2021 Acura TLX

2021 Acura TLX Test Drive Review: A-Spectacular Improvement

The Acura TLX first arrived in 2014 when Acura decided to merge the TL and TSX models into one. Sadly, the resulting car never lived up to the reputation set by either and ended up forgotten against most of its sedan contemporaries. For 2021, Acura is back with an all-new second-generation TLX. It rides on a new platform and uses the same Honda Civic Type R-derived 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Acura will even bring back the legendary Type S name with a new turbocharged V6 variant.

Like its forebears, the TL and TSX, the 2021 Acura TLX loosely competes with other luxury sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Volvo S60. While many of the competitors enter the fray with rear-wheel-drive, the TLX drives the front wheels or all wheels optionally. Acura has positioned the new TLX to feel slightly larger than a 3 Series but smaller than a 5 Series, hoping to attract buyers in the middle of those segments. Has the gamble worked? We drove a 2021 Acura TLX with the sporty A-Spec package to find out.

2021 Acura TLX Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 TLX?

The 2021 Acura TLX is an all-new arrival and marks the second generation of Acura's luxury sedan. With bold new styling, a new platform, and a torquey turbocharged engine, the TLX seems well-placed to make more of an impression than its predecessor. The sporty sedan has grown in size, being 2.2 inches wider and with a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase than before. Underneath the skin, a rigid new body structure sees a 50 percent jump in torsional stiffness. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine replaces the 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated unit used previously, with 66 more horsepower and 98 lb-ft more torque. The rear-biased Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system is available with torque-vectoring technology. Compared to the previous TLX's system, the new one offers 40 percent extra torque capacity at the rear. A more luxurious and high-tech cabin offers more hip and shoulder room than before, while the previous dual-screen infotainment system has been replaced by the True Touchpad Interface with a single 10.2-inch HD display.

Pros and Cons

  • One of the most stylish new sedans
  • Upscale cabin with comfy seats
  • Sharp steering
  • Communicative, well-balanced chassis
  • Great value for money
  • Rear-seat space is lacking
  • Not the quickest sedan around
  • Touchpad interface takes getting used to
  • Only average fuel economy
  • Tires leave a lot to be desired

Best Deals on TLX

2021 Acura TLX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$35,000
Technology Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,500
A-Spec Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$44,250
Advance Package
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$46,300

2021 TLX Exterior

Styling, as ever, is subjective, although most people seem to agree that the new Acura TLX is one seriously good-looking sedan. Longer and lower than before, it impresses with its bold stance, tapered greenhouse, notable rear haunches, and a stretched hood. The Diamond Pentagon grille is large but well-integrated and is flanked by Jewel Eye LED headlights on all models with Chicane DRLs. LED taillights are standard while LED fog lights are equipped on higher trims. All versions come with a power moonroof. Wheel sizes begin at 18 inches and go up to 19s on upper trims. On the A-Spec, a gloss black decklid spoiler is standard, while dual exhaust outlets are found on every version.

2021 Acura TLX Front View CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Front Angle View CarBuzz
See All 2021 Acura TLX Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The 2021 Acura TLX is 2.2 inches wider than the version it replaces, 0.6 inches lower, and the wheelbase has been stretched by 3.7 inches. With a length of 194.6 inches, the TLX is nearly nine inches longer than German competition like the BMW 3 Series and just 1.2 inches shorter than the bigger 5 Series. Other key dimensions include a 113-inch wheelbase, a height of 56.4 inches, and a width of 75.2 inches. The curb weight starts at 3,709 pounds for the base variant in FWD guise and goes up to 4,028 for the Advance Package with the SH-AWD system.

  • Length 194.6 in
  • Wheelbase 113.0 in
  • Height 56.4 in
  • Max Width 75.2 in
  • Front Width 64.0 in
  • Rear Width 64.6 in
  • Curb Weight 3,709.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

On the base TLX, shoppers can select from one of six colors. The no-cost options are Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic, and Fathom Blue Pearl. At $500 each, there is also Majestic Black Pearl, Platinum White Pearl, and Performance Red Pearl. The striking shade of Apex Blue Pearl requires adding both the Technology and A-Spec packages, which increases the price by $6,750, excluding the $500 of the color itself. Another color, Phantom Violet Pearl, requires the Technology Package and the Ebony interior. This is one of the most unusual colors on offer but actually works well with the car's sleek lines. However, if you really want to stand out, nothing beats Apex Blue Pearl or Performance Red Pearl.

  • Performance Red Pearl
  • Majestic Black Pearl
  • Platinum White Pearl
  • Phantom Violet Pearl
  • Apex Blue Pearl
  • Lunar Silver Metallic
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl

TLX Sedan Performance

The previous TLX's base engine wasn't exactly a ball of fire, so the new 2.0-liter turbo-four's much-improved torque output is welcome. Along with 272 horsepower, the power plant delivers 280 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers represent an extra 66 hp and 98 lb-ft over the previous 2.4-liter base engine. Power goes to the front wheels by default, while Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system is available across all trim levels. According to independent tests, the TLX will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just under six seconds, although it's not quite as quick as competitors like the less powerful BMW 330i. The Honda Accord with its own 2.0-liter turbo engine is also quicker because of a lighter curb weight. Acura does not publish the top speed for the TLX Still, the TLX will be fast enough for most, and for buyers willing to wait a bit longer, the V6-powered Type S is still on the way with even more power.

2021 Acura TLX Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Until the Type S arrives in the US market, the Acura TLX range exclusively makes use of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder VTEC engine with 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Only one transmission, a 10-speed automatic with sequential SportShift paddle shifters, is available. This new engine produces even more torque than the previous model's V6, and in Sport mode, the car becomes even more responsive. Around town, the powertrain allows for smooth and fuss-free progress. The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts gears smoothly in more relaxed driving. It doesn't hold onto gears as well as it should when pushing the car harder but that can be altered with a special sport setting on the transmission. Overall, it's a major improvement over the old TLX's nine-speed. As we found in our Acura TLX review, once in comfort mode, the engine is refined enough, but you'll hear more of it in Normal and Sport modes. A turbocharged V6 engine will be added to the lineup in the near future.

  • Engine
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Though it was far from the best sedan in its class, there was a lot to like about the previous TLX. Acura has managed to carry over what we enjoyed in the last TLX while improving a lot of what we didn't. The new dedicated Acura sedan platform offers tremendous balance through the corners, which is only made better by the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. Even though the TLX is a front-wheel-drive car at heart, it can send up to 70% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, helping it rotate like a rear-wheel-drive sedan. The car can also split the torque up to 100% between the left and right rear wheels, helping to yaw the car around tighter bends.

Acura brought back double-wishbone front suspension for this new TLX, giving drivers better command over the front end. We even enjoyed the variable-ratio steering system and Electric-servo brake system from the NSX, both of which felt natural in each driving mode. The TLX feels soft and compliant in comfort mode and if you turn the drive mode selector into Sport mode, the adaptive suspension and steering system tighten up without compromising the ride. It's a pretty great driving experience that's let down by the all-season tires. Although the chassis and SH-AWD system give you the confidence to push the TLX through bends, the tires will scream out in disgust if you do so. Enthusiast drivers may want to opt for summer rubber or wait for the Type S, which will include them as standard. The A-Spec might tide over some buyers, but it is more of an appearance package than a true performance variant.

TLX Gas Mileage

In FWD guise and without the A-Spec package, the Acura TLX will return EPA-rated gas mileage estimates of 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined, dropping marginally on the highway to 22/30/25 mpg when the A-Spec upgrade is equipped. With AWD, the TLX will manage 21/29/24 mpg in all trims. In reality, we struggled to even match the 24 mpg combined figure, averaging just 21 mpg during our testing period. By comparison, the cheapest BMW 330i returns a much more efficient 26/36/30 mpg, but perhaps this isn't a big surprise since the 3 Series is a smaller and lighter vehicle. At least the new Acura improves on the similarly powerful V6-engined TLX from last year, which returned best figures of 20/31/24 mpg in FWD guise. With a 15.8-gallon gas tank, the new TLX's range sits between 379 and 395 miles in mixed driving conditions.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    15.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/31 mpg
* 2021 Acura TLX FWD Base

New Acura TLX Sedan Interior

Like the exterior, Acura has designed a cool and sophisticated cabin that has many sporty touches. A chunky center console houses the touchpad interface for the new infotainment system, the electronic gear selector, and the large central drive mode selector. Although a fully digital instrument cluster is missing, we have no complaints about the stylish and clear standard dials. From the stitching to the soft-touch materials on the dashboard and doors, everything feels premium and made to last, although there are some harder plastics lower down. The interior won't win any awards for spaciousness, though, as rear-seat space is only average. On the base model, leatherette-trimmed seats and 12-way power-adjustable front chairs are standard, along with dual-zone climate control. Higher-spec variants enjoy Milano premium leather or, on the A-Spec, leather with Ultrasuede inserts.

2021 Acura TLX Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Front Chairs CarBuzz
See All 2021 Acura TLX Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

In all trim levels, the TLX offers seating for five with two people up front and three squeezed into the back. Acura's strategy of sizing the TLX between the average compact and midsize sedan hasn't translated much into the back seat, which only offers a middling 34.9 inches of legroom. Rivals like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series both offer more space for rear occupants. Rear headroom is at least generous and front-seat passengers have plenty of space. The standard sports seats hug well and feel great, and standard 12-way adjustment makes it easy to find an ideal driving position with a commanding view.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.5 in
  • Front Head Room 37.2 in
  • Rear Leg Room 34.9 in
  • Rear Head Room 36.3 in

Interior Colors and Materials

A range of five interior colors are offered, but these differ in availability according to the chosen trim and the selected exterior color. These cabin colors are Ebony, Parchment, Espresso, Graystone, and Red. As an example of color combinations, the base trim in Lunar Silver Metallic exterior paint can only be had with an Ebony interior. Selecting Apex Blue Pearl paint automatically adds two packages, plus either an Ebony interior with red contrast stitching or a red interior. On the lower two trims, brushed aluminum trim inlays are standard, while the A-Spec gets geometric patterned brushed aluminum and the Advance package adds authentic open-pore wood trim. Seating material begins with leatherette on the base model while all others have perforated Milano premium leather with contrast stitching. On the A-Spec, the sport seats have Ultrasuede inserts. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard but the A-Spec has a flat-bottom sport steering wheel.

TLX Trunk and Cargo Space

Although the TLX is longer than before, this is more to do with Acura's quest to improve dynamics and styling than as a means of freeing up interior and cargo space. For this reason, the trunk is restricted to 13.5 cubic feet of volume. That falls short of the 17 cubes in the BMW 3 Series and the 16.7 cubes in the more affordable Honda Accord, but it's better than what you get in the Genesis G70. For a weekly shop, the trunk does offer sufficient space, though, but extended trips away for four occupants means that you'll need to pack more intelligently. A 60/40-split-folding rear seatback is standard for larger items.

Inside, there are reasonable storage solutions for odds and ends. Along with a useful center console storage compartment, the door pockets are generously sized and easily accessible. Two well-sized cupholders in the front and two cupholders integrated into the rear center armrest take care of water bottles and coffee cups, while the available wireless charging pad comfortably accommodates increasingly large smartphone devices.

2021 Acura TLX Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Cargo Room CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Trunk Space CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    13.5 ft³

TLX Infotainment and Features

Features

Even the base model is well-equipped but Acura's available package upgrades that build on top of each other add more luxury and convenience items. The entry-level TLX boasts 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, including power lumbar support. Both front occupants can take advantage of a dual-zone climate control system, while the driver has access to a keyless access system and push-button ignition. Other standard features include a power moonroof, ambient LED cabin lighting, and an electronic gear selector. Safety features include the obligatory rearview camera, while the AcuraWatch safety suite packs in collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. Higher up in the range, the TLX comes with a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with power side bolsters, and a head-up warning. A surround-view camera system displays images of the TLX's surroundings and is a standard feature with the Advance Package.

Infotainment

Acura has thankfully retired its dual touchscreen infotainment system, now using the True Touchpad Interface that first debuted in the RDX crossover. The system lives on a nicely-sized 10.2-inch HD display that is split into two sections. Those sections are controlled using a console-mounted touchpad with what Acura calls "Absolute Position" mapping. Instead of having to scroll a pointer like the Lexus touchpad, Acura's system immediately responds to wherever you put your finger. In simple terms, Acura's system is much easier to use but still requires a learning curve.

Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard features, as does Bluetooth connectivity for your phone. The technology package adds built-in navigation with real-time traffic and an Acura ELS Studio Premium Audio System with 13 speakers including a subwoofer. We felt that the ELS Studio system sounded fantastic when fed high-resolution audio sources but only average when listening to standard MP3 files or satellite radio.

TLX Problems and Reliability

As a brand new arrival, the 2021 Acura TLX's reliability record has not yet been established, so more time is needed to publish a rating in this aspect.

Along with a class-standard four-year/50,000-mile limited vehicle warranty, the TLX comes with an above-average six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. This cover is complemented by a five-year warranty for outer body rust-through regardless of mileage covered, along with roadside assistance for four years or 50,000 miles, depending on which one comes first.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    6 Years \ 70,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

TLX Safety

Until the IIHS and the NHTSA evaluate the new Acura TLX for crashworthiness, no safety rating exists for the 2021 sedan. With a plethora of safety features, we do expect strong results from these safety reviews.

Key Safety Features

As standard, every Acura TLX sedan is equipped with eight airbags to keep the driver and passengers protected in the event of an accident. The suite includes dual front, front side, side curtain, and front knee airbags. Added to the airbag count are expected safety systems like tire-pressure monitoring, hill-start assist, and traction control. A multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines is standard, but the Advance Package introduces a surround-view camera system. The AcuraWatch suite of driver-assist technologies encompasses adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. The Technology Package adds front/rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. A head-up warning system is reserved for models equipped with the Advance Package, as is a 10.5-inch head-up display.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Acura TLX a good car?

Having driven the previous TLX A-Spec, we knew exactly what to expect from this new model; a sporty appearance with plenty of softness. True enthusiasts will want to wait for the TLX Type-S, which should be a closer rival for models like the Audi S4 and BMW M340i. As it stands, the engine in the base TLX feels quicker than the numbers imply, but it will be left for dead by all of the German four-cylinder options. At least the Honda engine sounds better here than it does in Type R, thanks to some help from the speaker system.

This new Acura TLX presents a different proposition than the previous model. It's more expensive than before thanks to a massive increase in standard power, so now the TLX must contend with other value-conscious options in the segment like the Genesis G70 and Volvo S60. The TLX offers more power than those two, but still lives on a level playing field due to a weight disadvantage. It's not the ultimate driver's car in the segment, nor is it the best value anymore. The new TLX improves in many areas, including styling and interior quality, but it still suffers from the same lack of brand awareness as before. Will customers really consider an Acura on the same level as an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes? That's not for us to decide, but at least Acura's improvements make the TLX worthy of consideration for buyers that want a good bang for their buck and lots of features.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Acura TLX?

The 2021 Acura TLX has a starting price in the USA of $37,500, a $4,500 increase over the entry-level previous-gen TLX car. It brings the TLX into much closer contention with German rivals like the Audi A4, which starts at $39,100. With the Technology Package, the Acura TLX will cost $41,500, while the A-Spec Package increases the MSRP to $44,250. Finally, the Advance Package will cost $46,300. Upgrading from the standard FWD system to the SH-AWD setup will add $2,000 to the price. All prices exclude tax, licensing, and registration costs, along with Acura's destination charge of $1,025. The highest Acura TLX price you can pay is over $54,000 for the Advance Package with AWD and all the available accessories.

2021 Acura TLX Models

Unlike traditional trims, the Acura TLX is offered with a variety of packages that build on top of each other. In total, there are four models in the range: Base, Technology Package, A-Spec Package, and Advance Package. All versions are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, a power plant that is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. By default, FWD is standard, but Acura's SH-AWD system is optionally available to all configurations.

The base TLX starts things off with 18-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, and Jewel Eye LED headlights. This is the only trim with leatherette instead of leather seats, but they look good and offer heating and 12-way power-adjustability in front. Other features include dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker sound system, and a 10.2-inch HD dual-content central display. Adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist are among the default safety inclusions.

The Technology Package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, while inside it gets perforated Milano leather seats with contrast stitching. Further to this, this variant boasts GPS-linked climate control, an Acura/ELS sound system with 13 speakers, navigation, front/rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring.

The A-Spec Package requires adding the prior package first, then adds several exterior and interior trim enhancements. Its specs include 19-inch Shark Gray alloy wheels, LED fog lights, a decklid spoiler, and matte black window trim. Inside, the Milano leather seats receive Ultrasuede inserts. A 17-speaker sound system and wireless charging are included, too.

Finally, the Advance Package comes with natural wood trim, 16-way power-adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, LED puddle lights, and a head-up display.

See All 2021 Acura TLX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Acura's unique package structure takes the place of typical standalone package upgrades on other brands and is the main means of accessing more features. At $4,000, the Technology Package is the first upgrade with Milano leather upholstery, navigation, and 19-inch wheels among its features. Depending on how much you're willing to stretch your budget, the Technology Package could be the sweet spot in the range. At $2,750 more, the A-Spec Package adds sporty exterior and interior trim but requires the Technology Package first. The $4,800 Advance Package also requires the Technology Package and adds equipment like 16-way power front seats and heated rear seats. However, the A-Spec and Advance packages can't be combined. Outside of these packages, the main upgrade is going from FWD to AWD which adds $2,000 to the bill.

🚗What Acura TLX Model Should I Buy?

Optioning a 2021 Acura TLX is a minefield of option package combinations, but we will attempt to simplify by explaining how we'd option one up. Even though it doesn't improve performance, we'd still add the A-Spec Package for $2,750 because it jazzes up both the exterior and interior while adding useful features like the ELS Stusio 3D premium audio system, heated and ventilated seats, and a wireless phone charger. Opting for the A-Spec automatic tacks on the $4,000 Technology Package, which adds a slew of useful toys including blind-spot monitoring. No matter if you live in a cold climate or somewhere it never snows, we think Acura's SH-AWD system is a nice addition for $2,000. As-described, the TLX rings it at a reasonable $46,750.

2021 Acura TLX Comparisons

Acura ILX Acura
Honda Accord Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura TLX272 hp22/31 mpg$37,500
Acura ILX 201 hp24/34 mpg$25,900
Honda Accord 192 hp30/38 mpg$24,970

2021 Acura TLX vs Acura ILX

The ILX is Acura's smallest sedan. Starting at a base price of $25,950, it's over $10,000 cheaper than the new TLX so represents a much more affordable step into the Acura lineup. The ILX comes with a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine with 201 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, so it isn't as strong of a performer as the TLX which uses a 2.0-liter turbo-four. While AWD is available to the TLX, this isn't an option on the ILX. On the road, the new TLX is a much more enjoyable sedan to drive than before, and while the ILX is okay to drive, it suffers from a lack of noise suppression. As the TLX is bigger, it's no surprise that it has a bigger trunk and more leg- and headroom for passengers seated at the back. The ILX isn't a bad choice for shoppers on a tighter budget, but the TLX is easily a better car.

See Acura ILX Review

2021 Acura TLX vs Honda Accord

Is the TLX's premium badge really worth the money? With pricing beginning at $24,770, the Honda Accord is affordable and big enough for most families. In fact, the Accord is significantly more accommodating in some aspects than the TLX. For example, the Honda provides a significant 5.5 inches of extra rear-seat legroom, so it's a much better choice for carrying passengers. The Honda also has a larger trunk. The smaller-capacity 1.5-liter turbocharged engine in the Accord returns best economy numbers of 30/38/33 mpg, making it far more efficient than the TLX's best of 22/31/25 mpg. But with just 192 hp, the more powerful TLX is quite a bit peppier by comparison. Then again, the Accord can be specced with a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and it'll still be cheaper than the TLX. On the dynamic front, the TLX handles with newfound confidence. This, together with the TLX's more luxurious cabin and the availability of high-tech features, makes it the more desirable of these two vehicles. For the driver, the Acura is the easy choice.

See Honda Accord Review

Acura TLX Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Acura TLX:

2021 Acura TLX Video Review

Check out some informative Acura TLX video reviews below.

49
Photos
$37,500 - $48,300
Price Range (MSRP)
Acura TLX
Back
To Top