After announcing its official reveal last week, Acura has finally pulled the cover off the brand new 2021 TLX, including the performance Type S variant. Following the sharp-looking concept that hit Pebble Beach last year, the production model arrives with some surprisingly minor tweaks. On the styling front, it’s not a far cry from the outgoing TLX, but Acura has made some substantial changes under the skin.
The styling is familiar, but the car itself is larger
Before that, though, the 2021 Acura TLX gets plenty of exterior tweaks as well, as it’s larger in most dimensions than its predecessor. Acura says the new TLX is “faithfully translated” from the Type S Concept. In terms of numbers, that means the new car has a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase, a 2.2-inch wider body, as well as a wider front and rear track by 1.2 inches and 1.6 inches respectively. The only area the 2021 Acura TLX is not bigger is in the roof height, which has dropped 0.6 inches from the old car. Finally, Acura brought the front axle forward, increasing the dash-to-axle ratio (the distance between the bottom of the A-pillar and the front axle) by 7.8 inches.
Up front, the 2021 Acura TLX gets new Jewel Eye LED headlights with four elements each, and race-inspired “Chicane” LED running lights. The grille still looks similar to the outgoing TLX, which was last facelifted in 2017, though the new model gets a more aggressive lower fascia.
The side profile of the new TLX is fairly similar to the old one, except the rear lines meant to accentuate the more muscular rear haunches and the redesigned rear end. The 2021 Acura TLX moves back to an upswept trunk design reminiscent of the old TL, with slimmer and sleeker LED taillamps that aren’t too different from what we saw on the Type S concept. Like the front, Acura also gave the new TLX a shorter rear overhang, as well as squared off exhaust outlets.
Two powertrains: one old, one new
While we’ve focused most of our new TLX coverage on the Type S, there will still be a base model TLX that you can buy starting in the mid-$30,000 range. That model will get a familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine akin to what’s in the current Acura RDX crossover. It makes 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, and comes mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The old 2.4-liter four-cylinder with its 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and the 3.5-liter V6 with its 9-speed automatic have been dropped with this generation.
The 2.0-liter engine manages to beat the old 2.5-liter engine by 66 horsepower, while also providing 98 lb-ft more torque at peak RPM, and 123 lb-ft more at just 1,500 RPM. If you’re upset at the passing of the old V6, the turbo four-pot beats that engine by 13 lb-ft of torque (48 lb-ft at 1,500 RPM).
The Type S gets a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
While the 2.0-liter is a familiar powertrain, the 2021 Acura TLX Type S gets a whole new engine to go with its new, dedicated platform. The 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 is produced at Acura’s Anna, Ohio engine plant, where it also builds the twin-turbo engine (albeit a 3.5-liter version) for the NSX supercar. Unfortunately, Acura did not disclose horsepower or torque for the new engine, other than to say it delivers “dramatic gains in peak horsepower and torque” across the engine’s full rev range. Full power figures will be released closer to the car’s Fall 2020 launch.
While we don’t have power figures, Acura mentioned some details about the engine itself. They say it will deliver 50 percent more low-end toruqe thanks to dual scroll turbochargers and electronic wastegate to deliver more responsive torque across the band. Type S models also get unique transmission tuning for that 10-speed automatic, while all TLX variants will take advantage of the wider ratios, including a lower first gear than the old TLX’s transmission options. Four-gear direct downshifts should make both cars feel fairly responsive in spirited driving, whether on the track or on the road.
The 2021 Acura TLX brings a whole new platform to the sports sedan, as well as bespoke suspension changes from the old model. The new model once again gets double-wishbone front suspension, as well as a variable-ratio steering system and an electro-servo brake-by-wire system borrowed from the NSX. An Adaptive Damper System is available as well to offer the driver more control over ride firmness.
Overall, the 2021 Acura TLX has the most rigid body structure offered on any Acura model apart from the NSX, the company says. Global torsional stiffness is up 50 percent, thanks in part to strategic use of aluminum and press-hardened steel to improve stiffness while keeping extra weight at bay. Acura says it also improved weight distribution through an extensive use of aluminum for the front bumper, hood, front fenders and strut mounts, as well as moving the 12-volt battery to the trunk.
All-wheel drive and braking systems
The 2021 Acura TLX is still available with the company’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, and it’s standard fare on the Type S. According to the company’s official statement, the fourth-generation system offers 40 percent more rear torque capacity and 30 percent quicker front-to-rear torque transfer than the system in the last TLX. Up to 70 percent of the torque goes to the rear under normal driving conditions, while the system can also shift 100 percent of that power to either the left or right rear wheels. Acura also tuned the system to overdrive the rear wheels by 2.9 percent, which should help to kill understeer while cornering and make for more a more accurate turn-in than a front-biased all-wheel drive system.
As for braking, the 2021 Acura TLX Type S gets larger discs and four-piston Brembo brakes up front, as well as bespoke performance tuning from the standard TLX. All TLX models get the electric-servo brake system honed for the second-generation NSX. That means you’ll no longer get a hydraulic assist system, as was available in the old model.
18-inch wheels come standard on the base TLX, with 19-inch wheels available as an option. The car comes stock on 255-millimeter tires, and according to Acura they offer 20 percent more lateral grip for cornering than the outgoing TLX’s setup. The Type S gets no wider tires, but it does get 20-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels instead. Another lightweight wheel option derived from the NSX’s design will also be available on high-performance summer tires, to improve grip and decrease unsprung weight.
Updated interior, more technology onboard
If you’re familiar with the RDX A-Spec, then the 2021 Acura TLX will feel right at home to you. Acura updated the infotainment system, center stack and gauge cluster to match its more recent models, including the red-on-white gauge setup with a 7-inch multi-information display. Unlike some of its rivals, however, the new TLX does not have a fully-digital instrument cluster, though some will undoubtedly prefer the company’s decision to stick with analog gauges in the new car.
The 10.2-inch infotainment display is larger than the 8.0-inch unit in the old car, and Acura decided to ditch the lower display in this new TLX for more conventional climate controls. You still get a push-button transmission for the 10-speed automatic transmission, as well as a centrally-located silver dial for the available drive modes (Comfort, Normal and Sport, with Sport+ available on the Type S). For the first time in an Acura, you’ll also have the option of an ‘Individual Mode’, by pushing in the Acura logo on the center dial, allowing you control over the drive mode features like engine and transmission response, as well as the suspension. Acura’s ELS Studio 3D premium audio system is available as an option, and the car also comes with a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
As you’d expect, the 2021 Acura TLX comes with a host of safety features, including the AcuraWatch suite of driver-assistance systems. That includes a Traffic Jam Assist to keep the car in its lane and a set distance behind the vehicle in front without driver intervention. The new TLX also gets adaptive cruise control, as well as a Driver Awareness Monitor to ensure you’re focusing on the task at hand. If all that fails, a new front passenger airbag technology uses a three-chamber design that works like a catcher’s mitt to cradle the occupants’ heads in frontal collisions.
The 2021 Acura TLX will go on sale this fall
The 2021 Acura TLX will go on sale this fall with prices starting in the mid-$30,000 range. Exact pricing by trim should be available closer to launch. As with the last-generation model, Acura will assemble the new TLX and the Type S at its Maryville, Ohio plant. Most of the car will be built domestically, including the transmission at Tallapoosa, Georgia; the all-wheel drive system’s front power takeoff unit and rear differential at Russell’s Point, Ohio; and the 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter engines at the company’s Anna, Ohio plant.
Correction 5/28/20: This article previously stated that the Acura TLX has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. It does not — it has a single, twin-scroll turbocharger. We apologize for the error.