Acura delivers an all-new TLX sedan and the results are in.
Acura may not get the attention received by Mercedes-Benz or BMW, but its small collection of vehicles gives it a stake nonetheless. As Honda’s premium brand, Acura builds on the company’s stellar reputation by delivering cars and utility vehicles that combine value with excellence. The 2021 TLX is one such example, a midsize premium sports sedan that’s all-new this year.
The 2021 Acura TLX seats five and features standard front-wheel drive. Offered in one trim, the TLX costs $37,500, plus a $925 destination charge. Three package choices and available all-wheel drive keep its final price below $50,000 or within range of the competition.
New for 2021
Introduced in 2015, the original TLX shared its platform with the midsize Honda Accord. It’s the successor of two other Acura models that also shared the Accord’s architecture. This year, Acura introduced an all-new platform specifically for the TLX. The new model is longer and wider than before and it sits slightly lower to the ground. It follows a trend we’ve seen with luxury vehicles in recent years.
The 2021 TLX was designed not only to replace the previous model, but to serve as the substitute for the now-canceled and larger RLX sedan. The RLX was never a strong seller, but those customers may find the improved TLX contains some of the key luxury elements they prefer.
With a new platform on hand, Acura set out to design a reimagined TLX to align closer to competing models. Its long hood, sloping roofline, and short rear deck are attributes of note. Its stance is muscular, yet elegant. The brand’s signature crest grille is larger and pressed in by “jewel eye” LED lights. Sweeping character lines, handsome wheel choices, and a pushed-up rear fascia are features of distinction.
Inside, the TLX seats five with very comfortable chairs up front and a 60/40 split fold-down couch in the rear. The interior is uncluttered and uncomplicated. Although when dressed with the available open-pore wood, metallic trim, and leather seats, the look is exquisite. Acura builds on Honda’s legendary quality standards with a fit and finish that’s second to none.
The front seats lack no good thing with excellent back and hip support along with adjustable settings, heating, and available cooling. The rear outboard seats offer heating as well. You can fit three back there, but we’d prefer to keep that middle space empty and drop down the armrest instead. A small 13.5 cubic foot trunk is the only disappointment.
Tech & Safety Features
Acura includes all the tech and safety features you’d expect. On the tech front, a 10.2-inch display screen is standard as is smartphone compatibility and a 10-speaker audio system. One of two ESL audio packages provides 13- or 17-speaker sound coverage to the delight of all.
On the safety front, Acura includes nearly everything as standard equipment under its AcuraWatch designation. Forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and road departure mitigation are designed to keep you and your loved ones safe. The cherry on top of the safety treat is the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the prestigious Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This IIHS rating is awarded to few models, although it’s coveted by many.
You can no longer get a V6 engine with the TLX, but hold on: one will arrive later this year when the range-topping Type S debuts.
For now, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will do and it gets the job done well. With an output of 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the performance is there. A 10-speed automatic transmission transmits power to the wheels.
Our test A-Spec model came with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. The SH-AWD is a $2,000 upgrade that features torque vectoring technology. In other words, when engaging in spirited driving, such as navigating twisty roads or while cornering, a significant amount of power is transferred to the outside rear wheel, ensuring the TLX’s stability. Without SH-AWD the sedan’s backside would wiggle under these conditions and that’s not something you want to experience when controlling a car.
We found the TLX lives up to its reputation with ample step-off acceleration and passing power. But first, we needed to get used to the weird transmission control layout with its switches and buttons serving as the controls. We’re not a fan and we think most customers won’t like it as well.
The engine is small, but it makes its presence known when switching to sport mode. While operating in sport mode, the exhaust burbles, the steering tightens, and the transmission’s shift points extend, ramping up the engine’s RPMs. This “little engine that could” shows its performance side and we couldn’t be happier. Add in a comfortable and otherwise quiet ride, and the TLX is a gamer.
As for the upcoming V6, this twin-turbo engine will be unique to the Type S. With an output of 355 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive, this one should be track-ready.
While we typically encourage people to stick with front-wheel drive when that’s the standard offering, we think opting for all-wheel drive is the better choice here. The added handling benefit enables this sedan to keep up with the Europeans who dominate the segment.
Just keep an eye on the package choices as all those extra amenities can add thousands of dollars to your final cost.
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