance will be close from the 0-60mph. above that HP will favour the IS.

These are my personal "guesses" in that regard. The Honda Accord 2.0t is actually underrated at 252 HP. It does not have any issues edging out the Camry V6 with 300 HP despite being officially underpowered. However, the Accord is around 3400 lbs and does 14.1 seconds in the 1/4 mile. A Camry V6 does around 14.5 seconds and is around 3600 lbs, but with 300 HP. That makes it quite clear the Honda is underrated.

The Acura TLX Type S compared to the Honda Accord 2.0t has about 100 HP more officially. However, it will weigh about 900 lbs more. Even if it was underrated at 355 HP, it will not be very significantly quicker in a straight line than the Accord 2.0t. AWD will help getting off the line quicker hitting high-4s, but the weight and higher drivetrain loss means it would be around 13.6 - 13.7 seconds and trap speed of around 108 - 109 mph optimistically. Even with underrating, I cannot see it dipping into the low-13s or cracking into the 12s due to the weight issue. I would be very surprised if it does a 13.1 - 13.2 seconds.

So if were to go by straight line performance, I would say the IS500 F-Sport having similar power-to-weight to an RCF. Despite the official 0-60 mph being slower for the IS500 of around 4.5 seconds, it would be in the same ballpark with a best of low-4s and 12.4 - 12.6 seconds and a trap speed of 114 - 115 mph with a good launch. That makes the TLX still close to 1 seconds slower than the IS500 F-Sport in a straight line. Again, this is only within context of straight line. That is very similar to a 382 HP m340i RWD,

Around a turn, the Acura comes with torque vectoring to help rotate and carry more speed through the turn, but it has inherently almost 60% of the weight hanging over/aft of the front axle while IS500 might be in all likelihood around a 54/46 distribution with RWD and Torsen LSD. Also, the 300 lbs lighter weight means managing less inertia through the turn. IS500 will more easily oversteer and hence build speed through the turn so I think handling dynamics also favor the IS500 despite the fancy gizmo electronics favoring the Acura TLX Type S helping it shift the balance rearwards with its heavy front bias distribution.
 
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I see a few people mentioning that the IS 350 is the better contender for the TLX Type S, compared to the IS 500.

IS 350 F SPORT
Base Price: $42,950
Horsepower: 311
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Weight: 3,748lbs
0-60: 5.6 seconds

TLX Type S
Base price: $52,300
Horsepower: 355
Torque: 354 lb-ft
Weight: 4,221
0-60: 5.0 seconds

The TLX Type S is $10k more than the IS 350 F SPORT, and probably going to be $7k less than the IS 500 FSP, so to me, the 500 seems to be the closer competitor. Regarding IS 350 F Sport vs TLX Type S, is .6 seconds 0-60 worth $10k?

Plus, while the TLX comes in cheap, that's also only for the gray color. If you want anything else, that's another $500. The wheel package is another $800. So, $1,300 is not a lot of money, but it does shave some $ off the margins between the IS and TLX Type S.

I just built an IS350 Fsport, AWD, FSport Dynamic handling package, ML & Navigation package (all 3 of which have similarities to what is included in TLX S): $52,525 incl destination.
TLX S build $53,825.
Both using the no charge paint (note - with the IS, silver, black and light blue are no charge, all other colors are $595). And in the TLX, you get Milano leather, rather than the vinyl (nuluxe) you get in the IS. (Am I wrong, or is it not possible to get an IS with leather?).

So that’s why I would be comparing the two.
 

internalaudit

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Can't wait for a track test between the two.


as a vehicle accelerates, the weight travels to the rear of the vehicle, reducing the grip of the wheels in the front. This will reduce the vehicle's ability to steer as it accelerates out of a corner, or completely remove its ability to accelerate (in the case of a front wheel drive vehicle).


I think in twisty tracks with more than half a dozen laps to complete, the Type S will be a winner, especially if Acura does get rid of that pesky upshift in manual mode in the pre-production car that Matt drove. SH-AWD probably provides a lot more traction than a LSD will every provide but I'm just guessing LOL.

 

Jeonsa

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Can't wait for a track test between the two.


as a vehicle accelerates, the weight travels to the rear of the vehicle, reducing the grip of the wheels in the front. This will reduce the vehicle's ability to steer as it accelerates out of a corner, or completely remove its ability to accelerate (in the case of a front wheel drive vehicle).


I think in twisty tracks with more than half a dozen laps to complete, the Type S will be a winner, especially if Acura does get rid of that pesky upshift in manual mode in the pre-production car that Matt drove. SH-AWD probably provides a lot more traction than a LSD will every provide but I'm just guessing LOL.

It is annoying when a car auto up shifts. I wonder what Acura told Matt about the auto upshifts
 

Jeonsa

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Everyone commenting on that YT clip says to fix it LOL.
It’s crazy to me. I can imagine them saying “Well we want to maintain the reliability, and keep people from possibly damaging the transmission/engine.” But even then it’s strange. As far as Lexus goes It’s the only reason why I didn’t buy a IS350 F Sport.
 

internalaudit

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It’s crazy to me. I can imagine them saying “Well we want to maintain the reliability, and keep people from possibly damaging the transmission/engine.” But even then it’s strange. As far as Lexus goes It’s the only reason why I didn’t buy a IS350 F Sport.
Can't they put in a RPM limiter instead? The TLX has a turbo charged engine and it probably doesn't need to get to the redline anyway to get the maximum HP haha.