Acura adds power, content to push TLX upmarket

LOS ANGELES — Acura is adding technology and performance to its core midsize sedan with a redesign and re-engineering of the TLX for 2021, moves that will also push the car upmarket in base content and price.

The 2021 Acura TLX goes on sale in late September, starting at $40,600, including shipping, up sharply from a base price of $36,196 on the outgoing 2020 TLX, long considered a solid value in the segment.

As Acura rebuilds as a premium marque, it needs to put more distance between itself and mainstream Honda, said Jon Ikeda, Acura brand officer. That means a base 2021 TLX that’s far more upmarket and comparable to the higher-trim 2020 TLX that starts at $39,196, with shipping.

The TLX remains a top-selling luxury midsize sedan, even though first-half U.S. sales fell nearly 30 per cent to 9,414, and 2019 volume dropped 13 per cent to 26,548.

In Canada, first-half sales were down 35 per cent to 1,231 while 2019 sales fell 12 per cent to 3,360.

Moving the base TLX further upscale will also require educating dealers and consumers on why it’s still a great deal, Ikeda said. It’s not the first time Acura has had to do so, and it won’t be the last. Two more core models — the MDX crossover and the ILX compact sedan — are on deck for similar changes.

“From Honda Motor’s perspective, to have two franchises that are on top of each other in the same region doesn’t make sense,” Ikeda said. “From a business perspective, we’re very aware that we need to diversify our portfolio. Honda has a role and Acura has a role. And Acura has the premium role.”

With the 2021 TLX, Acura did away with the low-content base trim TLX that served as a value proposition in favour of a more premium vehicle to better align with its brand strategy. Engine output rises to 272 hp from 206 hp.

Standard equipment on the base model for 2021 includes an upgraded widescreen infotainment screen with touchpad interface, 10-speaker stereo vs. 7-speaker, new 10-speed dual-clutch transmission (vs. 9-speed), 12-way driver and passenger seats (vs. 10-way and 8-way), double-wishbone front suspension (vs. MacPherson struts), wider tires, idle stop, aluminum trim, Wi-Fi hot spot and traffic jam assist.

More importantly, the TLX now compares more favourably with rivals, which are mostly compact luxury sedans such as the BMW 3 Series but also some midsize models such as the Audi A6. The TLX has a long and wide exterior like a midsize sedan but a more compact interior befitting a sports sedan.

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