The Car Connection Acura TLX Overview
The Acura TLX is a mid-size four-door luxury sedan. Slotted between the ILX and RLX sedans, it replaced the former TSX and TL four-doors in 2015 and receives a redesign for 2021.
With the TLX, Acura has a rival for sedans such as the Cadillac CT5, Volvo S60, and Lexus ES. It's sized like a BMW 5-Series, but priced like a 3-Series.
MORE: Read our 2021 Acura TLX review
The new TLX
The TLX is bigger, bolder, more attractive, and more luxurious for 2021. It grows in length by 2.9 inches, is wider by 2.2 inches, and rides a 3.7-inch longer wheelbase. The track grows by 1.2 inches up front and 1.5 inches in the rear, and the dash-to-axle length increases by 7.8 inches to give the car a rear-drive look despite continued use of front- or all-wheel drive.
The TLX's styling is a dead ringer for the Type S concept car Acura showed at Pebble Beach in 2019. It has wider shoulders, a sporty long hood/short deck profile, and lines that flow from a refined version of Acura's five-pointed grille.
Despite the bold new look, the main changes come under the skin where the TLX gets its own dedicated platform no longer shared with the Honda Accord. It switches from MacPherson struts up front to double wishbones and adds available adjustable dampers for the first time. The body structure has 50% more torsional stiffness and is twice as stiff where the suspension bolts to it.
Under the hood, the TLX switches to a pair of turbocharged engines that replace a 206-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4 and a 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6. A new 2.0-liter turbo-4 stands in for both of them on standard-line cars. It makes 272 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque, providing performance in line with the outgoing V-6. A new twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 powers the Type S model. It makes 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles.
The Type S is aimed at performance, with not only more power but bigger Brembo brakes, available summer performance tires, adjustable dampers, and a Sport+ driving mode. It's also available exclusively with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system that can send up to 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels and all of the rear power to the outside wheel in turns to aid handling. The same system is available throughout the lineup.
The other TLX trims consist of base, Tech package, A-Spec, and Advance package. The A-Spec gets a sportier look but no additional performance equipment. The Advance also comes with the adjustable dampers.
Inside, the 2021 Acura TLX sports a more upscale feel with updated technology. The materials quality is higher and the center screen grows to 10.2 inches, but the screen is still controlled by a touchpad with absolute positioning technology.
All models come standard with forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, traffic-sign recognition, automatic high beams, and a driver-attention monitor. Acura also offers front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.
Acura TLX History
With a more expressive sense of style, the 2015 Acura TLX came across as a handsome update on the themes from then-current Acura products. It was neither offensive nor terribly exciting, though it looked much more balanced than former Acura four-doors that wore a beaky, pointed grille.
Acura offered the TLX with a choice of two engines. Base models came with a 206-hp 2.4-liter inline-4 paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For a little extra, buyers could choose a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 290 hp and mated to a 9-speed automatic. V-6 versions also had cylinder-deactivation technology that could shut off three cylinders to save fuel under lighter loads, such as cruising on the highway.
Front-wheel-drive versions of the TLX had one noteworthy piece of technology handed down from the top-of-the-line RLX sedan: all-wheel steering, which turned the rear wheels slightly to either add maneuverability at low speeds or aid stability at higher speeds. All-wheel drive was available on V-6 models, and it had the ability to shift power across its rear axle for better traction.
Dedicated drive modes allowed drivers to cater the driving experience to their desires. As part of a so-called Integrated Dynamics System, the TLX had Econ, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings, with each one affecting power-steering calibration, throttle response, transmission shifts, Active Noise Control settings, climate control operation, and the calibration of the all-wheel drive or rear-wheel steering system.
The first-generation TLX was about 190 inches long, which was close to the former TSX's measurement, but its 109.3-inch wheelbase carried over from the TL. The TLX was just as roomy inside as the TL—in other words, still a bit roomier in back than the German sport sedans in this size class. Active Noise Control helped keep the cabin quiet, as did new body-sealing and sound-insulation measures.
An array of accident-avoidance technologies were baked into the TLX. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors were available on top-of-the-line versions. The TLX achieved a top five-star overall rating from the federal government, and mostly top "Good" scores from the IIHS, except for an "Acceptable" rating on the small-overlap crash test.
Priced from the low $30,000 range, the TLX came standard with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
In 2018, Acura refreshed the TLX and gave the sedan a new grille, a new infotainment system, and a new sporty A-Spec trim line for models equipped with a V-6.
In 2019, Acura gave the A-Spec treatment to inline-4 versions. The only change for 2020 was the addition of a new limited-edition model with special red paint that was hand-assembled at the Acura NSX plant in Ohio.