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Performance-focused 2021 Acura TLX breaks cover, will start around $30,000

The second-generation Acura TLX has debuted, packing a heck of a punch.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura has been teasing the return of a performance-focused sedan to its lineup for years now. Behind the scenes, plans have been in place to bring back some of the sports flavor to the Acura lineup that made it so popular two decades ago. Today, the first part of that puzzle has been revealed: the 2021 Acura TLX.

As it turns out, Acura had already given away many clues about the TLX, showing off a darn close version of it as the Type S prototype at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. With its elongated wheelbase and low roofline, the TLX looks every bit the sports sedan.

The All-New 2021 Acura TLX: Reveal www.youtube.com

Exterior

The car's exterior showcases Acura Precision Concept design with an expansive hood, tapered windows, and muscular rear haunches. Its wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer in the new generation. The car also has a 2.2-inch wider body, wider off-set tracks in the front and rear (+1.2 in. and +1.6 in., respectively), a lower roof (-0.6 inches), and an extended dash-to-axle dimension (+7.8 in.).

The second-generation TLX is faced by an upright diamond pentagon grille that is flanked by lighting originally showcased on the Type S Concept. Under the headlamp cover are new Jewel Eye LED headlights with four LED elements and bright-white "Chicane" LED daytime running lights inspired by the championship-winning Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype race car. At the back are LED taillights and exposed dual exhaust.

The TLX rides on standard 18-inch wheels. Nineteen inchers are available in a variety of finishes, depending on trim level. TLX Type S models will be equipped with 20-inch split-10 spoke alloy wheels finished in Shark Gray. Buyers can upgrade to a lightweight wheel inspired by the NSX "Y-spoke" design that will be offered alongside a high-performance summer tire.

2021 Acura TLX An available A-Spec package puts black accents on the car but doesn't include any performance upgrades.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acura will make its popular A-Spec appearance package available on the TLX. It will include Shark Grey 19-inch wheels, gloss black accents front to rear, darkened headlight and taillight treatment, and a pronounced rear decklid spoiler.

The company will sell the model in nine exterior finishes including five premium colors. New to the TLX for 2021 is Phantom Violet Pearl. The TLX Type S will be offered in an exclusive, bold Tiger Eye Pearl. Apex Blue Pearl, previously available only on A-Spec models, will be added to the Type S catalog.

Powertrain

Buyers will have their choice between two turbocharged engines. A 2.0-liter turbo-four is standard and paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It delivers 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This base engine delivers more power than even the high-end 3.5-liter V6 in the previous generation model.
The TLX Type S will be powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that is paired with the same 10-speed automatic transmission. However, Type S models will receive unique transmission tuning to provide an aggressive and responsive characteristic during performance driving scenarios. Final specifications for the new engine, including power output, will be released closer to launch timing. The car will have paddle shifters.

Drivers will be able to choose between Comfort, Normal, and Sport drive modes. TLX Type S models also get a Sport+ mode.

Ride and Handling

The 2021 TLX rides on a new platform that was designed for the sports car. The performance-focused chassis has a double wishbone front suspension, the same as what is in the redesigned 2021 BMW 5 Series and the current Acura NSX. This is in place of the common MacPherson strut setup that is favored by many other sedans.

The car also has a variable-ratio steering system, electro-servo brake-by-wire technology (applied from the NSX), and an available driver selectable Adaptive Damper System.

2021 Acura TLX The car features an elongated wheelbase.Photo courtesy of Acura

The architecture of the car is the most rigid that Acura has ever produced. It delivers a 50 percent increase in global torsional stiffness and up to a 100 percent improvement in localized rigidity where the suspension is mounted to the body. The new structure uses 56 percent (by weight) advanced, lightweight materials, including aluminum and press-hardened steel, more than any previous Acura sedan.

Acura has used aluminum extensively on the body and placed the car's 12-volt battery in the trunk to give the car a good front to rear balance ratio.

Acura is offering all variants of the car with all-wheel drive. Acura calls their rear-biased system Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) and it delivers industry-leading torque-vectoring all-wheel drive technology. The TLX Type S comes standard with the tech.

Interior

The cabin of the TLX takes a heavy nod from the RDX, which was redesigned for the 2019 model year. Its premium appointments and driver-centric cockpit design put the car in line with the expectations of sports car enthusiasts who may have been turning to German brands to satisfy their need for speed.

2021 Acura TLX TLX models will be available with a red and black leather interior. Photo courtesy of Acura

While a high center turned divides the car up front, it creates a dual-cockpit-like design for the driver and front passenger. However, because of the extended width of the next-gen model, Acura doesn't expect occupants to feel pinched.

Sporty front seats provide 16-way power customized adjustability for the driver and front passenger.

A total of seven interior color options will be offered on the 2021 TLX. Ebony, Espresso, Graystone and Parchment will be offered on the standard TLX models, depending on trim. TLX A-Spec and TLX Type S models will feature either Ebony or Red Leather, both with black Ultrasuede inserts. Additionally, the TLX Type S will offer an exclusive Light Orchid leather interior option.

The car features real aluminum, open-pore wood, and full-grain Milano leather appointments. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather. In A-Spec and Type S models, that wheel is flat-bottomed.

Infotainment

At the center of the dashboard is a 10.2-inch infotainment screen that is navigated using the driver-oriented True Touchpad Interface. This is the same system setup as in the RDX. Physical power, volume, and seek control buttons are mounted next to the touchpad.

2021 Acura TLX The car's center stack is straight from the RDX playbook, with some fine tuning.Photo courtesy of Acura

In front of the driver is a 7-inch multi-information display in the middle of the center gauge cluster. A 10.5-inch full-color head up display is available, as is the Acura ELS Studio 3D premium audio system.

Safety

The new TLX also features the latest generation of AcuraLink with in-vehicle 4G LTE Wi-Fi with over-the-air software update capability and a variety of available cloud-based services, including emergency roadside assistance, remote locking/unlocking and engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, geofencing, speed tracking and Acura concierge services.

All models will come equipped with the latest version of AcuraWatch safety and driver assistance technology.

On-sale date and pricing

The 2021 TLX will arrive at dealerships early this fall with a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) starting in the mid-$30,000 range. The 2021 Acura TLX Type S will arrive in the spring of 2021. The new TLX will be manufactured exclusively at the company's Marysville, Ohio plant.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is an off-road ready family hauler.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Pathfinder is the company's three-row crossover, sitting below the Armada and above the Rogue in the company's lineup. It's a rival to the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot. Check out the Nissan's most compelling features by scrolling down.

Every Pathfinder comes loaded with safety technology.

The Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of safety and driver assist technology comes standard on the Rogue. It includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, land departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking.

Additionally, the company's Intelligent Driver Alertness and Rear Door Alert technologies are standard.

ProPilot Assist takes the wheel.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan's ProPilot Assist technology doesn't allow for hands-free driving and it's not self-driving, but it does fuse together many functionalities that make daily drive functions easier, especially when your children are doing their best to distract you.

ProPILOT Assist combines steering assist and Intelligent Cruise Control to help control acceleration. It can be used in heavy traffic and on open highways.

For 2021, ProPilot Assist has been enhanced. It has next-generation radar and camera technology that is designed to allow for smoother braking, better steering assist, and improved detection performance when vehicles cut into the lane.

There's a removable second-row center console.

Between the second-row captain's chairs in the seven-passenger Pathfinder, there's a thin center console (enough storage space for two cupholders and some small items) that is removable without using any tools. Removing this console allows for easier access in/out of the third-row for small children and adults. With the console in place, the seats can still be tipped and moved forward for quick ingress/egress to/from the third row.

The second row is spacious.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Sitting in the second-row captain's chairs is very much like sitting in those that you'd find in a full-size SUV. Adults will find that hip-room is plenty big enough while children will relish the opportunity to feel like they're being treated to upscale accommodations.

Three people fit across the back seat.

Second-row captain's chairs are being offered for the first time on Pathfinder with this new model. Nissan has added rear seating flexibility with the ability to fit three across the back seat. While three adults are a tight fit in the third row, children, tweens, and some teens that don't have long legs won't likely have a problem with it.

Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan has made the Rogue available with all-wheel drive. Those models also get five drive modes: Off-road, Snow, Standard, Eco, and Sport. The modes are engaged using the drive-mode selector mounted on the center console. The all-wheel drive system uses new technology that is designed to respond quicker when slippage is detected.

It has a 6,000-pound towing capability.

Nissan boasts that the 2022 Pathfinder has best-in-lass available 6,000-pound maximum towing capacity. That's enough to allow boats, ATVs, camp tents, or trailers to be connected out back. Trailer Sway Control is standard on the Pathfinder and allows for more towing confidence, especially when winds pick up.

Moving the second-row seat is as easy as the push of one button.

Nissan has equipped the second-row bench seat in the Pathfinder with EZ-Flex one-touch mechanics. It takes just one press of a button to activate fold and slide functionalities for the second-row seats. The button can be reached from both the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle for ease.

The cargo area is plenty spacious.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America


Behind the SUV's third-row seats Pathfinder can fit a 120-quart cooler or four golf bags - all with the third row full of occupants. The interior can also accommodate 4x8-foot plywood sheets.

The ride is sublimely quiet.

Nissan has equipped the Pathfinder with acoustic laminated front glass, thicker second-row glass, increased door and floor isolation, and a 60-percent increase in engine noise absorption materials. The result is a vehicle that provides a quieter ride, meaning less likelihood parents will have to should to be heard by third-row passengers.

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The Kia Sorento Hybrid offers a lot to like for families looking to save on fuel.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The redesigned Kia Sorento looks good. Kia has given the three-row SUV new life, not as a substitute for the Telluride SUV but instead as its own crossover, with plenty of differences to give them their own identity.

The 2021 Sorento comes in two variants, the Sorento and Sorento Hybrid. Each is offered in its own set of trim levels. The Sorento base model is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder internal combustion engine that delivers 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. Higher grades get a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.

Sorento Hybrid comes in two trim leaves, S and EX. Both are powered by the company's turbocharged 1.6-liter hybrid powertrain that offers up 177 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The SUV prioritizes fuel efficiency over performance, an important distinction that sets the Sorento Hybrid apart from other hybrid variants, including the Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid that delivers an energetic boost to the RAV4 lineup.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid The Sorento Hybrid is the type of vehicle that can get you to a trailhead, but isn't built to go beyond that.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The power output is fine if you plan on sticking to in-town driving and aren't looking to load up the Sorento Hybrid for a long road trip. In the default Eco drive mode, the car responds to the throttle the most comfortably. Under traditional and harder acceleration, the Sorento Hyrbid's powertrain is noisy and ill-mannered. It's almost like the SUV is telling you, "I'm built for efficiency, not speed". Message received.

Kia's done a good job making the Sorento agile and it drives nicely and makes for a pleasant daily runaround. Unlike what Toyota has done with the Highlander, all-wheel drive is not available on the Sorento Hybrid.

The 2021 Sorento Hybrid comes standard as a six-seater with captain's chairs in the second row. The seats, leatherette in the upmarket trim level, are comfortable enough. There's a decent amount of cargo space with the third row erect or stowed.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid The cabin of the Sorento Hybrid is plush enough for its price point.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The well-thought out cabin design delvers exactly what customers need and in the EX trim level, the car's appointments are near-premium. The SUV has the usual list of standard and available features, but nothing is too fancy: Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice recognition, satellite radio, push button start, keyless entry, a rearview camera, wireless smartphone charger. Nothing looks, feels, or operates like it's cutting edge, but it doesn't have to - this isn't a luxury vehicle.

There is one very nice design touch in the cabin. On either side of the infotainment touch screen are vents that service the front row of the auto. Their output is divided into two each with the bottom vent able to serve the midsection of front passengers' bodies while the upper part goes higher. More automakers should design vents this way.

The Hybrid EX model that was delivered for testing had its lane keeping and centering system not as honed in on lane lines as is optimal, which resulted in crossing over the lines without any alert going off or corrective action being taken by the vehicle's computer.

2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid Cargo space is always tight in three-row SUVs, but Kia has given the Sorento a good balance between cargo space and third-row legroom.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid starts at $33,590. That's a thousand-and-a-half over the starting price of the Telluride and $4,000 more than the traditional 2021 Sorento.

There are currently only two other three-row hybrid SUVs on the market, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Ford Expedition Hybrid. The three models and their varied price tags and third-row layouts service very different customers but they generally all get lumped together. The Sorento Hybrid is, by far, the lowest priced model of the three, and it feels like it when you're inside. There's nothing wrong with that. Dodge sold a lot of Journeys despite the fact that it wasn't the best or most expensive SUV out there.

Think of the Kia Sorento Hybrid as the Dodge Journey of three-row hybrid crossovers and you won't be disappointed.

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