Acura’s New Sport Sedan Is Almost a Cheaper, 4-Door NSX

A twin-turbo V6, Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, and a design that’ll draw eyes for a block around.

It’s not every day that Acura rolls out a new car, so when they do, they usually make it count. Still, even by that metric, the new 2021 Acura TLX is worthy of more attention than the average ride to be revealed; not only is it proof that Honda’s luxury division isn’t giving up on sedans, but in top-shelf form, it could be one of the most involving sport sedans in its price range.

If the 2021 TLX looks rather familiar, that’s because it’s almost identical to the Type S Concept car that Acura showed off for the first time last summer, apart from a few minor tweaks to get it street-legal. It’s a bold, muscular-looking design, with aggressively creased sheetmetal, a wide face with sharp, squinting headlights, a long hood and a short, almost stubby tail.

Inside, the new TLX boasts the same sort of techno-organic luxury design found in other recent Acuras, like the RDX. Sporty leather seats covered in swooping patterns sit before a dashboard dominated by a vaguely whale-tail-like control area, with curving wood trim framing the shift buttons, climate controls, drive mode shifter and other essential functions.

Above them lies a high-definition 10.2-inch display for the infotainment system; rather than being a touchscreen, it’s controlled by the so-called “True Touchpad Interface,” a square touchpad found down where the driver’s right hand would naturally fall. First seen in the RDX, it effectively maps the screen’s display onto the small touch-sensitive pad, enabling the driver to use muscle memory to select what they want.

The biggest news, though, is the mechanical. The entry-level version of the 2021 TLX uses the same powertrain found in the top-shelf Honda Accord: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four cranking out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque and connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. (While the standard version sends power to the front wheels, as in the Accord, the TLX can also be optioned with the brand’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, which uses four-wheel torque vectoring to pass the power around as needed for better grip when accelerating and cornering alike.

True enthusiasts, though, will want to wait for the new TLX Type S, which Acura says will go on sale next spring, a few months after the base model. Acura hasn’t used the Type S moniker, which is reserved for its sportiest variants, much recently, but the new TLX should be quite a return to form — indeed, it might be the next best thing to an NSX with room for five. Like in the bargain supercar, power will come from a twin-turbo V6 — in this case, an all-new 3.0-liter unit. (Sadly, it does without the performance-enhancing hybrid tech for now, but we’d bet that’s in the cards for a future upgrade.)

Acura hasn’t revealed how much power that engine will make, but we’d be shocked if it didn’t crank out close to 400 horsepower — or even more than that. Regardless, said power will flow through a 10-speed automatic to all four wheels via standard SH-AWD. NSX-inspired 20-inch Y-spoke wheels clad in high-performance tires will be an option, for those who want to make the most of their TLX Type S in the warmer months.

Still, exciting as the Type S is, the regular version should still prove to be an exciting sedan all its own. After all, the 2.0-liter Accord is a pretty damn fun ride all on its own (did you know the engine is based on the one in the Civic Type R?), so a better-looking sedan from the same people that adds torque-vectoring AWD ought to be be better still.

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but given the upgrades, we’d guess the base model will start around the $36,200 MSRP of the current V6 version of the outgoing TLX, with the Type S coming in around an Audi S4/Mercedes-AMG C43-baiting $50K.

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