2021 Acura TLX

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
September 23, 2020

Buying tip

A step up to the Tech package adds navigation, leather, and other desirable equipment.

features & specs

FWD
FWD w/A-Spec Package
FWD w/Advance Package
MPG
22 city / 31 hwy
MPG
22 city / 30 hwy
MPG
22 city / 31 hwy
MSRP
$37,500
MSRP
$44,250
MSRP
$46,300

The 2021 Acura TLX plants its flag among premium mid-size sedans with a racy design, strong turbocharged engines, and improved dynamics.

What kind of car is the 2021 Acura TLX? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Acura TLX is a mid-size premium sport sedan that offers front-wheel drive and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. It seats five in comfort and exists in a middle space between mainstream sedans and a luxury market dominated by European rivals. In size, competitors include the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but it’s priced more like the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Cadillac CT5 and Lexus ES are the closest rivals for both price and size. 

Is the 2021 Acura TLX a good car?

Review continues below

This time around, the 2021 Acura TLX sculpts a daring shape around zesty turbocharged engines. A stiffer platform and a double-wishbone front suspension contribute to agile handling, and the interior adopts luxury-car materials. We give it a solid score of 7.0, which is likely to increase when crash-test results become public. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Acura TLX?

For 2021, the TLX is no longer an upscale version of the Honda Accord, and instead uses its own dedicated platform. It gets a pair of new engines, and a daring new design that is a dead ringer for the Type S concept car that Acura revealed at Pebble Beach in 2019. That’s a good thing. 

Acura offers the TLX in base, Tech, A-Spec, and Advance trims that really amount to a concise set of options packages. A performance-oriented Type S model will arrive in the spring of 2021. 

By the numbers, the new 2021 TLX is nearly three inches longer from bumper to bumper than the outgoing version, with 3.7 inches added between the wheels. It’s also more than two inches wider and a half-inch lower than the previous model, on-trend with “longer, lower, wider” for every other sedan on the planet. 

The interior of the new TLX isn’t significantly larger, however. That’s due to the long space between the front axle and dash, which was lengthened by 7.8 inches for a sportier look. The cabin still has plenty of room up front and a comfortable rear seat with thigh support not found in most cars these days.

All but the Type S are powered by a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 that replaces both a 2.4-liter inline-4 and a 3.5-liter V-6. It makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, giving it slightly less hp but slightly more torque than the outgoing V-6. When it arrives, the Type S will have a 355-hp 3.0-liter turbo-V-6. Both come exclusively with a 10-speed automatic transmission. 

The TLX sheds its Honda Accord platform for a new dedicated architecture that also trades MacPherson struts for double wishbones up front. Adjustable dampers are available for the first time. These upgrades team with better front/rear weight balance to create a car with sharp moves that drives smaller than its size.

The TLX comes standard with a variety of active safety and driver-assist features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.

How much does the 2021 Acura TLX cost?

The 2021 Acura TLX starts at $38,525 for the base model, and all-wheel drive adds $2,000. Standard features include 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats with driver memory, synthetic leather upholstery, a 10.2-inch center screen with a touchpad controller, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 10-speaker audio system, ambient interior lighting, LED headlights and taillights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. 

The 2021 Acura TLX goes on sale in the fall. 

Where is the Acura TLX made?

In Marysville, Ohio.

8

2021 Acura TLX

Styling

The 2021 Acura TLX takes on a sportier, more emotional design inside and out.

Is the Acura TLX a good-looking car?

The TLX’s new design could be its greatest strength with buyers. A longer dash-to-axle ratio gives the car the look of a rear-drive sedan with a long hood and short deck, and that’s only emphasized by wide shoulders front and rear. We think it looks exceptional on the outside and above average on the inside to qualify as an 8 for styling. 

The 2021 Acura TLX enlists lines, creases, and angles into a more organic shape than its predecessor. The nose, which is larger this year, visually pulls its hood and fenders forward in a shape that gathers at the diamond-patterned grille and hints at its tension. 

Along the sides, the TLX’s long hood and added inches between the dash and front axle hint at a rear-drive preference it doesn’t have. The athletic cabin reaches back toward a short rear decklid and pinched window line. The door handles rise from front to back, which makes the TLX look like a sprinter, poised in the blocks. 

Around back, the high trunk lid spoiler is perched on top of wide taillights, which are stacked on big exhaust ports—or even bigger quad-tipped finishers on the Type S. 

Inside, the TLX uses more right angles to frame its modern interior with a racier motif. The infotainment screen is planted on top of the dash, above air vents and climate controls, and a center stack dramatically drops to the armrest. Acura’s center-mounted, push-button shifter controls the 10-speed automatic transmission and a rotary knob for driving modes figures into the middle. It’s not as big as a similar setup used in the NSX, but still dominates precious real estate.

Review continues below
7

2021 Acura TLX

Performance

The 2021 Acura TLX boasts a stiff structure and improved balance that help it drive smaller than its size.

Acura injects more sport into its mid-size sport sedan for 2021 and replaces its base engine with a stronger turbo-4 that is a match for the outgoing V-6. It’s a large car that handles smaller than its size, and that’s aided by a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system that can send power to the outside rear wheel. We rate it a 7 for performance based on its strong engine and agile moves. 

Is the Acura TLX 4WD?

The 2021 Acura TLX comes standard with front-wheel drive and offers optional all-wheel drive that can send 70 percent of the power to the rear and all of that power to the outside rear wheel to improve handling. 

How fast is the Acura TLX?

Under the hood, the TLX is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 or a 3.0-liter turbo V-6. The base engine makes 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, increases of 66 hp and 100 lb-ft over the base engine in last year’s TLX and 13 lb-ft of torque versus the outgoing V-6. 

Acura isn’t quoting a 0-60 mph time, but it should be in the high 5-second range, making it as fast as the previous V-6. The turbo makes the power available early, and it stays on tap thanks to the smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission. An overly present exhaust note—especially in Sport mode—is the only downside, though enthusiasts might appreciate it.

A 3.0-liter V-6 will produce 355 horsepower in the Type S model and should cut the 0-60 mph time into the mid-to-high 4-second range. 

Acura makes key changes to improve the TLX’s handling. Its structure is 50 percent stiffer than the outgoing car and it’s twice as stiff where the suspension meets the body. That suspension now has double wishbones up front instead of MacPherson struts and offers adjustable, adaptive dampers for the first time. 

The work pays off with quick, stable steering and sharper responses from the chassis. The Advance trim’s adjustable dampers provide a varying ride quality that always stays controlled and never becomes too firm. While the TLX is still somewhat nose-heavy and that will lead to pushing when driven fast into turns, its torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system can make up for some of that. The brakes are strong, with a high, firm pedal, but we’ll look to the Type S for track-ready brakes. 

The TLX is fun to drive and comfortable, though its handling can’t quite match more-expensive rear-drive-based rivals. It also delivers willing power even in its base model. Its dynamics are improved in every way versus the car it replaces.

Review continues below
8

2021 Acura TLX

Comfort & Quality

Good space and high-quality materials make the 2021 Acura TLX’s cabin a comfortable environment for the driver and passengers.

The TLX takes a step forward in interior quality if not space. That’s OK because it still serves passengers well front and rear. We rate it an 8 for its comfortable first and second rows and the luxury-car worthy materials found throughout the cabin.

The TLX’s fit, finish, and materials are all worthy of a car costing thousands more, and buyers can choose a color scheme that fits their personality. The A-Spec and Type S look racy, while lighter colors create a serene environment in other models. Synthetic leather is standard, but real leather is available and the A-Spec model adds synthetic suede seat inserts and contrast stitching. The stitching is toned down to match the upholstery in other models, but it’s still there and the wood and metal trim all look and feel great.

Acura offers lots of front seat adjustments to make occupants comfortable. The standard seats have 12-way power adjustments and seat heating, and the Advance model adds 16-way thrones. Both accommodate wider frames while also providing enough support for aggressive driving. 

The rear seat is better than most found in mid-size cars because the longer seat bottoms provide excellent thigh support. The car is also wide enough to fit three passengers across without jostling for room. Still, those taller than 6-feet might want more leg room.

Only the trunk is a disappointment with a small opening created by the short deck and a relatively tight 13.5 cubic feet of space. However, folding rear seatbacks make it more useful.

Review continues below

2021 Acura TLX

Safety

Expect the 2021 Acura TLX to score well in industry safety tests.

How safe is the Acura TLX?

Acura aims for top crash test scores with the 2021 TLX but it hasn’t been tested yet by federal or independent crash-test agencies. While it comes standard with a healthy set of safety features, we can’t give a safety score without those test results. 

The 2021 Acura TLX comes standard with forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, a driver-attention monitor, traffic sign recognition, and automatic high beams. Also available are blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and front and rear parking sensors. The TLX comes with next-generation front airbags developed by parent company Honda designed to reduce injuries in sharply angled front crashes.

Review continues below
7

2021 Acura TLX

Features

The 2021 Acura TLX comes well equipped in a simple lineup.

Acura offers a small lineup for the TLX that makes choosing a car very simple. The TLX has a strong list of standard equipment, but no optional features. We rate it a 7 for features based on its plentiful features set and appealing additional equipment on higher trims. The large center screen would also add to our score, but it’s offset by a balky infotainment interface.

The 2021 Acura TLX lineup consists of base, Tech package, A-Spec, and Advance package trims. A TLX Type S with more power and greater performance is also coming in spring 2021. 

Which Acura TLX should I buy?

We recommend spending an additional $4,000 for the $42,525 Tech package trim. It adds navigation with real-time traffic information, leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, a 13-speaker ELS audio system, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and front and rear parking sensors. We also recommend spending the $2,000 for the slick-road security and handling benefits of all-wheel drive.

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Acura TLX?

The 2021 Acura TLX Advance trim costs $47,325 with front-wheel drive and $49,325 with all-wheel drive. When it arrives, the TLX Type S will be the most-expensive model with a price in the mid-to-low $50,000s.

The Advance trim comes with adjustable dampers, remote starting, power folding mirrors with puddle lights, rain-sensing wipers, a surround-view camera system, 16-way power-adjustable front sport seats, open-pore wood trim, a head-up display, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. 

All TLXs come with a 10.2-inch center screen that’s controlled by a touchpad. The driver’s finger position on the pad correlates to the position of the controls on the center screen. It’s hard to get used to and requires more time in thought than we prefer.

Review continues below
5

2021 Acura TLX

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Acura TLX is efficient for its size and power.

Is the Acura TLX good on gas?

Given its power and size, the 2021 Acura TLX is fairly efficient. With front-wheel drive, it is EPA rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined. That earns it a 5 on our scale. 

The front-drive A-Spec trim is slightly less efficient with ratings of 22/30/25 mpg. All-wheel drive also reduces fuel economy to 21/29/24 mpg. 

The more-powerful TLX Type S model does not yet have fuel economy ratings.

Review continues below
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$37,500
MSRP based on FWD
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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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2021 Acura TLX Pricing Insights

  • Redesigned 2021 TLX is here
  • Rebate: Up to $5,000 off (2020)
  • Lease: From $279/mo. (Loyalty, 2020)
  • Finance: 0.9% APR or cash (2020)
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