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Old School Powerhouse or Modern Turbocharged Marvel? Lexus IS 500 F Sport vs. Acura TLX Type S

Does history repeat itself? One look at the Lexus IS for sale at your local dealership proves that it can and often does in the automotive industry. We see it in revived nameplates and re-tuned powertrains, from revered American automakers like Ford and Chevrolet to luxury marquees like Lexus and Acura. This cyclical history is especially apparent in the debut of the Lexus IS F Sport and the Acura TLX Type S, two models that take vastly different approaches to continuing their legacies.

Lexus and Acura revive their high-performance lineups with the IS 500 F Sport Performance and TLX Type S, marking a new chapter in their respective histories. This revival also poses the question of performance and which is better, a rear-wheel drive sedan with a V8 engine or an all-wheel-drive sedan with a turbo under its hood? While there’s no right or wrong answer because it comes down to driver preference, Lexus undeniably gains the advantage and proves that an old-school setup reliably delivers the performance expected of a powerhouse with such a revered name.

A Collision of Past and Present

The IS F Sport Performance marks a new chapter in Lexus history, with the automaker reintroducing its potent 5.0L V8 engine that put the IS F on the map over a decade ago. When the IS F initially debuted, everyone assumed it was Lexus’ attempt to put the best-selling BMW M3 on notice. As with healthy competition, Lexus wanted the crown, but the IS F couldn’t match the quality or appeal of the M3, forcing Lexus back to the drawing board in 2011. Fortunately, that failure was the IS F’s saving grace and paved the way for the model’s grand return in 2022.

Lexus made several critical improvements to the IS F in 2011, from fine-tuning the suspension to adding a Torsen limited-slip differential. These adjustments seemed modest on paper, but set the sedan’s potent V8 engine up for success, with the powertrain delivering 417 horsepower at 6,600 RPM and 371 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 RPM. The result was epic, with the IS F launching from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds and reaching a top speed of 169 MPH. Finally, the IS F was in a position to challenge the BMW M3, ultimately sealing the 5.0L V8 engine’s fate in the Lexus fleet.

Coincidentally, as the Lexus IS F’s future unfolded, Acura was still trying to seek more power from the RSX Type S, meant to serve as a spinoff of the best-selling Integra Type R. Unfortunately, the RSX Type S was initially panned for being sluggish and underpowered, carving its niche as a potent everyday driver rather than a powerhouse with an affinity for speed. The 2005 RSX Type S launched from 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds, making it far less engaging and responsive than many hoped. Even so, the RSX Type S and the initial setbacks proved valuable to Acura and laid the foundation for the RSX’s successor, the TLX Type S, after its discontinuation in 2020. Today, the TLX Type S marks the return of Acura’s street-savvy performance line, with the Type R models still tuned for the track.

A gold 2023 Acura TLX Type S is shown driving on a racetrack.

Out With the Old or in With the New?

There’s no question that Lexus and Acura have established their reputations in the industry and are renowned for building opulent vehicles that cater to our needs, delivering opulence and refinement even in the smallest details. Models like the IS 500 F Sport Performance and TLX Type S take that even further, offering a transformative and thrilling experience in the driver’s seat. Suddenly, driving a luxury sedan is more than leather seats, innovative technologies, and premium sound systems. It’s also about satiating a need for speed and excitement. Yet the IS 500 F Sport Performance and TLX Type S satiate that need in two distinct ways.

Behind the Wheel of the Acura TLX Type S

Acura takes a unique approach, outfitting the TLX Type S with all-wheel drive and a 3.0L Type S Turbo V6 engine mated to a performance-tuned 10-speed automatic transmission. The combination produces 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque for a launch from 0 to 60 MPH in under five seconds. The fourth-generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system heightens the sedan’s responsiveness and delivers all-season and all-condition confidence.

With optimal torque delivered at each wheel, the TLX Type S seems to gain the advantage over its rear-wheel drive rival. However, that advantage is only on paper. The TLX Type S’s suspension leaves much to be desired, revealing every bump in the road and hindering the sedan’s nimbleness and ride quality. When you pay a premium for a luxury sedan with the heart of a road warrior, you’d expect the ride to be more comfortable and the handling to be far sportier than what Acura offers.

Behind the Wheel of the Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance

Lexus takes a more traditional, old-school approach with the IS 500 F Sport Performance, proving that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to enjoy your time in the driver’s seat. The first entry in the F Sport Performance lineup boasts a front-engine rear-wheel drive layout and is powered by Lexus’ proven 5.0L V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination is impeccable, with the powertrain producing a far greater output than the Acura at 472 horsepower at 7,100 RPM and 395 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 RPM.

The IS 500 F Sport Performance roars to life, delivering the iconic growl of an engine with an insatiable need for speed. That roar is even sweeter as you push the sedan to its limits, reaching a top track speed of 149 MPH and a launch from 0 to 60 MPH in 4.4 seconds. While this potency is enticing, the real kicker is that the IS 500 F Sport Performance handles like a dream and offers the ride quality and agility expected of a luxury sedan with a keen interest in pushing the envelope. What’s the secret?

Lexus recognizes what works and what doesn’t, as we see from the adoption of the Torsen Limited Slip Differential in the IS F decades ago. Today, the IS 500 F Sport Performance builds on that knowledge with its Dynamic Handling Package that includes the Torsen differential and adds an Adaptive Variable Suspension and a Yamaha Rear Performance Damper. The combination is incredible, creating an extraordinary experience that far outshines rivals like the TLX Type S.

A red 2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport is shown driving on a city street.

Does an Old Dog Need to Learn New Tricks?

Where does that leave potential Lexus and Acura drivers? Choosing between traditional and non-traditional, between old-school and modern performance, comes down to preference and your expectations in the driver’s seat. The Acura TLX Type S is innovative and exciting as an all-wheel drive sedan, but is it capable of delivering the well-rounded performance you expect and deserve? Is having all-wheel drive a big enough dealbreaker that you’re willing to sacrifice ride quality and agility?

Going the traditional route with the Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance doesn’t imply shying away from modern performance or thrills behind the wheel. In fact, it says the opposite. The adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks implies that the dog is set in his ways because of his age. However, consider the idea that his tenacity is more than likely the product of wisdom gleaned from experience. The Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance showcases as much, proving old dogs don’t necessarily have to learn new tricks to lead the pack.

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