The Type-S gets a 355-horsepower turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6 as well as sporty body trim, 20-inch wheels and Brembo-brand brakes. PHOTO: ACURA

The Type-S gets a 355-horsepower turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6 as well as sporty body trim, 20-inch wheels and Brembo-brand brakes. PHOTO: ACURA

FIRST LOOK: 2021 Acura TLX

It’s bigger and turbocharged … and under $50,000 to start

Expectations are understandably high for the new second-generation Acura TLX sedan.

It represents the brand’s latest attempt at injecting significant style and performance to entice buyers who otherwise shop the lots of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Honda’s upscale division has excelled in creating the highly regarded RDX and MDX utility vehicles, but has lagged in the sedan category. The high-end RLX never caught on with buyers and won’t be returning for 2021, while the TL and TSX were replaced with TLX for 2015. The compact ILX, which was launched for 2012, languishes on a previous-generation Honda Civic platform.

Like we said, all eyes are on the new TLX. The new sport sedan resembles the outgoing model, yes, but a closer look reveals a more aggressive front end. What makes a huge difference is the car’s enlarged dimensions, including a nearly eight-centimetre gain in length, a width increase of just over five centimetres and a not-insignificant 9.4-centimetre stretch in distance between the front and rear wheels. Combined with a slightly lower roofline and upticks in passenger and trunk space, the result is a character-changing design that should grab the attention of Acura super fans and casual observers alike.

The TLX is built off a new platform that Acura claims is considerably more rigid, particularly where lighter-weight suspension components are attached. The braking system is based on what’s used in the megabuck NSX sports car, and active dampers (shocks) constantly adjust according to road and driving conditions. To improve front-to-rear weight balance, the TLX’s battery has been relocated to the trunk from the engine compartment.

The interior has also undergone significant revision. There are better quality coverings for seats and door panels, a smartly redesigned dashboard and new sport-style heated front seats.

A touchpad-operated 25cm info screen is standard as is a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel and buttons to shift the transmission.

The TLX’s powertrain lineup is also new, beginning with the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (the same one is used in the RDX) that makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s a gain of 66 horsepower and 98 pound-feet over the previous base non-turbo 2.4-litre four-cylinder.

Opt for the Type S (a name previously attached to the long-retired TL sedan) and you get a turbo 3.0-litre V-6 with 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It replaces the previous non-turbo 3.5-litre V-6 that produced 290 horses and 267 pound-feet.

The engines are connected to new 10-speed automatic transmissions — with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters — that replace the nine-speed automatics.

Regardless of engine, drivers get Econ, Normal and Sport settings (Sport+ is added to the Type S) that change the transmission, throttle, steering and suspension operations.

Official fuel-consumption numbers haven’t been released, but an estimate based on the RDX’s powertrain would be 9.8 l/100 km in combined city/highway driving.

The latest version of Acura’s Super Handling All-wheel-Drive isstandard with both the turbo 2.0 and the Type S. It can send up to 70 per cent of the engine torque to the rear wheels and direct 100 per cent of that amount to either the left or right tire during turning to increase precision (known as torque vectoring or yaw control).

The TLX is noticeably larger than the previous model with more than nine more centimetres between the front and rear wheels. Say hello to more rear legroom. PHOTO: ACURA

The TLX is noticeably larger than the previous model with more than nine more centimetres between the front and rear wheels. Say hello to more rear legroom. PHOTO: ACURA

TLX pricing starts at $46,500, including destination charges. Included in the price is a variety of dynamic-safety technologies (such as emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and road-departure mitigation).

The optional Technology, A-Spec and Platinum Elite packages increase the content, but the Type S is the only model that comes with sport-appearance body trim, high-performance summer tires mounted to 20-inch wheels, leather- and suede-trimmed seats and Brembo-brand brakes.

With the redesigned/new TLX, Acura seems focused on creating an image-enhancing model that will alter buyer impressions of how a premium sport sedan should look and perform. At least their impressions of an Acura sedan, that is.

Regardless, the new TLX is a huge step in the right direction.

Although the red seats grab your attention first, try feasting your eyes on the artful centre stack that houses the arrangement of buttons that shift the standard 10-speed automatic transmission. PHOTO: ACURA

Although the red seats grab your attention first, try feasting your eyes on the artful centre stack that houses the arrangement of buttons that shift the standard 10-speed automatic transmission. PHOTO: ACURA

What you should know: 2021 Acura TLX

Type: All-wheel-drive midsize sedan

Engines (h.p.): 2.0-litre I-4, turbocharged (272); 3.0-litre V-6, turbocharged (355)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Market position: Acura attempts to up the ante with a new TLX that it hopes offers the right stuff in terms of performance and style to entice new buyers.

Points: Roomier cabin has increased passenger comfort. • Design elements remain true to the previous model but for a bigger car that is actually more attractive. • Both base and optional engines deliver greater thrust, which never hurts when catering to upscale buyers. • SH-AWD system is one of the best on the market. • Reasonably priced, regardless of trim level.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency/pedestrian braking (std.); lane-departure intervention (std.)

driver-awareness monitoring (std.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 11.0/8.6 (2.0, est.)

Base price: (incl. destination) $46,500

BY COMPARISON

Audi A4

  • Base price: $48,500
  • Well-regarded sedan offers standard AWD. S4 model comes with a 349-h.p. V-6.

Cadillac CT5

  • Base price: $41,900
  • One of only three sedans in GM’s lineup. CT5-V model puts out 355 h.p. AWD opt.

Infiniti Q50

  • Base price: $46,000
  • Attractive AWD premium sedan uses a 300-h.p. V-6. A 400-h.p. V-6 is opt.

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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