By on May 28, 2020

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Teased nearly to death in the run-up to its online debut, the 2021 Acura TLX revealed on Thursday lives up to the brand’s boastful pronouncements, at least on paper.

Athletic in stance and aggressive in design, the next-generation TLX arrives with a dedicated platform, double wishbone front suspension and turbocharged V6 in tow, ready to tempt premium import sedan buyers who can’t bring themselves go the safe-and-steady Lexus ES route.

The new TLX looks much like the Type S concept car that preceded it; true to that design study, the TLX adopts a wide, long-wheelbase look that mimics traditional rear-drive sports sedans via a lengthened dash-to-axle distance. Your base TLX won’t motive those rear wheels, however, remaining sensitive to the model’s front-drive origins.

It is an Acura, though, which means the brand’s so-called Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, now with torque vectoring, will be available, as will another piece of Acura heritage: the Type S. For 2021, the TLX brings back the designation that once inspired excitement among go-fast import types.

Pinched in the middle and voluptuous over the hips, the TLX’s new body earns applause. “Jewel Eye” LED lamps flank Acura’s signature diamond pentagon grille, while “Chicane” taillamps adorn the TLX’s abbreviated rear, sitting atop four exposed exhaust pipes.

“Relative to the previous model, the new TLX features a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase, 2.2-inch wider body with wider front and rear tracks (+1.2 in. and +1.6 in., respectively), lower roof (-0.6 in.) and an extended dash-to-axle dimension (+7.8 in.),” Acura explained.

aCURA

That’s quite a bit of body modification going on up front. If the 1990s taught us anything, it’s that men (and some women) will take notice of such surgery. For Acura’s sake, let’s hope they’re in a spending mood.

Motivating the stock TLX is a powertrain owners of the RDX might find familiar: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic. This engine makes 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, handily stomping the previous generation’s base 2.4-liter and topping the optional 3.5-liter in terms of twist.

While A-Spec variants can still be had, the biggest news for ’21 is the return of the Type S. Moving up to the top of the heap now means a 3.0-liter turbo V6 of undetermined strength, though Acura does promise “dramatic gains in peak horsepower and, more critically, in torque, across the engine’s full operating range, including a more than 50-percent increase in low-end torque.”

In this guise, the transmission receives a tune geared towards improved performance. And if you’re wondering whether the push-button transmission trend carries over into the TLX, the answer is yes. They’re oriented vertically on the angled center stack.

Standard with the uplevel engine is SH-AWD (optional on 2.0L models), which biases torque delivery to the rear wheels. Regardless of engine, drivers can row through the 10 available speeds via paddle shifters. The fourth-generation AWD system apparently beefs up rear-axle capacity while speeding up the transfer of power from front to rear, with torque sent rearward 40 percent faster. In normal driving, up to 70 percent of the engine’s torque funnels to the rear wheels, with either rear wheel accepting up to 100 percent of the axle’s torque, depending on conditions.

If there isn’t a drifting TLX Type S flinging dirt in the brand’s marketing materials, Acura doesn’t know what’s good for it. At each corner of the Type S, buyers will find 20-inch Shark Grey alloys that further separate the trim from lesser TLX variants carrying either 18- or 19-inch hoops.

Inside the cabin, engineers and designers opted for a twin-cockpit layout. In Acura’s view, the “high and wide center tunnel and wrap-around instrument panel create a more personal and strongly delineated space for both front-seat occupants. The brand boasts of class-leading hip and shoulder room. Opting for the Type S, of course, means badging galore inside and out, so occupants won’t remain ignorant to the fact that they’re riding in a Type S, not a haywagon. An ambient light selector controls the mood.

Atop the dash you’ll find a 10.2-inch display screen controlled by a console-mounted touchpad (with ergonomic wrist rest), backed up by actual button stereo controls placed immediately to the touchpad’s right. A 7-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster can be supplemented by an optional 10-inch head-up display.

Featuring seven interior color options, the 2021 TLX goes on sale this fall, with the Type S holding back until next spring. Pricing, like the Type S’ output, is TBD.

Acura’s been on a losing streak with its sedans of late, recently putting its flagship RLX out to pasture, and a winning streak with a stable of crossovers too few in number. Looking at all the engineering and design work that went into the latest TLX, one has to assume that this is its final effort. It’s now or never to get buyers into a midsized Acura sedan.

If this car’s looks and proportions can’t sway departed buyers back to the brand, away from the Germans, Lexus, and the upstart, value-oriented Genesis brand, nothing will. At least Acura can say it gave it a good shot.

[Images: Acura]

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55 Comments on “2021 Acura TLX: If This Doesn’t Work, Nothing Will...”


  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    So… They’ve updated the Q50 – right down to the 2.0T / 3.0T engine choices.. Now, if they can get the transmission right, the seats not too narrow, the weight reasonable and the AWD not obviously missing an LSD in the back….

    Plus, access to Hondata tuning, maybe..

    They might actually have a success on their hands – if they don’t overprice it. If they can come under $45-47K for the Type-S, and it can keep up with a Charger SRT (not Hellcat) / G70 / Stinger, I think it will do well. If they start going up to $60K+, like an MSRP Q50 Red Sport with options, forget it..

    If the rear legroom is a bit more than my Stinger, I might actually consider switching.. (assuming the power is similar – anything less than 375 hp, and it’s a fail, IMHO).

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    At least it doesn’t have a face like a Predator™ from Toyota/Lexus.

  • avatar
    texasjack

    First glance it looks like a Mazda 6 from the A pillar forward. Not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The rear reminds me of the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

    I’m squarely in the nothing will camp.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Sadly the majority of people who buy “sports” sedans are only interested in the perception of sport – hence all the luxury brands offering style packages that look like the real sports trim. Sadly I have a Ford Fiesta ST-Line in my neighborhood, and a nothing burger Cruze RS in my very own driveway lol. (In fairness to myself, there never was a real sports trim on the Cruze, lol)

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      @dwford. Agreed.

      I would also say (as other commenters have in TTAC) that dealers stock what sells. If they don’t stock it though, it doesn’t sell.

      In Post-COVID America, there won’t be a lot of demand for (ersatz) sport sedans. Sales of upscale sports sedans, like sedans in general, have been trending down for years.

      No matter how good. It’s tough launching a good, or even great, car into a recession.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      “ Sadly the majority of people who buy “sports” sedans are only interested in the perception of sport ”

      How is this any different? Front wheel biased AWD and turboz set at steep odds with the term “sports sedans”

      Low profile tires, red painted calipers, and 4 exhaust tips for a diminutive 6 – do not make a sports sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        >>How is this any different? Front wheel biased AWD and turboz set at steep odds with the term “sports sedans”<<

        Don't let Audi know, it will crush them if they find out

  • avatar
    Fred

    Nice enough, but I’d probably go for the old natural V6 SH-AWD depending on price.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Excellent exterior design. IMO that Type-S is one of the best looking Honda products ever. Hopefully it’s coming with at least 400hp.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      When C&D is saying “we expect over 350” that’s code for 355 or 360.

      Really bummed that there’s no manual at all in either trim, but such is 2020. The times giveth better electric cars and taketh the manual transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        350 hp is pretty stout for a car this size, but let’s keep that in perspective. I have a car that will do 0-60 in five and a half, and that’s enough to get me in more than my share of trouble. Would I like more power? Sure! The better question is how usable that power would be – given how lousy and clogged roads are here in Denver, I can’t say I’d be getting my money’s worth.

        In any case, I’d expect this Acura to land in the 4.5-second-to-60 class. Up the hp by 50 and you’re at more like 4.0. The former seems pretty reasonable to me, and definitely be quick enough for just about anyone.

        But all of this illustrates one big reason why sport sedans are dying and giving way to SUVs – what’s the point of going faster these days?

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I live 25 minutes from a racetrack and dragstrip so I can wind out multiple times a week if desired.
          I don’t think 350hp is going to do it for me, not when other brands are offering more. Unless they are going to price this at like $40K.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @ajla:

            I have a feeling it lands in the mid-50s, fully loaded, and it comes with AWD. Therefore, the comparable Stinger would be a GT2, which stickers out for about 52. If that’s the case, then it would be a pretty solid value – for that money, all that Deutschland Uber Alles, Inc. could sell you would be a 2.0T.

            But we’ll see how the pricing plays out.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I’ll bet at least a couple of the Type-S buyers won’t change the habit of plodding onto the freeway at 50mph in a 70 like they did with their old car!

          (That’s definitely not something I’ve missed over the last two months! I’m ALWAYS the schlub behind that one idiot…!)

        • 0 avatar
          kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh

          As someone with a tuned rig, you will need *a lot* more than +50 hp to drop from 4.5 to 4.0ish 0-60, you’d need closer to an additional 80-100ftlbs of TQ, And in a front wheel only car even with a limit slip thats not going to be what they will do imo, it would be to ‘unrefined’ to have massive TQ steer in the first 3 gears.

          As a betting man I stake that they will releae with a good but mild 380HP/370ftlbs rated at the crank so they can have basically -0- turbo lag and gear it good enough to get 4.4/4.5 0-60 on premium.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        This would be worth consideration with a manual transmission. Push-button automatics… yecch. “Sport” shouldn’t include Ford/Lincoln-style electric buttons for the tranny.
        And a bit of sidewall on the tires would be nice to have.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Yeah, I’m discovering the drawback to low-profile tires – they like to commit suicide when you hit a curb. I’ve lunched two in the last few months on my A3. Thank God for road hazard warranties!

          • 0 avatar
            Guy A

            Agreed, good car but is coming into a market that has shifted away from sedans and there are two new competitors (Alfa and Genesis) to compete against in addition to the existing German, Swedish and US competition.For $52k you get an S4which does not have a 2.0 turbo.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It’s a sad day, when the company which put “rifle bolt transmission feel” on the map, and which used to pride themselves on their manuals’ quality, no longer allows you to spec one in their “sport” sedan effort.

      • 0 avatar

        With their current ghastly shifter arrangement, they’d have to redo the entire center console for a manual option.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Garish inside and out. This had to have been done by the same terrible stylists that came up with the Civic Type R.

    Prediction: Moves zero needle.

    Again I really like Hondas but Acura for the most part sucks. This doesn’t change that.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, if you wondered the Genesis G80 would look with a lot more surface detailing, here’s your answer.

    Good looking car, but it has a VERY steep uphill battle against Ze Germans.

    • 0 avatar
      Guy A

      Agreed, good car but is coming into a market that has shifted away from sedans and there are two new competitors (Alfa and Genesis) to compete against in addition to the existing German, Swedish and US competition.

  • avatar
    marc

    I kinda like it, the exterior anyway. The interior is a mess. But I’m gonna have to go with “Nothing Will.”

    An expensive sedan from a mediocre brand is the last thing anyone is asking for right now.

    When you pined for a Legend, you could buy a Vigor or TL. What’s the draw now? You thought you kinda like an ILX, but realized for $50 more a month you could swing a new TLX? Lexus, BMW and Benz still have premier sedans to draw buyers to their more lowly offerings. There’s nothing drawing anyone to an Acura sedan in 2021.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    Maybe it’s just me, but the way the rear door knob is placed makes the car look crooked from the side profile. Otherwise the exterior design is generic but alright.

    The interior is simply a busy mess.

  • avatar
    John R

    Sigh, I really hope this isn’t “just right”(née too little), too late.

    The TL (TLX now) should have looked something like this (in terms of ethos) 10 – 15 years ago. Instead Acura/Honda offered, if were being charitable, Super-Saiyan Accords.

  • avatar
    redapple

    8 yrs of the snow plow grill killed them.

    • 0 avatar
      bobbysirhan

      Management consultants killed them. They went into a panic because the Legend and Integra had better name recognition than Acura, so they killed the products that people knew to establish the brand. That’s some Cuomo-quality thinking right there. Their stupidity was masked my the massive success of the MDX while they told themselves that the failure of their cars just showed how progressive Acura customers were. The “Power Plenum” grill was one of their dumb moves, but today all their European competitors are at least as ugly as what they offered in 2008. How did it play in China? That’s the market that sent Germany looking for ways to make Hermann Spohn seem like an esthetic genius.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And the ZDX. And the 1st-Gen RDX. And….

      Good looking on the outside, and the interior might look somewhat better in person..the consensus on many Honda fanboi sites is that the Honda PR people couldn’t take a tasteful, flattering picture if they were held at gunpoint.

      I’ll never be able to afford the ask for a TLX, much less the top-drawer offering (which is generally how I buy a car), but if I did, I would seriously look into a minus-one wheel option! I like the look of those standard Type-S wheels, but the rubber bands posing as tires on this thing make the 19” tires on my 2019 Accord Touring look like they have something resembling sidewalls! (And they don’t, much—the nice ride is mostly suspension calibration!)

  • avatar
    Joseph Kissel

    Without a doubt, Acura leads the pack of “doomed auto brands.” Acura had a place once when American sedans and coupes were still big and floaty and Euro sedans were more out of reach, and both with questionable reliability. But none of that matters anymore. I’d rather have the Honda version. Except I wouldn’t. Honda really shares all the same problems (shoulder-shrugging styling, busy and somewhat hateful interiors) but mass-market pricing makes their strengths more attractive vs. the competition. I wonder how Honda is going to navigate the automotive future that’s simultaneously going to see fewer traditional brands and more electric start-ups.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Proof of the pudding is in the eating. The current TLX is a lumbering brute that feels heavy, ponderous and high-sided. Drove four of them and it was a puffed-up grandpa car. The FWD V6 had zero traction from rest. Some strange self-generated buffeting on the highway as well, aero noise heterodyning, shaking of the steering wheel and passenger seat, all recorded by poor owners in the forums as time went by. At least that awful DCT transmission that nearly killed me and the salesman in the 2.4l model is gone — it was in no gear at 5 mph when I tried to turn left across a break in traffic, no acceleration whatsoever just a revving engine. An underdeveloped car that never really got any better except making that nasty ZF 9-speed in V6 models work sort of OK after a year or two. Following the last SH-AWD model I tried, I wedged myself into a regular Audi A3 AWD not an hour later which handily tromped the TLX as a driver’s car. Not even close. It was handy and nimble compared to Mr Plodder TLX, with a much better driver’s seat as well, and not much slower if at all. Just a better car, a GTI in sedan form. Only VW’s reliability rep kept me from buying one, together with the tiny front doors making egress awful.

    This new TLX looks OK outside, nothing wonderful, but the dash is bloody awful with that no-need curve in what should be a horizontal dash line above the console. Far too busy, modern Tokyo by might. Trying too hard in usual modern Honda fashion, the exact opposite of the way they used to be. Outside, they broke the basic rule on door handles with an angle between front and rear ones, as someone else also pointed out. Design 101 – don’t do that, it looks bad and once noticed as a flaw never goes away in your mind.

    So if it feels reasonably lightweight on its feet it may be okay to consider. But I’ll be skeptical before driving one after the last hippo. The problems the last one had also filled Acurazine forums with confused owners responses; it simply was released before development was complete. The myth of Honda wonderfulness was completely lost on me with that car. Like the Genesis G70 four cylinder, which really is a useless driving experience, nothing like the build-up trash from mags and fanbois about it being better than a BMW 3 series, on what basis I’ve never discovered personally. Vivid imagination, I think.

    • 0 avatar
      usernamealreadyregistered

      I have a base TLX 4-cyl and it’s been a nice car. All I really wanted was a 4-cyl automatic Accord without a CVT. So I leased the TLX instead of the 9th gen Accord available at the time. Efficient, reliable, quiet, comfortable, with a lovely naturally-aspirated Honda engine. No 40 series tires, cylinder de-activation, German reliability issues or ZF 9-speed. It’s a stable and comfortable highway car, the base stereo is nice and I’m one of approximately six people not working for Honda who likes the two screen setup.

      I have mixed feelings about the 8-speed. It’s one of the main reasons I may not buy out my lease. The shifts are a little rough when cold, so I warm up my garaged car for a few minutes before driving in the morning. The transmission has been reprogrammed twice: once to fix a lurching problem at low speed and once due to a series of experiences similar to the 5 mph experience that conundrum describes above. My guess is you were decelerating into that turn? I haven’t had the problem recently. Maybe it was the reprogram, maybe it’s been that I’ve adjusted to get back on the gas earlier if I’ve been slowing into the turn.

      The backseat isn’t great if you have to transport adults or adult-sized children. I’m hoping there’s more headroom in the 2021. But it’ll probably be an Accord EX-L 2.0 for the next car.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “So if it feels reasonably lightweight on its feet it may be okay to consider”

      Yea, I bet that’s not happening. Personally, I can dig it in Type-S trim but if you’re looking for Jinba Ittai then you should probably stick with Mazda.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree on negative outlook of the current TLX. While made decently well, it didn’t excel in any one area. Could’ve easily been a Buick. Why choose it over something with a better brand for the same money?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    They have the looks, the RWD feel, the power… And then, the shifter, the pad, the no manual, and probably the too much $$.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Based on the photos; blow a kiss at the exterior and fire a gun at the interior.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I like it and think it’s pretty. 4 forks.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    It is a good looking car on the exterior, the interior pic overshoots good taste by a country mile. I’d like to see what the volume trims look like because these all look like heavily optioned, performance trim packages with colors and features probably not on your typical model. The shape looks great though.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    But it doesn’t come with a manual trans!
    And I wanted to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!
    And I wanted to transmit my application to the academy THIS season!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Handsome car on the outside. Couldn’t live with the interior, especially the poorly integrated screen. I don’t like the tacked on look anyway, but this one is especially bad.

  • avatar

    I think this effort should be praised! Even though I’m not sure this sort of expensive midsize and front-drive sedan will sell to any great extent.

    The styling looks pretty good, apart from the front 3/4 angle which highlights just how badly misaligned the door handles are. I think if you’re going to do an offset door handle that way then you need to make the handle more integrated and discrete. This has the same sort of issue as the Dodge Charger.

    This will be in the market against the Genesis G80 (about due for refresh) and the upcoming rear-drive Mazda 6 with inline-six engine. both those are tough competitors, and given the engine in the Mazda will probably come from Toyota, I would give that car a head-start over the other two. The Q50 is ancient about now and is not really competitive from a platform or interior perspective, and it’s not really engaging to drive unless you get the RS 400, and then you have that drive-by-wire steering.

    Finally, I will say that the a-spec interior theme needs to go away or be matured and overhauled. The red and black gym bag effect is very low-rent and they make it mandatory on that trim. Poor taste.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Pathetic automatic scum.

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