By: Phillip Thomas / www.hagerty.com
Acura has kept hush-hush about the output of its new 3.0-liter V-6 destined for the TLX Type S, but now, it’s dropped the stats in a release detailing its 2020 Pikes Peak Hill Climb entries. Acura’s Type S “development prototype,” helmed by Nick Robinson, will tackle the 12.5-mile hill climb on August 30 with 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque-a healthy bump over the outgoing, naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6’s 290 hp and 267 lb-ft. Backing the turbocharged mill will be Acura’s new 10-speed automatic, which will feed the grunt through its fourth-generation SH-AWD system.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been Honda Performance Development’s stomping grounds for years; the department has brought a fleet of future products and dream machines to fling up the infamous hill climb. Pikes Peak’s combination of high altitudes and steep grades is one of the toughest challenges for a vehicle, since the ascent is accompanied by thinning air density, which combines to starve the driver and their machine of oxygen. (If that vehicle isn’t combustion-powered, of course, things change.)
Pikes Peaks’s 4700-ft elevation change serves as a brutal torture test for engines, which must scream for more than 10 minutes (on average) while their ability to cool down or produce more horsepower is limited by scant oxygen levels. On top of that, the course winds into tighter and tighter switchbacks as it clears the tree line, increasing the strain on both man and machine.
Robinson, a Pikes Peak veteran and multiple class-winner, knows this. Thanks to a Pikes Peak career rooted in motorcycle racing, he’s seen the course in ways most have never while kneeing its two-lane blacktop. His transition into the four-wheeled Time-Attack class started with his move into the then-new 2017 Acura NSX. Robinson’s class wins and various records should prove sufficient for this year’s hill climb, but the biggest variable will be the new TLX Type S pace car.
Beyond the drivetrain, a few other factors should help the TLX Type S up the mountain, like its move to a double-wishbone front suspension, which provides better control over the wheel’s alignment as it traverses Pikes Peak’s bumpy surface. Pikes Peak is less road race-even after the mountain was fully paved in 2012-and more road rally, meaning that the suspension’s ability to maintain proper geometry over weighs heavily in the formula for success. In concert with Acura’s SH-AWD, which can send 70 percent of its total torque to the outside-rear tire in order to drive the nose deeper into a corner, the Type S’s setup should prove a wicked combo for the switchbacks-and a welcome relief from the understeer that can plague spunky front-wheel-drive vehicles.
For the rest of us, the final horsepower and torque figures for the Type S we can buy in 2021’s showrooms have yet to be finalized, but the Pikes Peak special gives us a glimpse of what the platform can generate. Will Acura reach for the sky? We can only hope.