The TLX Type S looks like Acura’s best swing at a sport sedan in years
Following several teasers and one early leak, Acura has finally revealed the upcoming Acura TLX sedan. For 2021, Acura is trying to make a compelling case that its mid-size four-door be once again respected as a sport sedan.
The 2021 TLX will arrive at dealerships early this fall, starting in “the mid-$30,000 range.” For that, Acura will give you a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, delivered via a 10-speed automatic. Acura’s fourth-generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) remains optional but is included with the top-performing Type S.
The return of the Type S, after a more than decade-long hiatus, is a big deal for Acura fans who remember the peppy and sharp-handling TL Type S. This top-tier TLX arrives with a 3.0-liter V-6 that’s boosted by a single, twin-scroll turbocharger with an electronic wastegate. Acura won’t reveal this new engines’s specific output just yet, saying only that it produces over 50 percent more low-end torque than the outgoing naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, which topped out at 267 lb-ft. Even the base turbo four-cylinder bests the 3.5 by 13 lb-ft.
Acura will build all TLX variants on an exclusive platform that’s its most rigid ever (outside of the NSX), with 56 percent of materials (by weight) made up of lightweight metals like aluminum and press-hardened steel. To aid handling, the TLX features cast aluminum front shock tower mounts and a double-wishbone front suspension.
With its 3.7-inch longer wheelbase, 2.2-inch wider body, wider front and rear tracks (+1.2-inch and +1.6-inch), lower roof (-0.6-inch) and an extended dash-to-axle (+7.8-inches), the new TLX has the proportions of a proper performance car. Global Development Leader Marc Ernst goes as far as comparing its stance to that of the Audi A7 and the Porsche Panamera, rather than the BMW 3 Series. Acura also delivered for the TLX’s nose a more exciting-looking grille and hood design than anything we’ve seen lately from Bavaria. The quad exhausts from the earlier Type S concept are a welcome touch, as well.
For the 2021 TLX, Acura’s SH-AWD has 40 percent more rear torque capacity and 30 percent quicker front-to-rear torque transfer than the outgoing model. The all-wheel drive system transfers up to 70 percent of torque to the rear axle, while continuously vectoring up to 100 percent of that rear-axle torque between the left and right wheels. What’s more, the rear axle is continuously overdriven by 2.9 percent, which Acura says “amplifies the yaw moment effect of left-to-right torque transfer.” Additionally, the double wishbone front suspension reduces ride hight while maximizing tire contact patch. The TLX has a multilink suspension at the rear, which in the Type S also features adaptive dampers and a quicker steering rack. Acura says the 10-speed automatic transmission is well suited to handle the extra grunt of the turbo engines, offering a wider ratio range and a lower first gear than the outgoing 8- and 9-speed transmissions, with four-gear direct downshifts, as well.
To handle hard driving, the TLX comes with the electro-servo brake-by-wire technology adapted from the NSX, with the Type S getting four-piston Brembo calipers over larger rotors at the front. Driving modes include Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Individual, with the addition of Sport+ for the Type S.
To optimize weight balance, given that the front bumper, hood, front fenders and front damper mounts are all made of aluminum, the battery had to land in the trunk.
Standard wheel size is 19 inches, but the Type S will be equipped with 20-inch split 10-spoke alloys finished in Shark Gray. The lightweight option of a Y-spoke design inspired by the NSX is also available.
Inside what Acura promises to be the most spacious and luxurious cabin in the segment, the TLX features genuine wood, leather, a redesigned touchpad interface with a new armrest, 27 interior lighting themes, and a 7-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) in the center gauge cluster. The 10.5-inch color head-up display is optional, along with a 17-speaker ELS STUDIO 3D audio system, and Acura’s in-house made 16-way adjustable power sport seats.
A-Spec and Type S models also feature a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather with contrast stitching, and larger metal-plated paddle shifters.
The new TLX will be manufactured in Ohio, featuring an expanded color palette with nine exterior finishes. Meanwhile, the TLX Type S will be offered in an exclusive Tiger Eye Pearl. Apex Blue Pearl, previously available only on A-Spec models, will be added to the Type S catalog.
For the cabin, Acura offers seven choices including Ebony, Espresso, Graystone, and Parchment as standard colors. A-Spec and TLX Type S models feature either Ebony or Red Leather, both with black Ultrasuede inserts. Additionally, the TLX Type S will offer a Light Orchid leather interior option.
The combination of a turbocharged V-6, updated suspension, and an all-wheel drive system capable of sending all juice to the rear is as promising of a sport sedan as we’ve seen from Acura in many years. Apparently it’ll even drift—happy, joyful drifts the last TLX couldn’t even dream of: