by Jay Traugott
The Acura TLX first debuted back in 2014 as a dual replacement for the now-retired TL and TSX. Without a doubt, the first-generation TLX was a huge step in the right direction for Honda's luxury brand, but it was still not quite good enough, especially for those who desired a proper reincarnation of the iconic and long gone Acura Legend. Fast-forward to today and the all-new 2021 Acura TLX has arrived and yes, Legend fans should be excited. With the retirement of the RLX large sedan, the second-gen TLX takes its place as the brand's flagship sedan.
Acura's top sellers at the moment are the RDX and MDX luxury SUVs, but the all-new TLX presents an enticing argument for many loyal Acura customers to return to the sedan fold. With a choice of two excellent engines, stunning and exotic-like styling, and the return of the Type S nameplate after a long absence, the new TLX could very well be Acura's best sedan since the Legend's retirement in 1995.
One look at the 2021 TLX and it's immediately clear Acura wants to make a statement here. The car is stunning. With styling heavily influence by the Acura Precision Concept, designers opted for a lower, wider, and sleeker appearance. Compared to the previous TLX, the new model has a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase, a 2.2-inch wider body, a roof lowered by 0.6 inches, and a 7.8-inch extended dash-to-axle ratio.
Up front, the old chrome mustache is very much a thing of the past, replaced by the recently introduced diamond pentagon grille with Jewel Eye LED headlights on either side. In fact, there are four LED elements and bright-white LED daytime running lights. Moving to the rear, there's an upswept decklid, "Chicane" LED taillights, and exposed dual exhaust. The side profile shows a midsize sedan with a long hood, short rear overhangs, and muscular rear wheel arches. Throughout the body, there are angled surfaces and several other sexy details. Shark Grey 19-inch wheels are included in the A-Spec Sport Package while Type S models have 20-inch wheels with either a 10-spoke design or a Y-spoke look inspired by the NSX.
Acura also points out the cabin is set further back than before, a design element that not only provides a distinctive look, but also some attitude.
Acura's interior inspiration is a "Dual Personal Cockpit" theme featuring aluminum trim, open-poor wood, and full-grain Milano leather. Emphasis is clearly on the driver here with that wraparound instrument panel and wide center tunnel. A-Spec and Type S models receive some cool additional touches like a thick-rimmed flat-bottom steering wheel, metal paddle shifters, and more unique colors and materials. Type S owners also benefit from special badging on the door sills, steering wheel, and embossing on the headrests.
Acura claims top-of-the-class hip and shoulder room. As usual with the brand, there's an array of advanced connectivity, audio, and infotainment technologies. The new True and Touchpad Interface system features a 10.2-inch HD display and a console-mounted touchpad which Acura says has accurate handwriting recognition among other enhancements. Additionally, there's a seven-inch full-color display in the center gauge cluster and an optional 10.5-inch head-up display. A premium audio system featuring four ceiling-mounted speakers is also available.
A total of seven interior color options are offered as well as ambient LED lighting that changes according to selected driving mode.
The base engine is the familiar 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, a 66 hp and 98 lb-ft increase over the previous 2.4-liter engine. Later next year, the TLX Type S will go on sale with an all-new 3.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged V6. Official power figures are not yet available, but Acura does add the engine was developed by the same engineers assigned to the NSX supercar's twin-turbo V6. All we know is this new V6 will have "dramatic gains" compared to the old naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and a 50 percent increase in low-end torque.
Both 2021 TLX engines will be paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels in base 2.0 models. The Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system is optional on 2.0 models and standard on the 3.0.
The new TLX rides on an all-new platform equipped with a double-wishbone front suspension, variable-ratio steering ratio system, active dampers, and even Electro Servo brake-by-wire technology inspired by the NSX. Type S models receive four-piston Brembo brakes. Three driving modes are offered: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Type S models also receive a Sport+ setting that incrementally increases throttle response, electric power steering, the AWD system, and available adaptive dampers.
The AcuraWatch suite of safety technologies comes standard, as well as the first application of the brand's new three-chamber airbag technology that protects the front seat occupant's head in a crash to help offset serious injuries.
Acura has not announced official pricing at this time, though it can confirm it will start off in the mid-$30,000 range when 2.0 models arrive in dealerships in early fall. Chances are a full-loaded Acura TLX Type S will come in at around $50,000.
Expect its most direct competitors to be the usual luxury sports sedan suspects, such as the BMW 3 Series (we're thinking M340i, specifically), the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4 and S4, and the Genesis G70.
There's no question the 2021 Acura TLX is the best-looking sedan the brand has produced in years and we sincerely hope it'll drive and perform as good as it looks.