What Is It?
The all-new 2021 Acura TLX is the newest sedan from Honda’s luxury brand, and Acura claims it is the “quickest, best-handling and most well-appointed sedan in the brand’s 35-year history.” Although we operate a few levels below the hyperbolic stratosphere of Acura PR, we can say that the next generation TLX is a great looking sport sedan with an impressive 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and true sport sedan driving dynamics.
Acura provided us with a 2021 TLX A-Spec finished in Apex Blue Pearl with a red leather interior. The test vehicle also included Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive, a Technology Package, and a destination and handling charge bringing the MSRP to $47,775. The TLX 2.0T with front-wheel drive starts at $37,500, and SH-AWD is an additional $2,000. The Technology Package is $4,000 and includes an Acura navigation system with voice recognition, blind-spot Information, a rear cross-traffic monitor, and front and rear parking sensors.
The A-Spec package builds on the Technology Package by adding gloss black /matte black exterior accents, darkened headlights, darkened taillights, a rear spoiler, LED fog lights and Shark Grey 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the A-Spec features perforated Milano Premium Leather sport seats with Ultrasuede trim, heated / ventilated front seats, a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel and an Acura ELS Studio 3D Premium Audio System with 17 speakers. The A-Spec package costs an additional $2,750.
This second-generation Acura TLX closely follows the design of the Type S Concept (shown during Monterey Car Week in August 2019) with a low, wide stance and a high-performance look. The bold, updated diamond pentagon grille is flanked by next-generation Jewel Eye LED headlights. Not only do these design elements make the TLX look wider, the car is actually 2.2 inches wider than the previous version.
The silhouette of the 2021 Acura TLX showcases new hood sculpting and accent lines in the doors that flow into larger rear wheel arches. The flowing roofline gives TLX the look of a fastback and extends almost to the rear edge of the short decklid, with a smooth arch that flows from the base of the windshield to the taillights.
The TLX A-Spec possesses a sporty interior, accentuated in our test car by red leather sport seats and additional red accents on the doors, dash and steering wheel. The center of the dash features a 10.2-inch HD infotainment display with a new implementation of Acura’s True Touchpad Interface in the center console to control navigation, infotainment and vehicle functions. A 7-inch color display in the center of the gauge cluster is standard equipment.
Acura’s Iconic Drive Ambient Cabin Lighting is standard fare for the A-Spec or the Technology Package, and the touchpad can be used to choose between 24 modes inspired by performance driving destinations and racetracks such as Pacific Coast and the Suzuka racing circuit in Japan.
Under the Hood
The standard powerplant for the 2021 Acura TLX is a 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged VTEC engine producing 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The new engine provides a substantial increase in power over the 2.4-liter base engine of the previous model, and even produces more peak torque than the previous optional 3.5-liter V6. (The new 2.0-liter turbo produces 66 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque more than the previous 2.4-liter unit.) Compared to the 3.5-liter V6, the 2.0-liter turbo produces 13 lb-ft more peak torque and even better low-end torque: 48 lb-ft more at 1500 rpm.
Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive
Acura offers the new TLX with the latest version of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive; the high-tech AWD system can send up to 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels. Torque vectoring allows up to 100 percent of that torque to be directed to either the right or left wheel, improving handling and control — particularly during hard cornering
The 2021 Acura TLX gets built on a new dedicated sedan platform with an all-new chassis and body structure that increase torsional stiffness by 50 percent. The new platform is the most rigid ever for an Acura vehicle, with the exception of the brand’s high-performance NSX sports car. The sport-tuned chassis features double wishbone front suspension and electro-servo brake-by-wire technology derived from the NSX.
On the Road
The new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is a fantastic fit for the TLX, providing plenty of power and excellent low-end torque to give the sedan driving dynamics befitting of the sport sedan’s aggressive design. The TLX has four drive modes — Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual — that allow the driver to customize vehicle performance settings as well as ambient lighting. In Normal mode TLX has a sporty demeanor with decent throttle response and clean, smooth shifts. In Sport mode things get amped up with more direct throttle response and lower gears held longer. Comfort mode offers a smoother, quieter experience.
Acura’s bespoke Super Handling All-Wheel Drive not only instills confidence during adverse weather conditions, it also adds a performance advantage by directing more torque to the rear axle to balance performance when needed. When entering corners aggressively, drivers can feel the TLX attack turns with additional torque transferring to the outside rear wheel to provide a feeling of stability and control in sporty driving situations. Acura’s SH-AWD is a must-have option for an optimum driving experience.
The TLX design promises a sporty sedan experience, and the A-Spec interior really delivers on that promise as well, bolstered by the optional red leather interior. The leather and Ultrasuede sport seats are both comfortable and supportive, while the leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel feels right in the driver’s hands with paddles behind for manual shifting. The new touchpad interface for the center display has a bit of a learning curve, but it feels like good tech once a user becomes familiar with the experience. Each spot on the touchpad corresponds to a specific spot on the screen, so it’s simply a different tactile experience than other touchpads.
The 2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD A-Spec is a fine looking, fun-to-drive sport sedan that would be a great choice as an everyday car for a driving enthusiast. However, the biggest challenge TLX faces is a buyer base flocking to crossovers — Acura even offers its own TLX competitor in the RDX crossover. Add established models from luxury brands such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and others, and the 2021 TLX A-Spec is up against some stiff competition.
Acura’s aggressive new design, new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, 10-speed automatic transmission and available SH-AWD create a fun TLX sport sedan that also functions as a practical everyday driver. The A-Spec and Technology packages add to the sporty yet sophisticated appeal of this second-gen sport sedan.