Acura stokes its performance mojo with redesigned, re-engineered and more powerful 2021 TLX and TLX Type-S

Arriving spring 2021, TLX Type S debuts Acura’s new 3.0-liter V-6 Turbo engine and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive — a first for the Type S. (Acura)

Midsize sedan to go on sale this fall starting in the mid-$30,000 range

Acura revealed today, May 28, what it calls the quickest, best-handling and most well-appointed sedan in the brand’s 35-year history — the 2021 Acura TLX. The midsize sport sedan joins the RDX compact SUV and NSX supercar as the entry-luxury brand revives its mojo as a performance and technology brand.

Acura had announced in mid-May that it will discontinue its large RLX sedan in North America and focus on sporty sedans and crossover. The larger TLX will now become the flagship sedan. With an exclusive body and chassis architecture (not shared with the brand’s Honda division) the new TLX will be the first Acura sedan to fully apply the brand’s Precision Crafted Performance hallmark for engineering and design.

Among the safety enhancements is the first application of the company’s front passenger air bag that uses a three-chamber design, which functions much like a baseball catcher’s mitt. It is designed to more effectively cradle and help protect the front seat occupant’s head in more steeply angled frontal collisions.

With a choice of new turbocharged four-cylinder and V-6 engine choices, the 2021 TLX will arrive at dealerships early this fall with a starting price in the mid-$30,000 range. The current TLX starts at $34,025, including the $1,025 freight charge from Marysville, Ohio, where the 2021 model also will be built. Pricing details, trim levels and complete specifications will be released closer to the on-sale date.

The second-generation TLX also brings back the Type S high-performance variant after a decade-long hiatus. The Type S, arriving next spring, will be powered by a new Acura exclusive turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and it will be the first TLX Type S with Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

“With this new TLX, we’re doubling down on what today’s sport sedan enthusiasts are asking for — a more stylish, personal and performance-focused driving experience,” Jon Ikeda, vice president and Acura brand officer, wrote in a release. “Our designers and engineers really took the gloves off, rethinking what an Acura sport sedan should be, right down to its most essential elements — stance, proportion, platform and powertrain. This is unquestionably our most ambitious redesign of an Acura sedan.”

The 2021 TLX will have a more tech-focused cabin with options high-grade materials including real aluminum, open-pore wood and full-grain Milano leather. (Acura)

Next-generation design

The exterior design emphasizes an athletic appearance heavily influenced by the Acura Precision Concept and from the Type S Concept. The designers worked to create a low and wide stance, long dash-to-axle ratio, expansive hood, tapered greenhouse and pronounced rear haunches, Ikeda said in the release.

Compared to the previous model, the 2021 TLX has a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase, 2.2-inch wider body with wider front and rear tracks (1.2 inches front and 1.6 inches rear, respectively) and a lower roof by a half inch.
The more upright diamond pentagon grille is flanked by signature lighting cues including new Jewel Eye LED headlights with four LED elements and bright-white “Chicane” LED daytime running lights (inspired by the Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype race car).

The cabin section is set farther back on the body and features more steeply inward-sloping roof pillars to further emphasize muscle. The roof has a lower-set center section with two inward-curving grooves to convey a sense of movement and lower appearance, Ikeda said.

Front-to-rear weight balance has been improved by using more aluminum in the body, including the front bumper, hood, front fenders and front damper mounts. The 12-volt engine-cranking battery was moved to the trunk.

The gauge array features a 7-inch full-color multi-information display and there is an optional 10.5-inch color head-up windshield display. (Acura)

Type S

Arriving spring 2021, the TLX Type S builds upon the A-Spec styling elements, with its own open-surface Diamond Pentagon grille and larger side air intakes. A-Spec elements add such appearance upgrades as Shark Gray 19-inch wheels, gloss black accents front to rear, darkened headlight and taillight treatment and a rear decklid spoiler.

Type S aerodynamic elements include a rear decklid spoiler, aggressive front splitter and rear diffuser, and large quad exhaust outlets (recalling the 2007-2008 TL Type S). Two exclusive 20-inch wheels designs will be offered, including an NSX-inspired lightweight “Y-Spoke” wheel, both with 255-series performance tires.

With an exclusive body structure not shared with Honda, the new TLX will be the first Acura sedan fully designed around the brand’s Precision Crafted Performance hallmark. (Acura)

Body and chassis

The new chassis brings back a double-wishbone front suspension (also used on the NSX and replacing MacPherson struts) for more precise handling, cornering grip and a more compliant ride. Performance-focused engineering upgrades include a variable-ratio steering system, electro-servo brake-by-wire technology (from the NSX) and an available driver selectable adaptive damper system.

The new chassis was made 50 percent stronger in torsional stiffness by using more advanced, lightweight materials, such as aluminum and press-hardened steel. A new ultra-rigid center tunnel serves as the backbone of the TLX’s higher structural rigidity, complimented by triangulated front shock tower bars, front and rear underfloor braces, a one-piece rear bulkhead stiffener and new cast-aluminum front shock tower mounts.

The optional A-Spec package and Type S models include a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather with contrast stitching and paddle shifters. (Acura)

Wheels and tires

Entry models will have standard 18-inch wheels or optional 19-inch wheels in various finishes, depending on trim. Performance-tuned 255-series tires will provide 20 percent more lateral grip than the outgoing tires, Acura says.

Type S models will have 20-inch split-10 spoke alloy wheels finished in Shark Gray. An optional lightweight wheel inspired by the NSX “Y-spoke” design will be offered with a high-performance summer tire.

The Type S will have four-piston Brembo braking power with 20-inch split-10 spoke alloy wheels finished in Shark Gray. (Acura)

High-output turbocharging

Replacing the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder, the standard engine is a direct-injected and turbocharged 272-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine with VTEC (variable timing and lift control). The engine has peak torque of 280 foot-pounds from 1,600-4,500 rpm.

The 10-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift replaces the previous eight-speed dual-clutch automated manual and nine-speed automatic transmissions.

The 2.0-liter turbo boasts the highest horsepower in its core competitive set, Acura says. It delivers 66 more horsepower and another 98 foot-pounds of torque at peak rpm and an additional 123 lb.-ft. torque at 1,500 rpm.

Compared to the optional 3.5-liter V-6 in the previous TLX, the new engine has an additional 13 lb.-ft. of peak torque and an additional 48 lb.-ft. at 1,500 rpm.

When it arrives in spring 2021, the TLX Type S will showcase the new 3.0-liter, 24-valve, DOHC direct-injected and turbocharged engine, influenced by the team that developed the twin-turbocharged hybrid V-6 in the NSX.

The new transverse-mounted V-6 will be compact and lightweight. Its dual scroll turbocharger and electronic wastegate will provide immediate, high-torque response, Acura says. Final specifications for the new engine, including power output, will be released closer to launch timing. But the 3.0-liter will deliver dramatic gains in peak horsepower, Acura says, compared to the outgoing, naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6.

The V-6 also will be paired with Acura’s 10-speed automatic, with Sequential SportShift and standard paddle shifters. Type S models will have more aggressive and responsive transmission tuning.

TLX A-Spec and TLX Type S models will feature either ebony or red leather, both with black Ultrasuede inserts. (Acura)

Customizable performance

Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System now includes an Individual mode along with the pre-set programs for Comfort, Normal and Sport or Sport-plus (Type S) to adjust the performance or engine and chassis systems. Individual mode allows personalization of such programs as the drive-by-wire throttle, transmission, SH-AWD, electric power steering and adaptive damping.

Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System now includes an Individual mode along with the pre-set performance programs for Comfort, Normal and Sport or Sport-plus (Type S). (Acura)

Torque vectoring SH-AWD

Acura’s fourth generation Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) will be available on all TLX models and standard on the Type S. The rear-biased system has 40 percent more rear torque capacity and 30 percent quicker front-to-rear torque transfer than the third-generation system, Acura says.

The system can transfer up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle during normal driving conditions, while continuously moving up to 100 percent of that rear-axle torque between either the left and right rear wheels.

The console touchpad has an upgraded interface for more accurate swipe zones and handwriting recognition. (Acura)

Driver-focused cockpit

The 2021 TLX’s more premium and tech-focused cabin will include optional choices for high-grade materials such as aluminum, open-pore wood and full-grain Milano leather.

The so-called “Dual Personal Cockpit” is intended to create a more personal yet strongly delineated space for front-seat occupants, Acura says. The cockpit’s high and wide center tunnel, wraparound instrument panel and wider body will allow first-class seating, with top-of-class hip and shoulder room (+0.5 inch and +0.7 inch, respectively). The front sport seats have up to 16-way power adjustment.

The optional A-Spec package and Type S models will feature a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather with contrast stitching and larger metal-plated paddle shifters.

Intuitive technologies

Technologies for connectivity and audio entertainment will have new access through Acura’s driver-oriented True Touchpad Interface. The system features a high-mounted 10.2-inch HD display and a console mounted touchpad with “Absolute Position” mapping for more accurate swipe zones and handwriting recognition. Also added were exterior controls for power, volume and seek next to the touchpad.

The gauge array features a 7-inch full-color multi-information display and there is an optional 10.5-inch color head-up windshield display. The upgrade to the Acura ELS STUDIO 3D audio system features four ultraslim ceiling-mounted speakers and a new Twin Telford subwoofer design.

Connectivity features include AcuraLink with 4GLTE Wi-Fi, over-the-air software updates and available cloud-based services. Among those are remote locking and unlocking, engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, geofencing and concierge services.

Driver-assistive technologies

All 2021 TLX models will come equipped with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies standard. This includes several new features, such as Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Awareness Monitor and Traffic Jam Assist. All of which are integrated with the adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow. Traffic Jam Assist helps reduce driver stress in congested traffic by helping keep the vehicle in its lane and at a set interval behind the vehicle ahead.


The new TLX will have a choice of nine paint colors, five of which are premium choices. New to the palette is Phantom Violet Pearl. The Type S will be offered in an exclusive, bold Tiger Eye Pearl and Apex Blue Pearl.
The interior will have seven color options, with ebony, espresso, graystone and parchment on standard models. A-Spec and Type S models will feature either ebony or red leather, both with black Ultrasuede inserts. The Type S will have an exclusive light orchid leather option.

2021 TLX fulfills the muscular design and proportions previewed in the Type S Concept, Acura says, with a wide stance, low roofline and stretched wheelbase. (Acura)

American made, mostly

Design, engineering and development of the 2021 Acura TLX was conducted primarily in America. Styling was led by Acura Design in Torrance, Calif., while full platform development was led by engineers in the company’s development center in Raymond, Ohio. Engineering development of the new 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 was led by the company’s R&D center in Tochigi, Japan.

The 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter turbocharged engines will be produced at the company’s Anna, Ohio, engine plant, also home to the twin-turbocharged V-6 hybrid engine in the NSX. The 10-speed automatic transmission will be manufactured at the company’s Tallapoosa, Ga., plant. And the SH-AWD system’s front power-takeoff unit and rear differential will be manufactured in the company plant in Russells Point, Ohio.

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