- the upcoming 2021 acura tlx is wider, lower, and rides on a 3.7-inch-longer wheelbase than the outgoing model.
- the new model's 272-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder is up 66 horsepower over the 2020 tlx's engine.
- a type s model is coming next spring with a turbocharged 3.0-liter v-6 that we think will make around 350 horsepower.
during its development, acura nicknamed the 2021 tlx "the seven-second knockout," because the goal of the brand's new sports sedan is to knock you flat on your ass.
the first hit comes from the design. penned by the acura design studio in southern california, the new tlx draws inspiration from the 2016 precision concept and the 2019 type s concept. like those concepts, the production car plays up its width and low height. when asked about what bits of the concept he wished he could have had on the production car, executive creative director dave marek paused and then conceded that it'd be nice to be able to have the size and height of the lights front and rear, but technology and regulations are what's keeping the concept-car lights off the production car.
stance is a critical part of giving a car presence, and the new tlx grows in the places that make enthusiasts smile. compared to its predecessor, the body is 2.2 inches wider, the roof is 0.6 inch lower, and the wheelbase grows 3.7 inches to 113.0 inches. add in flared rear fenders and the low hood, and the tlx will look menacing and unique against a world gone suv. like today's tlx, an a-spec version with less chrome and larger wheels will be offered for customers who want an even more aggressive look.
the engine remains transversely mounted, but designers and engineers left some space behind the engine to lengthen the distance from the base of the a-pillar to the center of the front wheels—the so-called dash-to-axle proportion. acura claims to have added 7.8 inches to the dash-to-axle span, which helps hide the transverse-engine architecture and almost gives the tlx the look of a rear-wheel-drive sedan. acura folks tell us that the extra space also leaves extra crush space for frontal collisions. we think it could be a good place to package hybrid components should acura decide to build a gas-electric version.
while a hybrid could happen, we do know that acura will offer two powertrains. a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder lifted nearly directly from the rdx bolts in and delivers 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. it easily outpowers the former tlx's naturally aspirated 206-hp 2.4-liter four. a 10-speed automatic transmission performs the shifting duties and sends power to the front wheels, unless the buyer orders all-wheel drive. like the rdx, the new tlx will offer the latest version of acura’s sh-awd (super handling all-wheel drive). the latest system is able to send more torque to the rear end, and it can shuffle the torque faster than before. up to 70 percent of the engine's torque can go to the rear tires, and the torque-vectoring rear differential is able to send anywhere from zero to 100 percent of that torque to the left or right wheel to provide forward movement and can overdrive the outside tire or for sensational tail-out antics.
type s coming soon
next spring, the tlx type s will arrive at dealers. acura would like the type s to be to the regular tlx what audi's s4 is to the a4. horsepower and torque numbers of the top tlx and its new turbocharged 3.0-liter v-6 have not yet been revealed, but we're expecting more than 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. a single twin-scroll turbo pressurizes the dohc v-6, but other than that we'll have to wait a few more months for more details. if you were hoping for a manual version, sorry: we were told that the type s will only be offered with sh-awd and the 10-speed automatic.
while the new engines are sure to bring straight-line speed, a new platform that's 50 percent stiffer in torsional rigidity and a new suspension setup should help the tlx nail the handling part of the sports-sedan brief. engineers assure us that the tlx is tuned to give an "immediate emotional feel" and that it will have the nimble feel of a smaller car. some of that will come from the variable-ratio steering and the tuning of the steering, but the tlx appears to have the right hardware for the job.
acura fans who remember the integra, legend, and tl will be delighted to hear that the front suspension ditches struts for a control-arm setup. in back, a multi-link suspension will keep the rear in check. adaptive dampers will be optional on regular tlxs and standard on the type s. to remove weight from the nose, the battery moves to the trunk, and the hood, front fenders, front-bumper beam, and the top of the shock towers are made of aluminum. acura engineers weren’t ready to reveal the weight distribution of the all-wheel-drive version or the type s, but we were told that the front-drive tlx will have a 57/43 weight distribution. all-wheel-drive hardware should further shift that percentage rearward.
wheel sizes start at 18 inches for the base version, a 19-inch wheel is optional, and all tlxs get 255-width tires all around that, acura tells us, substantially increase the tlx's lateral grip over the outgoing model. type s will get a 20-inch wheel with a 255/35r20 all-season tire, but we’re told that a summer performance tire will be optional. type s models will also get larger brake rotors, and in front they'll be clamped by four-piston brembo calipers.
acura is replacing the old tlx's vacuum-assisted brake servo with an electrically assisted unit like the one used on the nsx. based on our experience with the inconsistent brake-pedal feel of other cars with electric-servo brakes—the alfa romeo giulia quadrifoglio comes to mind—we’re a bit worried about tlx's brake-pedal feel. acura engineers assure us that the pedal will be firm, progressive, and easily modulated, but we'll have to wait a few months to find out for ourselves.
analog gauges, updated infotainment
interior quality appears to be commensurate with a car that will reach toward $60,000 for a fully loaded type s. starting prices for a front-driver are expected to be in the mid- to high-$30,000 range. wood adorns the doors and the beams in the center of the instrument panel, but the type s will get a different, metallic material. an updated version of acura's touchpad-controlled infotainment system is promised to be easier to use than the version in the rdx. we can only hope.
unlike most carmakers in this segment that have digital displays in place of actual gauges, acura is sticking with analog gauges. clear and easy to read, the gauges are welcome touch of tradition and authenticity in a sports sedan. on the inauthentic side, like most vehicles in the segment, the tlx will play engine sounds through the audio system. engineers assure us that the sounds will be consistent with what's under the hood—a four will sound like a four and the six will sound like a six—and that the sound will be linear and consistent.
when asked why a sedan and why now? acura vice president and brand officer jon ikeda responds, "in a world gone suv, the sedan can still pull out the joys of a performance vehicle." the outgoing tlx, while pleasant enough, wasn’t something we'd consider a true sports sedan. we’ll have to wait until this fall to drive the new tlx, and the type s version won’t arrive until early next year. we're willing to wait. after all, it might only take seven seconds to win us over.