Everything You Need To Know About Acura’s Type S Performance Badge
And how is it related to the Type R?
Acura became a brand of letters when it launched the NSX, short for New Sportscar eXperimental, in 1990. At the time, it was surrounded by cars with real names—Vigor, Legend, and Integra—but that soon changed as Acura chased the reputation of alphanumeric European cars. Acura’s lineup slowly transitioned to the CL, RL, TL, and RSX.
The naming scheme was criticized for making the identities of its cars more anonymous, but there are two Acura letters nobody will ever forget: R and S. Specifically, Type R and Type S.
The Acura Integra Type R is a legendary icon that showed America how fun a front-drive car could be. It’s a pure classic that every auto enthusiast knows and dreams about. The Type S badge, however, has lived a bit more under the radar, at least until recently, as Acura gears up to revive the nameplate.
To truly appreciate what Acura is offering for 2021 and beyond, you need to know the history of the Type S. Below, The Drive’s Type A editors dig into its roots, its racing heritage, and what it means to the Acura brand, specifically in the United States.
What Is Acura’s Type S Badge?
The Type S badge denotes performance upgrades, made by Acura, to a base model’s styling, aerodynamics, power delivery, handling, and/or stopping ability. Essentially, it’s the Type R’s relative.
Who Came Up With the Type S and When Did It Originate?
Honda says, "There are really two people that can be considered the forebearers of Type S. In Japan, the Type S badge was first applied to the 1997 NSX. This product was conceived by Shigeru Uehara, the chief engineer for the first-generation NSX. In North America, Eric Berkman led the development of the 2001 CL Type S, our first Type S badged vehicle, and is largely credited for the ideation of Type S as we know it today."
Type S Is Born
The year 1997 was a big one for Honda Japan. Not only did it launch a more powerful NSX engine option paired to a new six-speed manual transmission (up from five-speed), it also launched NSX variants for corner carving with the NSX Type S and Type S Zero, two Japan-exclusives.
The new 3.2-liter V6, changed from 3.0 liters, made a claimed 290 horsepower in America in non-Type S NSX models and closer to 276 in Japan. The focus of the Type S was to improve the purity and handling on the NSX, so Acura specially tuned the suspension and added Type S-specific BBS forged aluminum wheels, lightweight Recaro carbon-kevlar bucket seats, a MOMO leather-wrapped steering wheel, a titanium shift knob, a lightweight engine cover, and mesh intake grilles. It also dropped the power steering and reduced glass thickness. Overall, the Type S dropped a claimed 99.2 pounds from the normal NSX coupe.
Furthermore, Acura produced a more extreme version of this car for circuit racing called the NSX Type S Zero. By removing creature comforts, including the audio system, air conditioning, and sound insulation material, it achieved a weight loss of 211.6 pounds. It also had a stiffer suspension tune for the track.
What’s the Deal With the Acura Integra Type R?
In America, the first Acura to use a “Type” badge was the Acura Integra Type R. From an international standpoint, the Type R badge is primarily used by Honda on Honda models (it is called the Honda Integra Type R outside the U.S.). However, Honda threw out the rules and launched the Integra Type R under the premium Acura name to great success.
Although Acura later used the Type S designation for its models, the Type R badge made a triumphant return to America for the 2017 model year in the form of the Honda Civic Type R.
Previous Acura Type S Models
Acura’s American Type S cars only existed for a short time, but they continue to influence and shape Acura’s current legacy. Below, we detail what made each car so special.
2001-2003 Acura 3.2 CL Type S
The CL might not get a ton of love in the pantheon of Acura classics, but it’s been a historic vehicle for the brand from the start. The "Neo-Classic" 1995 CL-X Concept was the first auto show concept car from Honda R&D Americas (HRA). The resulting production CL coupe was the first Acura designed, developed, and built in the U.S., and the CL Type S was the first Type S car to launch in America.
The CL Type S debuted for the 2001 model year following the success of Acura’s other sporty vehicles, such as the NSX, Integra, and Legend. Acura had established itself as a friend to enthusiasts, and the CL Type S aimed to further cement that legacy.
Featuring a 3.2-liter SOHC V6 with VTEC, the CL Type S made a claimed 260 horsepower at 6,100 rpm (6,900 redline) and 232 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, up from the regular model that made a claimed 225 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. Acura accomplished this with a dual-stage induction system, a throttle body with a larger diameter, an increased compression ratio, special intake valves, special camshafts, special cylinder heads, and low-restriction dual-outlet exhaust. Rather than a manual transmission, the CL Type S had a five-speed automatic with “F1-inspired” Sequential SportShift “manual” shifting mode. In 2003, a six-speed manual was added as an option.
All Type S cars have suspension upgrades, as well. The CL already uses four-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension, and the Type S featured firmer springs, increased damping rates, a rear stabilizer bar. The wheels and tires changed from 205/60R16 to 215/50R17, as well. Further enhancements included unique Vehicle Stability Assist that “orchestrates the throttle, injection, and brakes to seamlessly integrate traction control, anti-lock braking, and stability control systems.”
The Type S also adds perforated leather seats, a leather steering wheel, a leather shift knob, and a unique Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system that “orchestrates the throttle, injection, and brakes to seamlessly integrate traction control, antilock braking, and stability control systems.”
The CL Type S hit showrooms on March 1st, 2000 for $30,330, without destination charges.
2002-2003 Acura 3.2 TL Type S
Acura announced two big surprises at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show. In addition to unveiling the RS-X prototype that would become the non-hyphenated RSX, it also showed off a new Type S version of the TL sedan.
As the 3.2 in the name indicates, the TL Type S has the same power stats as the CL Type S. It uses a 3.2-liter SOHC V6 to make a claimed 260 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 232 lb-ft of torque from 3,500 to 5,500 rpm, up from the base model that made a claimed 225 horsepower and 216 lb-ft of torque. Both the TL and TL Type S used a five-speed “racecar-inspired” Sequential SportShift transmission.
Beyond the base model’s independent double-wishbone suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, and front shock-tower bar, the Type S model had stiffer springs, increased damping rates, and a bigger rear stabilizer bar. Acura also gave the Type S bigger 17-inch wheels with 215/50R17 all-season Michelin tires and the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system from the CL. Inside, the Type S featured leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob, while ebony wood-patterned trim adorned the rest of the interior. The TL Type S was initially available in Aegean Blue Pearl for a starting price of $31,230 before fees and destination.
2002-2006 Acura RSX Type S
Elsewhere around the world, it’s known as the DC5-generation Integra, but in America, it’s called the RSX, as Acura had moved its lineup to alphanumeric naming by the time the updated Integra was set to debut.
The RSX featured a new engine technology called i-VTEC (the “i” stands for intelligent), which is a combination of variable valve timing and variable timing control. With the 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine, the stock RSX made a claimed 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 141 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and was paired with five-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The RSX Type S, however, used a high-flow intake manifold and exhaust system to up the power to a claimed 200 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and 142 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. It paired with an exclusive six-speed close-ratio manual transmission with double and triple-cone synchros.
At the front, all RSX models had a control-link MacPherson strut suspension while the rear used a double-wishbone system. The RSX Type S increased its abilities with firmer springs, firmer dampers, a front strut tower bar, and a rear “performance rod.” Furthermore, the brakes were upgraded on the Type S from 10.3-inch and 10.2-inch front and rear ventilated discs to 11.8-inch ventilated discs in the front. The Type S also had a standard leather interior, an aerodynamic body kit, and a short-stroke clutch.
As a whole, the RSX was an immediate success and sold 35,595 units in its first year, and Acura only continued to improve on its offerings for the RSX. For the 2003 model year, an Acura Factory Performance package was offered, and for 2004, Acura changed the name to the A-SPEC package we know today. A final update for 2005 brought updated 210 horsepower and 143 lb-ft of torque, improved handling, a larger master cylinder, redesigned seats, redesigned bumpers and lights, and a new decklid spoiler.
2007-2008 Acura TL Type S
Acura launched a new-generation TL for the 2004 model year, but a TL Type S variant wasn’t relaunched until the 2007 model year. While the standard 3.2-liter SOHC V6 made a claimed 270 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 238 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, the Type S was equipped with a new 3.5-liter V6 that made a claimed 286 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 256 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. That upgraded engine was paired with a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission or a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission with a limited-slip differential.
According to Executive Editor Jonathon Klein, whose cousin had a TL Type S, “It torque-steered like nuts. Any amount of throttle and the wheel would try to rip out of your grip. It was chaotic fun.”
To match the performance of the powertrain, Acura upgraded the suspension on Type S too. All TLs had a double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, but the Type S had stiffer front and rear anti-roll bars, firmer springs, and firmer shocks. It also had four-piston Brembo front brakes, unique 17-inch 10-spoke wheels, 235/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE 030 summer tires, and quad tailpipes.
Aesthetically, the Type S set itself apart with a unique exterior package. It had aerodynamic sporty front and rear fascias, black chrome trim, and wider side sills. Inside, it had two-tone leather bolstered sport seats, embossed Type S logos in the headrests, stainless steel foot pedals.
The TL Type S started at $38,940.
Do Any Acura Models Currently Offer Type S Variants?
The new Acura TLX Type S will first arrive at dealerships in late May, 2021, and will start in the low $50,000s. The MDX Type S will follow, with more unannounced variants coming later in the pipeline.
2021 Acura TLX Type S
The new TLX Type S is expected to be a top performer in the luxury sedan space with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes a claimed 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, paired with a standard 10-speed automatic transmission and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). It also features adaptive dampers, Brembo brakes, and 20-inch lightweight wheels with summer rubber. Acura says it will be the quickest and best-handling Type S ever.
2022 Acura MDX Type S
Thus far, Acura has only lightly debuted the upcoming MDX Type S, the first Acura SUV to earn the Type S name. It will feature a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 estimated to make 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. That will be joined by rear-biased Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), a double-wishbone front suspension, 21-inch wheels, and front Brembo brakes. Inside, the MDX Type S will be available with quilted leather seats, massaging front seats, and a 25-speaker Signature Edition ELS STUDIO 3D audio system.
Acura Type S Models in Motorsports
Although Acura has primarily raced the NSX and hyper-advanced purpose-built racecars, the Integra, RSX, and TSX have played their roles as well.
Based out of Wisconsin, Realtime Racing has been a Honda partner since 1993 and has amassed 96 victories on 26 different tracks in 12 different car models with 17 drivers in the World Challenge. Of those, 59 victories came in the Touring Car circuit, which often used the Integra and RSX. The RSX wins are as follows:
- 5/17/03: Touring Car (class), Mosport (Track), Pierre Kleinubing
- 5/25/03: Touring Car, Lime Rock Park, Pierre Kleinubing
- 10/17/03: Touring Car, Road Atlanta, Pierre Kleinubing
- 8/10/05: Touring Car, Denver, Eric Curran
- 10/22/06, Touring Car, Laguna Seca, Eric Curran
If you want a further deep dive into all of Acura’s wins, visit Realtime’s website.
The RSX also participated in the touring car series formerly known as the Grand American Road Racing Association's KONI Challenge Series.
At the 2005 SEMA show, Acura awarded Car and Driver first place in a special event known as the RSX Challenge. To start, the competition equipped several publications with Acura RSX Type S base cars. From there, Car and Driver, Honda Tuning, Import Performance, Import Tuner, Speed, and Super Street modded their cars to their liking and raced them against each other.
The competition included the quarter-mile, the slalom, handling, braking, a dyno challenge, emissions, and car shows at the Acura Headquarters and an NHRA track. Car and Driver took first place in the braking, handling, the Acura show, and the quarter-mile with a time of 13.521 seconds at 105.24 mph.
According to the Acura press release, “Car and Driver worked closely with Comptech and Mugen importer King Motorsports, supercharging their RSX and equipping it with sophisticated chassis modifications featuring Moton adjustable external-reservoir shocks, King Motorsports' competition spring set and StopTech brakes. Technical director Larry Webster drove the RSX at the track, beating the competition in all the driving contests except the slalom. The combination of Mugen styling enhancements and custom paint proved popular in the style competitions.”
Car and Driver finished with 620 total points to beat out Honda Tuning and Super Street in second with 610 points.
Also of note, Import Tuner’s Skunk2-built turbocharged RSX hit 502.8 horsepower on the dyno (after losing traction on the dyno) but did not finish the quarter-mile, slalom, or braking.
Full results and modifications can be found at AcuraNews.com.
The Acura Interview
Even after reading through the history of the Type S, we still had some questions, so we went straight to the source. We asked Acura the following questions, and a spokesperson answered via email.
Q. Why did Acura choose to end production of the RSX?
A. “This decision was made globally as resources were focused on growing segments, primarily SUVs, with Acura launching the first-gen RDX and second-gen MDX in 2006. The Acura RSX (Honda Integra in Japan) was discontinued in all markets following the 2006 model year.”
Q. What would it take for Acura to bring an Integra-type coupe back?
A. “Since we announced that Acura was returning to our Precision Crafted Performance DNA, step by step, we have been enhancing the performance character of our products with a focus on our four core models. With the introduction of the RDX, TLX, and now MDX we have demonstrated our laser focus on performance and this will soon include the return of Type S performance variants. We’re not going to speculate about future models, but this direction will continue at the gateway to our lineup, after all, we’re a company of enthusiasts.”
Q. In bringing back the Type S name, how vital is a sports car to its credibility?
A. “For a premium performance brand like Acura, it is critical to have vehicles throughout the lineup that stir the soul, beyond limited production performance models. So, while the NSX supercar is the halo for the Acura brand, proving what we’re capable of both on the street and on the race track, we’re committed to delivering performance throughout the lineup with A-Spec and, now, Type S variants. The upcoming TLX Type S will push the performance envelope further than any Type S model before it.
Q. What do the S and R stand for in Type S and Type R?
A. “While there is no set meaning to the 'R' or “S,' historically Type R has been reserved for track-ready models and Type S, while tuned on track, are more geared towards spirited, winding road performance. If you wanted to surmise them as “Race” and “Sport”, we wouldn’t correct you.”
Q. Is Acura moving away from the Sport Hybrid technology in favor of turbocharging the Type S models?
A. The Sport Hybrid served as our performance variant for the third-gen MDX. For this new MDX, Type S will assume that role, and push the performance envelope even farther for an Acura SUV.
Q. Was the hybrid tech too expensive to implement, or is there another reason we haven't heard much about hybrids for the new vehicles? Will they be replaced by fully electric models?
A. “The innovative 3-motor Sport Hybrid system used in the NSX currently, and MDX and RLX previously, was developed to explore the limits of electrification in service of Acura’s Precision Crafted performance brand direction. These vehicles have provided significant tangible learnings in-market and will influence what comes down the road.
“Our company has strong plans for electrification and, for Acura, the focus will continue to be to deliver on Acura’s performance direction. Stay tuned.”
Q. The RSX Wikipedia page says it was offered in the Noble Green Tricoat but that not a single person ordered it. Is this true?
A. “The RSX was offered in a color of Jade Green Metallic in MY05-06. No internal records from the time (dealer brochures) reference a Noble Green Tricoat.”
Ad: Learn How To Drive Your Acura Type S With Skip Barber Racing School
Learning your car’s behavior, quirks and personality can be done on your own, but you’re not exactly doing so in a vacuum. A missed braking point or target fixating on that tree over there could mean a bent bumper or some serious medical bills. Why take the chance when you can learn safely how to drive your Acura Type S from the professionals at Skip Barber Race Car Driving School?
The Drive has partnered with Skip Barber, the legendary racing school, to ensure that when you first prime your Type S' ignition, you won’t fly off into a ditch.
FAQs About the Acura Type S Badge
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q: Is It Type S or Type-S?
A: Acura officially said it prefers Type S without the hyphen.
Q: What Does VTEC Stand For?
A: VTEC means Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control.
Q: What Was the CSX Type S?
A: In Canada, Acura offered a CSX Type S, which was essentially a rebadged Honda Civic Si. It made a claimed 197 horsepower at 7,800 rpm (8,000 rpm redline!) and 139 lb-ft of torque at 6,100. It also had a close-ratio six-speed automatic transmission and a helical limited-slip differential, a sport-tuned MacPherson front suspension, a sport-tuned double-wishbone rear suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars.
Q: Is the Acura TL Type S Fast?
A: According to C&D, the 2002 3.2 TL Type S had a top speed of 147 mph and could manage a sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds.
Q: Will There Be an Acura RDX Type S?
A: Acura Brand Officer Jon Ikeda has previously said Acura wants to Type S everything, but it's unclear yet whether or not the RDX will be included.
Q: Which Acura Is Fastest?
A: The NSX hybrid is currently the fastest Acura with a claimed top speed of 191 mph. It is also the quickest, with a claimed 0-60 mph time of 2.9 seconds.
Q: What Is Acura PMC?
A: PMC stands for Performance Manufacturing Center, a 200,000 square-foot production facility where Acura’s master technicians hand-build the NSX supercar. Acura further expanded the reach of the PMC when it announced PMC editions of the TLX, RDX, and MDX.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Type S and Type R?
A: Both the Type S and Type R are performance badges from the Honda Motor Company. Although there are exceptions to the rules, the general idea is that Hondas use the Type R designation while Acuras use the Type S.
Acura Type S Fun Facts
You know you want more Acura Type S facts!
- When Honda initially planned to launch a luxury/performance brand in America, it was originally referred to as “Channel II.”
- The two circles in the headlights and taillights of the first-generation RSX are callbacks to the Acura Integra’s headlights.
- The 2021 TLX will be Acura’s most powerful sedan ever with an estimated 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque.
- Quad exhausts on the 2021 TLX are meant to be a hat tip to the 2007-2008 TL Type S.
- The 2021 TLX headlights and taillights draw inspiration from the Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype racecar.
- The chief engineer who developed the Acura RSX engine previously worked on championship-winning Honda Formula One engines.
- The new Type S prototype that foretold the 2021 TLX did not have an interior, so Acura built special mechanisms to move it. The rear Acura emblem hid a “steering system,” and the rear license plate hid a “control tray” to alter the lights and hydraulic suspension.
- In 2002, Acura announced an available Factory Performance Package for the 2003 model year for $4,800, plus installation. Later to be named the A-SPEC package, it included:
- High-performance, track-tuned shocks and springs
- Slotted brake rotors and performance brake pads
- Lightweight 17x7.5 inch alloy wheels
- High-performance tires (225/45VR17)
- Factory performance rear wing spoiler
- Under-body spoiler kit
- Metallic look interior trim kit
- Factory Performance shift knob
- Factory Performance badging
Enjoy this old promotional video for the 2002 Acura RSX.
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.