The Acura TLX gets a significant redesign for its second generation, with more power, new front suspension, and the return of the vaunted Type S.
Acura has pulled back the sheet on the 2021 TLX, touting it as the “quickest, best-handling and most well-appointed sedan” in the company’s history. It steps into this role with a handsome new look and the promise of a return to the dynamic spirit that put the company on the map. This includes a switch back to a double-wishbone front suspension and, in top-shelf Type S trim, a new brand-exclusive engine.
New Looks Inside and Out
If you, like us, were a fan of last year’s Type S Concept, good news: the TLX carries that look with only minor changes. The lights front and rear are slightly more rounded, but the proportions are intact. Acura has pushed the passenger compartment back from the front wheels, adding 7.8 inches between the dash and axle. Length is up to 194.6 inches, a 2.9-inch increase over the 2020 model. Acura stretched the wheelbase by 3.7 inches and widened the TLX by 2.2 inches as well. Despite a 0.6-inch drop in height, both passenger and trunk space are very slightly up for 2021.
Standard wheel size is now 18 inches, with 19- and 20-inch options available on the A-Spec and Type-S, respectively. The A-Spec adds gloss black trim, darkened lighting elements, and a decklid spoiler. Meanwhile the Type S gets its own grille treatment, larger front air intakes, plus a more aggressive front splitter and rear diffuser package. It also doubles the exhaust tips to four, as a nod to the final TL Type S of 2008.
Speaking of nods to Type S history, props to Acura for bathing the TLX in Tiger Eye Pearl. The bright yellow hue is close to the Sundance Gold of the first Type S model, 2001’s CL Type-S. In total the 2021 TLX will feature nine exterior paint options.
Heading inside and the TLX makes a strong statement of intent right away, with its Integrated Dynamics System drive mode selector sitting smack dab in the middle of the center console. The dash design even focuses on it, with leading lines directing eyes to the dial. Drivers can pick from Comfort, Normal, and Sport driving modes, while the Type S adds a Sport+ option. The modes alter the TLX’s transmission, throttle, and steering, as well as the optional adaptive dampers. New for the 2021 model is an Individual mode, where drivers can cherry pick their preferred settings for every aspect.
A chunky, leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel sits in front of the driver. Crisp red-on-white dials sit behind it. Base TLX models will come with four interior color options, while the A-Spec and Type S come in either black or red leather. Both also add Ultrasuede inserts in the centers of the seats. A Light Orchid all-leather option will be available for the Type S.
Acura’s jumping on the ambient LED lighting bandwagon with the 2021 TLX. The available system will swap between colors based on the selected driving mode. It also comes with 24 selectable themes, with names like “Suzuka” and “Pacific Coast.”
Power and Handling
Acura is adopting an all-turbo engine lineup for the second-gen TLX. The base engine is now the 2.0-liter turbo mill that does duty in the RDX and, in a different tune, the Civic Type R. Here it makes a healthy 272 hp and 280 lb-ft. That’s substantially more twist than the 2.4-liter I4 of the current car, with 98 lb-ft more at its peak and a whole 123 at 1,500 rpm. Even the current car’s optional V6 produces only 18 hp more, but 13 lb-ft less.
That’s all well and good, but we’re more interested in the Type S. For the badge’s first appearance in a decade, Acura has a brand-new 3.0-liter turbo V6 for duty. The transverse-mounted six-pot features a twin-scroll turbocharger and electronic wastegate. Acura is staying mum on final horsepower and torque figures for now, only suggesting “dramatic gains.” We’re expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 350–380 ponies, which will allow the Type S to go hunting the AMG C43, Audi S4, and BMW M340i.
Both engines come bolted to Acura’s 10-speed automatic, with standard paddle shifters. Front-wheel drive is standard for the 2.0-liter model, while the fourth generation of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is optional. SH-AWD is standard for the TLX Type S, making it the first Type S to send power to all four corners. The system is rear-biased, and is able to send up to 70 percent of the engine’s power rearward. Torque vectoring allows for either rear wheel to take up to 100 percent of rear-axle torque.
The TLX Type S’ optional 20-inch rims feature an NSX-inspired design, reduce unsprung weight and come with 255-width summer performance rubber. Speaking of the mid-engined hybrid supercar, the Type S will borrow the NSX’s electro-servo brake system. It comes with larger brake discs than other TLX models, including four-piston Brembo front calipers.
Tech and Safety
A 10.25-inch infotainment screen sits far back on the TLX’s dash, using a console-mounted touchpad for control. Thankfully, redundant physical buttons sit beside the touchpad for the most common controls. Acura is promising improved handwriting recognition and faster performance from the latest software. There’s also a separate section of the dash for dedicated climate control duty, thankfully.
Also part of the tech lineup are a 10.5-inch full-color head-up display, an. ELS Studio audio system, and the latest generation of AcuraLink. AcuraLink includes remote functions, in-car WiFi, emergency calling, and other features.
Every TLX also arrives with the AcuraWatch safety and driver assist suite. This includes automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning. New for the 2021 model are traffic sign recognition, driver awareness monitor, and traffic jam assist.
The 2021 Acura TLX will begin to show up in dealerships this autumn, starting in the mid-$30,000s. The Type S is a little further out, not arriving until spring next year. We’ll know more about it closer to that time. But early signs are positive that Acura has rediscovered what lured enthusiasts to the brand at the turn of the millennium.