Acura Assistant VP on the brand’s DNA: performance sedans are “how we came to be.”
For many enthusiasts, today’s reveal of the 2021 Acura TLX signals an important return, especially in Type S guise. The Japanese brand looks serious about its performance sedan again, for the first time in a decade. The current car wasn’t a bad one; it just lacked the same focus on accessible performance.
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Some might say Acura sedans lost their way since the last car to wear the Type-S badge, the 2008 TL. It might surprise these same folks to know Emile Korkor, Assistant VP of Sales and Marketing at Acura Canada, doesn’t necessarily disagree.
Korkor doesn’t mince words when we chat just ahead of the car’s debut. “The more we moved away from the focus on sedans, the more we saw our brand being diluted and customers questioning what we were about,” Korkor told AutoGuide during a phone interview. He goes on to tell us that the new TLX is an evolution of that penultimate TL generation.
Korkor can make that comparison, as he’s been with Acura for over 20 years. He’s driven every generation of the brand’s car since—”the RSX was amazing,” he says—and is confident the new car is a return to form. He compares the feel of the 2021 TLX to the classic Integra, stating that the return to a double-wishbone suspension design is one of the chief reasons for this. He calls it hand-in-glove, like the car is moving with the driver’s will. It begs the question: when did the team decide on the the use of double wishbones?
“Right from the beginning,” says Korkor. “The focal point was: what did we do great? What were the great things about our vehicles, the best elements of our performance sedans? Let’s take those and reincorporate them into this vehicle, and we’ll establish that as our benchmark. The focus was really ourselves.”
We ask about competitor benchmarks. Korkor remains coy: he name-drops the usual German suspects, the Ms, AMGs, and RSs of the world, but insists it’s the customers that matter. “What we realized as a brand is that a way to keep those enthusiasts loyal to us—because we lost quite a few when started to shift our focus—is to continue to offer these performance cars.”
Acura recognizes the reality of the current automotive landscape. Crossovers are big sellers these days. The TLX, the brand’s market leader for cars, shifted just 30–40 percent of the RDX yearly total in 2019 on either side of the border. This second-generation sedan isn’t about significantly changing that ratio, it’s about showing long-time fans they’re still welcomed and valued.
“They’re not going to be a ton of volume, we’re saying about 20 to 30 percent is going to be in sedans,” says Korkor. “Being absent from that [segment] takes a lot out of our DNA and what we’re all about, because you can’t get the real expression of the Acura brand without driving a car made by us. That’s how we came to be.”
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One of the key aspects of the 2021 TLX is that it borrows less from parent company Honda. Distinct design and mechanical features defined the brand’s golden era of the late 1990s to mid-2000s, and the TLX will spearhead Acura’s return to that approach. That’s why it gets its own brand-exclusive engine, a powerful, 3.0-liter turbo V6 built by some of the same people responsible for the NSX’s engine. That’s why it features a double-wishbone front suspension. And that’s why, according to Korkor, it will appeal to longtime fans: not sharing parts because it’s convenient, but striving to make the best product the company can.
“I’m confident this car will bring customers back. This is the Acura you always wanted,” explains Korkor. “That’s been our goal since the beginning, far beyond saying ‘we want to beat these guys.’ That’s just really a futile effort, because we’ve done that in the past, and that’s what’s led to our wandering around and customers being confused. I just believe do what you do best, and that’s build a perfectly balanced performance machine.”