Date: September 24, 2020 12:01
The embargo regarding the full details and drive impressions for the 2021 Acura TLX has been lifted as of 12:01AM on 24 of September. Most of the key details for the 2021 TLX have already been released and due to extremely limited drive opportunities (no travel to media events, due to Covid), we do not have any drive impressions to share with you at this point. It sounds like it will be October at the earliest before we can get our first chance at driving the new TLX, but we will share the few new details for the 2021 TLX which have been released. UPDATE: We will have a 2021 TLX Advance tomorrow (26-Sept)
It's pretty big The numbers have been out for a few months, but seeing these figures on the pages of Acura's presentation really brings into focus how much larger of a shadow the new TLX casts compared to the outgoing version and most of its known competitors. It rides on an all-new, exclusive architecture which brings double wishbones back into the fold. The original TLX was only the second Acura sedan in the history of Acura to feature a MacPherson strut front suspension (the Civic-based ILX was the first, of course). The wheelbase of the 2021 TLX is a full 3.7 inches longer (113.0) than the previous TLX. Overall length has stretched by 2.9 inches (194.6). At 75.2 inches, it's now 2.2 inches wider than last year's TLX. It's even wider than the Audi A6 and A7, BMW 5-series, and Mercedes E-Class. it falls just short of the width of the Porsche Panamera, Maserati Ghibli, and Tesla Model S. Compared to the 2020 TLX, the track has increased in the front and rear by 1.2 inches and 1.5 inches, respectively. Height has been reduced by 2 tenths of an inch, and ground clearance is down by a full half inch. Most of this has been done to achieve a targeted look. According to the presentation that was distributed, the design goal was to target a "near-exotic stance and proportion". By proportion, they mean the long-hood/cab back appearance, and in this sense the new TLX has pushed the numbers quite a bit, with Acura claiming an increase in the dash-to-axle measurement of a full 7.8 inches. To our eyes this is a very good looking car. A slightly unexpected consequence of all of these increased numbers is the fact that the interior volume only increases by 0.1 cu ft, and max cargo improves by 0.3 cu ft (unless you include underfloor storage, in which case the older TLX actually beats the new one by 0.8 cu ft). Bottom line, this new TLX is much closer to a 5-series or E-class in size than it is to a 3-series or C-class.
One possible upside of all of this taffy-pulling is the rearward shift in weight distribution. Though we've been reliably told for years that 60/40 was the perfect number for a FWD car, the 2021 TLX comes in at 58/42 for the FWD version and 57/43 for the SH-AWD version. The 2020 model was 61/39 and 60/40, respectively.
Looking at the spec sheets, the most concerning thing that jumps out at us is the weight. The base TLX (which is a 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car), now tips the scales at a whopping 3702lb. Add the SH-AWD and now we're talking 3920lb. That's pretty thicc. The 272hp 4-cylinder SH-AWD 2021 TLX is 155 lb heavier than the outgoing 290hp 2020 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD. At this point we have no idea what that means for the curb weight of the Type S model.
It has larger brakes Acura already told us that the 2021 TLX had an 'NSX-derived Electro-Servo Brake System' but we didn't know any details about the hardware. Well, now we know that the 2021 has 13 inch rotors up front (a 0.4 inch increase) with 2-piston calipers, and 13 inch rotors also in the rear (a 0.8 inch increase). The 1st generation TLX was rather lacking in the brake hardware department when it came to spirited driving, so hopefully these upgrades will do the trick.
It pumps fake exhaust noises into the cabin Acura calls it "Active Sound Control" (ASC). Obviously we haven't tried it in the new TLX, but in our experience with other Hondas and Acuras the results have been mixed. UPDATE: We received a phone call from HONDA AFVM who was out driving a 2021 TLX (base) SH-AWD at that moment. He did a few 0-60 runs and it sounded pretty good over the phone - in fact it almost sounded like a J35. Will have to wait for further in-person impressions.
Powertrains As we already knew, the TLX is getting 2 powertrains. The standard engine is the same 272hp/280lb-ft 2.0T that's found in the RDX. On paper, this engine crushes the base 2.4L engine of the 2020 TLX, and only comes up slightly short of the 2020's optional 290hp 3.5L V6. So these are solid numbers for a base engine. In "Spring 2021" the Type S will show up. This one has a turbocharged V6 making 355hp and 354 lb-ft. If we're being honest, these numbers seem thin.
Both the 4-cylinder and V6 powertrains will use Honda's 10-speed automatic transmission. Apart from horsepower and torque, we don't have any specs for the Type S powertrain, but we do know that the 2.0T uses the exact same gear ratios as the RDX for the transmission. The only difference is the TLX's final drive gear ratio, which at 3.59:1 is much taller than the RDX's 4.17:1 ratio. Roughly half of this difference is compensated by the TLX's shorter overall tire diameter compared to the RDX, so it will be interesting to see how the acceleration figures compare (the RDX is roughly 100lb heavier).
A potential upside of going with a taller final drive ratio is that the overall torque multiplication through the transmission is lower, so that means there could be a reduction in performance-sapping torque limiting from the engine in the lower gears on both FWD and SH-AWD versions. We won't really know until we drive one.