The 2021 Acura TLX Whets our Appetite for the Still to Come Type S
Let’s start by dispelling a rumor about the new generation, 2021 Acura TLX. Yes, you can purchase one with front-wheel-drive. That’s how the base, $38,525 model comes equipped. But, engineers built it as an all-wheel-drive car from the ground up, even though that’s technically a $2,000 option. Cost wasn’t what kept rear-wheel-drive off the table. RWD was considered, but a FWD based AWD car is lighter than a RWD based system; fewer shafts are needed, for one thing.
And it’s not as if Acura started with the Honda Accord platform and threw in a few modifications. In fact, according to engineers, the new, Acura-exclusive sedan platform shares exactly zero parts with Accord. And, aside from the rear sub-frame and a couple rear suspension components, it shares nothing with the RDX or other Acura’s either.
While all that’s cool, I agree it’s kind of a bummer the car’s FWD. After all, that means the engine is mounted transversely, not longitudinally, under the hood, which is harder to keep the weight off the nose. Furthermore, the transaxle (combined transmission and differential) must sit there, too. Engineers worked to offset that weight with aluminum front fenders, hood, damper mounts, and lower control arms. They also moved the battery to the trunk.
As a result of their work, 57 percent of the TLX’s weight rests on the nose, as opposed to 60 percent from the outgoing model. While not the coveted 50/50 front/rear split we pine for, it’s a solid improvement. And things get better from there. Acura used high or ultra high strength steel for critical components, like the center tunnel, as well as industrial bonding to put it together, making this the stiffest sedan platform they’ve ever built.
Finally, we have a couple of car nerd wins to celebrate. The outgoing model’s strut front suspension got tossed in the trash, replaced with a double-wishbone set-up. That allows more wheel travel with a lower hood line and better wheel control. Furthermore, while the rear suspension remains a multilink setup, it’s now five-links, not four. That gives the rear more wishbone like traits, which is all very good.
What does it all mean for feel behind the wheel? Depends on what trim level you get. Everything but the top, Advance, trim get your standard, non-adjustable shocks, tuned to slot between the normal and sport drive modes of the adjustable shocks offered on the top trim. And while nothing is shared with Accord, the adjustable shocks are essentially off the shelf of the Honda Civic Type R parts bin. No Accord parts, but some Civic parts. Ironic.
With the Civic shocks, Advance trimmed TLX’s offer a way cushier ride than the A-spec in Comfort mode. Normal mode provides a softer ride, too. Move to Sport and the TLX stiffens up to more sport sedan worthy levels. Though, even in Sport, it’s plenty compliant for me, so I kept it there. Frankly, I think the regular shocks on the A-Spec and below models work well and need no adjusting.
Dynamically speaking, the TLX proved wholly competent. The new suspension maintains good body control and keeps roll to in a minimum in the corners, even when you get to hustle. Steering feel is adequate, not great, but precision and weighting is top notch. Acura sped up the rack for 2021 and it’s a nice improvement to response.
The TLX’s biggest demerit was weight over the front axle. Yup, that dreaded FWD engine and transaxle penalty. Despite all the positives, you could still sense that momentary unwillingness to turn-in. Furthermore; you also feel more energy is needed to toss the TLX around during side–to-side transitions.
Fortunately, that issue is kept in check thanks to Acura’s biggest positive, the Super Handling AWD torque vectoring system. Even though the TLX is front wheel drive based, SH AWD can send 70 percent of the torque to the rear-axle. And in the rear, it can channel all of the power to either wheel. That pays huge dividends in feel.
First off, you never got any moments of power understeer, or inside front wheel spin, allowing your right foot to stay nice and heavy at corner exit. Second, with the differential vectoring torque, the car stays tightly on its intended path as you trail out. All together, the TLX still has the feel of a FWD car at corner entry, but more of a RWD car at corner exit. Of course, all this requires AWD, making it a car nerd must-have option.
All the distributed torque comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, by the way. It’s the same motor from the Acura RDX and delivers the same peak outputs: 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the 10-speed automatic transmission, peak output is never many engine revs away. And pull, even at lower revs, is plenty stout. It’s not the best sounding turbo four out there, but its quiet when it needs to be and functional otherwise.
Besides, when the roads straighten out and traffic picks up, the TLX starts to shine. Interior comfort and cabin isolation proved a strong suit for this new TLX. I came away impressed with the seats, liked the 10.2-inch center console screen, found all the switchgear easy to find and use and really enjoyed the quiet ride in traffic. There was that serene sense of disconnect from the hustle and bustle, a place to have some quiet time alone and at your own pace.
When its time to park and walk away, know the new TLX looks a lot better, too. It sits half an inch lower than before for a more athletic stance and has among the better interpretations of that four-door fastback look when in profile. I also like the sculpted hood, flared rear fenders and fat exhaust.
And, of course, you get all the usual advanced safety equipment, called Acura Watch, which includes things like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Acura put in new airbag technology as well—we first saw it last year—and a super fancy stereo we saw last month.
While the 2021 Acura TLX certainly does not make us question the value of RWD in a sports sedan like the Civic Type R does AWD in a hot hatch, it certainly does check a lot of car nerd boxes. And it offers midsize premium sedan specs for a small premium sedan price. What’s more promising is, unlike before, this is just the opening act.
Consider my appetite whetted for the V6 equipped Type S, Acura.
2021 Acura TLX A-Spec SH-AWD
2021 Acura TLX A-Spec SH-AWD
Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 10-speed automatic transmission, AWD
272 hp at 6,500 rpm, 280 lb-ft of torque between 1,600 – 4,500 rpm
21/29/24 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Brilliant SH-AWD, vector that torque!
Still miss RWD
Source: Read Full Article