The Acura TLX is comfortable and reliable, but it’s not terribly exciting.
That’s been a problem for awhile as the model, and its predecessor, have often been seen as a fancy Honda Accord with sometimes questionable styling.
A Bold New Look
Previewed by last year’s Type S concept, the TLX has a bold diamond pentagon grille that is flanked by slender Jewel Eye LED headlights and muscular air intakes.
Moving further back, there’s a longer sculpted hood and athletic bodywork. They’re joined by a rakish windscreen, a flowing roof and pronounced rear fenders.
The sporty styling continues out back as designers gave the model a dual exhaust system and an integrated rear spoiler. There’s also a more distinctive bumper and slender taillights.
Customers looking for something sportier can opt for the TLX A-Spec. It features tinted lighting units, gloss black accents and 19-inch alloy wheels with a Shark Grey finish.
The TLX Type S goes even further as the model has a unique grille and larger air intakes. Other highlights include an aggressive front splitter, a rear diffuser, a four-tailpipe sports exhaust system and 20-inch wheels wrapped in performance rubber.
Thanks to the sporty styling, the TLX looks smaller than it actually is. Compared to its predecessor, the 2021 model is 2.9 inches (74 mm) longer, 2.2 inches (56 mm) wider and 0.6 inches (15 mm) lower with a wheelbase that spans an additional 3.7 inches (94 mm).
A Modern And Upscale Interior
The fresh styling continues in the cabin as there’s a new leather-wrapped steering wheel and a minimalist instrument cluster with a 7-inch multi-information display. The car also ditches the dual screen setup for a single 10.2-inch infotainment system.
Below, there’s a new center stack loosely inspired by the one used in the NSX. It features a tiered design with new switchgear and gloss black accents.
The cabin is more luxurious than the outgoing model and buyers will find aluminum accents as well as open-pore wood trim. There’s also a new center console with a wireless smartphone charger and a touchpad for controlling the infotainment system.
An assortment of options will be available including Milano leather upholstery and 16-way power front seats. Customers can also order a 10.5-inch head-up display and an ambient lighting system with 24 different schemes. There will also be a premium audio system with a subwoofer and four ceiling-mounted speakers.
The TLX A-Spec is distinguished by a sportier cabin with a flat-bottom steering wheel that features contrast stitching and larger paddle shifters. The Type S adds unique materials as well as Type S badging on the headrests and door sill plates.
The TLX Goes Turbo
Under the hood, there’s a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 272 hp (203 kW / 276 PS) and 280 lb-ft (379 Nm) of torque. That’s a sizable increase of 66 hp (49 kW / 67 PS) and 98 lb-ft (133 Nm) over the current four-cylinder.
The engine is connected to a ten-speed automatic transmission which features Sequential SportShift technology. The company says the new gearbox has a wider ratio range, more discrete gears and a lower first gear than the previous eight- and nine-speed transmissions.
The model will come standard with front-wheel drive, but a Super Handling All-Wheel Drive will be optional. The fourth-generation system is rear-biased and sends up to 70% of engine torque to the rear wheels during normal driving.
Next spring, Acura will introduce the long-awaited TLX Type S. The company wasn’t ready to delve into specifics, but confirmed the model will have a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that delivers “Type S levels of performance.” The model will also have a standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system which promises to make the car the “best handling and most performance-oriented Acura sedan yet.”
While Acura wasn’t ready to talk numbers, the company did say the Type S has “dramatic gains” in peak horsepower and torque compared to the outgoing 3.5-liter V6 which produced 290 hp (216 kW / 294 PS) and 267 lb-ft (362 Nm) of torque. They also noted drivers can expect more than a 50% increase in low-end torque.
A New Platform And A Return To A Double-Wishbone Suspension
Since the TLX is a “sport sedan at its core,” Acura decided to get serious about its driving characteristics. As part of the makeover, the model features a new platform and a double-wishbone front suspension. The latter promises to offer “more precise handling and cornering grip, as well as greater mechanical compliance for improved ride quality.”
Furthermore, the car has an electric-servo braking system derived from the one used in the NSX. Acura didn’t go into specifics, but confirmed the TLX Type S will have four-piston Brembo front calipers and larger discs than the standard model.
The 2021 TLX has a new body structure which boasts a 50% increase in torsional stiffness and up to a 100% increase rigidity where the suspension is mounted to the body. The company also said the structure is the most rigid ever offered by Acura, aside from the NSX.
The new structure uses lightweight materials such as aluminum and this helps to improve weight distribution. The cause is also helped by a trunk-mounted battery.
Safety Is Front And Center
Despite the focus on performance, Acura didn’t forget about safety. As a result, the TLX will come standard with the AcuraWatch suite of driver assistance systems.
The suite includes new features such as a driver awareness monitor, a traffic sign recognition system and traffic jam assist. The latter works with the adaptive cruise control system to help drive the car in traffic jams.
The TLX also features a new front passenger airbag which which works like a baseball catcher’s mitt. As Acura explained, it helps to cradle the passenger and mitigate potential injuries.
The 2021 Acura TLX will arrive at U.S. dealerships this fall and pricing will start in the mid-$30,000 range. The car will be built in Marysville, Ohio and the company said the TLX’s design, engineering and development was primarily done in America.