The new Acura TLX aims to reclaim the performance image that once helped Honda’s luxury brand stand out. Along with a stylized design that looks faithful to the concept car, the 2021 TLX marks a return to form of sorts by resurrecting the revered Type S high-performance nameplate. While it’ll feature a a gutsy turbo V-6 engine, the regular version has a potent turbocharged four-cylinder. Acura also offers every model with its effective Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which has become a company staple. A new dedicated platform with a more sophisticated chassis enhances the car’s ride and handling compared with the outgoing model. Likewise, the 2021 Acura TLX receives a snazzier interior that helps it better compete against rivals, such as the BMW 3-series and Cadillac CT5.
Where This Vehicle Ranks
- BMW 3-seriesSTARTING AT $42,245
- Genesis G70STARTING AT $38,570
- Mercedes-Benz C-classSTARTING AT $42,650
- Audi A5 SportbackSTARTING AT $43,445
- BMW 4-seriesSTARTING AT $46,595
- Acura TLXSTARTING AT $38,545
What’s New for 2021?
Acura gives its best-selling TLX sedan a full redesign for 2021. The latest generation was nicknamed the “Seven-Second Knockout” during development, because the company intends it to be significantly more exciting than the version it replaces. The sports sedan gains a more distinct presence from longer, lower, and wider proportions. It also adds more powerful engines, an updated version of SH-AWD, and enhanced chassis components. The storied Type S model also rejoins the lineup for the first time since the 2008 TL, and we’ve been told the badge will proliferate to other Acura models, too.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
One of the best attributes of the 2021 TLX is that it’s an excellent value compared with luxury competitors. To take advantage of this, we’d choose the base model. This means we’re stuck with 18-inch wheels and miss out on many of the fancier features that come with the Advance and A-Spec packages. However, choosing one requires the other and adds $7550 to the bottom line. Although the Technology package includes 19-inch wheels, real leather upholstery, several driver assists, and a host of infotainment upgrades, we don’t think it’s worth $4000. Instead, we’d only opt for the $2000 SH-AWD system that will help maximize the sedan’s agility and all-weather traction.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The regular TLX features a 272-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder lashed to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and Acura’s all-wheel-drive system, which is called SH-AWD and shuffles power among the wheels to improve agility and traction, is optional. Unfortunately, our test car’s two-ton curb weight diminished its acceleration times. While it hit 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, that’s slower than similar setups in this segment and even the less powerful, albeit lighter, Honda Accord 2.0T we tested. Still, the TLX’s terrific chassis tuning made it very entertaining to drive and proved that Acura can still build a sports sedan. This sentiment is especially true of the higher-performance Type S, which boasts a 355-hp turbo 3.0-liter V-6, a responsive 10-speed auto, SH-AWD, and a sportier suspension setup. Unlike the regular TLX, it’s available with stickier summer tires on lighter 20-inch wheels. Our first drive showcased its gutsy engine, engaging steering, terrific body control, and strong brakes. However, it does have a firm ride that doesn’t mask road imperfections, and it didn’t feel as nimble as shorter sporty competitors such as the Audi S4.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the front-drive TLX will earn up to 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Models equipped with SH-AWD see those figures drop to 21 mpg city and 29 highway. For comparison, the Acura’s ratings closely align with front-drive-based rivals such as the VW Arteon. However, the all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder 3-series is significantly more efficient. The TLX Type S is rated at 19 mpg city and 25 highway. We haven’t tested the Type S on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route yet, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, but we’ve run the regular version and saw 30 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the TLX has an expressive design that highlights its sporty character. These include attractive analog gauges and a prominent rotary drive-mode selector in the middle of the dashboard. Solidified by Acura’s excellent build quality, the TLX also boasts nicer cabin materials than its predecessor, including open-pore wood and real aluminum. Although the sedan feels spacious from side-to-side, the back seat feels smaller than some competitors in this class. Still, its highly adjustable front seats and excellent forward visibility reward drivers. The TLX also offers myriad interior colors, distinct leather upholstery, and desirable features. The latter includes a large 10.5-inch head-up display and customizable ambient-lighting settings that are each named after iconic driving destinations and racetracks, such as “Pacific Coast” and “Suzuka”.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every TLX features a 10.2-inch infotainment system that’s primarily controlled through a touchpad on the center console. Some functions can also be manipulated via steering-wheel buttons and physical controls next to the touchpad. There’s also a padded resting place for your wrist below the touchpad that makes it more comfortable to operate. The TLX comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Those who want the fanciest ELS sound system and a wireless charging pad will have to opt for the Advance package.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Every TLX comes standard with AcuraWatch, which includes a host of driver-assistance technology. The sedan also has new equipment, such as traffic-sign recognition and a driver-awareness monitor. For more information about the TLX’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Acura provides one of the longer powertrain warranties on the market, and its limited warranty aligns with most of the TLX’s rivals, such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Mercedes C-class. However, the company doesn’t offer any complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers six years or 70,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED
$49,325 (base price: $40,525)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
122 in3, 1996 cm3
272 hp @ 6500 rpm
280 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
280 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Suspension (F/R): control arms/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 13.0-inch vented disc/13.0-inch disc
Tires: Michelin Primacy A/S, 255/40R-19 96W M+S
Wheelbase: 113.0 in
Length: 194.6 in
Width: 75.2 in
Height: 56.8 in
Passenger volume: 93 ft3
Trunk volume: 14 ft3
Curb weight: 4026 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 5.9 sec
100 mph: 15.3 sec
130 mph: 29.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.5 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.7 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.7 sec
1/4 mile: 14.5 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 131 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 177 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 362 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rolloutof 0.3 sec.
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 24/21/29 mpg