We Like The 2021 Acura TLX, But Here's Why We're Waiting For The Type S

Opinion / Comments

The TLX is much improved, but it's not perfect.

The 2021 Acura TLX arrived earlier this year, completely redesigned to take on the crowded compact luxury sedan segment. Acura let the outgoing TLX get pretty long in the tooth, so this second-generation model is a major improvement with lots to offer current owners. But along with the standard TLX, Acura is also slated to bring back its sorely missed Type S brand with a performance TLX model aimed squarely at the Audi S4.

The Type S is not yet available, but we recently had the opportunity to test the second-sportiest option in the TLX range, the A-Spec model. It doesn't offer any significant performance upgrades over a standard TLX, but it does boost the visual appeal with sportier exterior accents and a racier interior. There's a lot to love about the 2021 TLX A-Spec, but it's not perfect. Here's what we loved about it, and why we would just as soon wait for the Type S model.

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Love The New Proportions

The new TLX might share some familiar design cues with the outgoing model, but it has changed significantly in many important ways. This is still a sedan with a front-wheel-drive-based layout, but Acura's designers gave it the proportions of a rear-wheel-drive car. The wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer, with a 2.2-inch longer body. Most importantly, the dash-to-axel ratio (the amount of space between the A-pillar and the front axle) is a whopping 7.8 inches longer.

All of these proportional changes add up to create a dynamic design, especially in the A-Spec trim that adds lots of black accents, a rear spoiler, and dark grey wheels. The old TLX wasn't exactly frumpy, but this new model is nevertheless an appreciable improvement.

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Smaller Than An Accord

Despite growing in size, the TLX is smaller inside than its mainstream counterpart, the Honda Accord. The TLX's back seat only provides 34.9 inches of legroom, which is less than what's offered in the BMW 3 Series. For comparison, the Accord offers a whopping 40.4 inches in the back, rivaling many full-size cars. It's a similar story behind the rear seats, where the TLX's trunk houses just 13.5 cubic feet of space. The Accord offers 16.7 cubic feet of storage, while the 3 Series provides 17 cubic feet. If practicality is a concern, the Accord offers more space at a lower price.

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Better Technology

Acura's previous dual-screen infotainment system was slow, clunky, and even with the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cumbersome to use. Acura's new True Touchpad Interface, which first arrived on the RDX, is a massive improvement. Like the Lexus Remote Touch System, it's controlled using a laptop-style trackpad on the center console. But unlike the Lexus pad, Acura's is easier to use on the move because tapping on a section immediately corresponds to that area on the screen. It's still not the most intuitive system out there, but it's in a different league compared to the dual-screen setup.

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Expecting More From The A-Spec

After loving the RDX A-Spec, we had high expectations for the TLX as a thrilling sports sedan. Unfortunately, we were only partially satisfied. The TLX's base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder delivers 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which certainly sounds like enough on paper. Thanks to some augmentation from the car's audio system, it even sounds better in a literal sense than the 2.0-liter turbo in the Civic Type R. But on the trot, the TLX's bulk makes it feel sluggish compared to other four-cylinder competitors. Even the Accord, which uses a less potent version of the TLX's engine, feels quicker.

When it's time for the twisties, the TLX handles confidently thanks to Acura's impeccable Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, which can deliver up to 70% of the torque to the rear wheels. The chassis is well-balanced, too, further inspiring confidence in the driver. Sadly, much of that confidence is washed away by the A-Spec's all-season tires. This car is fun enough to warrant summer rubber, but the all-seasons included from the factory let loose at anything more than a seven-tenths pace.

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The Price Is Attractive

At $37,500 to start, the TLX is not the least expensive car in the compact luxury sedan segment. This puts Acura at a slight disadvantage at the base level, because the TLX has long existed as a value alternative to European sports sedans. But if a customer plans to climb further up the options ladder, the TLX's value proposition begins to shine through. Opting for the well-equipped A-Spec package only adds $2,750 to the price, and even after equipping the SH-AWD system for $2,000 more, the TLX rings in at $46,750. Try optioning a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class with similar options for under $50,000. Spoiler alert: it can't be done.

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Holding Out For The Type S

Like the outgoing model, we see the TLX as a fine option for buyers who want a sports sedan with a dynamic design and AWD traction for less than $50,000. But if it were our money, we'd hold out for the upcoming TLX Type S. The TLX Type S will make its long-awaited debut next year, packing a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. In addition to the extra oomph, the sportier model will also pack a stiffer suspension and summer tires. The Type S will start at around $50,000 - about the same price as an S4 - but we have no doubt that it will include more standard features for the money.

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