2021 Acura TLX

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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.

Read in this review:

8.2
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2021 Acura TLX Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 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high-tech cabin offers more hip and shoulder room than before, while the previous dual-screen infotainment system has been replaced by the True Touchpad Interface with a single 10.2-inch HD display.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 2021 Acura TLX

2021 Acura TLX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0T
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,500
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
Type S
3.0L Turbo V6 Gas
10-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$53,100
See All 2021 Acura TLX Trims and Specs

2021 TLX Exterior

2021 Acura TLX Forward View CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Acura TLX Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • 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

  • Performance Red Pearl +$500
  • Majestic Black Pearl +$500
  • Platinum White Pearl +$500
  • Phantom Violet Pearl +$500
  • Apex Blue Pearl +$500
  • Tiger Eye Pearl +$500
  • Lunar Silver Metallic
  • Modern Steel Metallic
  • Fathom Blue Pearl

2021 TLX Performance

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

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 3.0L Turbo V6 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.

2021 TLX Interior

2021 Acura TLX Dashboard CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • 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

2021 TLX Trunk and Cargo Space

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

2021 TLX Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

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.

2021 Acura TLX Comparisons

Acura ILX Acura
Honda Accord Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Acura TLX355 hp19/24 mpg$39,650
Acura ILX 201 hp24/34 mpg$27,300
Honda Accord 252 hp22/32 mpg$26,520

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

2021 Acura TLX Popular Comparisons

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