- 2021 Acura TLX ($37,500- $53,100)
- “Best Luxury Sedan” – 2021 MotorWeek Driver’s Choice Awards
- “Top Safety Pick +” Award – IIHS
- 5-Star Overall Safety Rating – NHTSA
- Pro: The 2021 Acura TLX is all-new and boasts edgy styling inside and out as well as new powerful engine options.
- Con: It’s a mid-sized sedan that might be too big for some buyers.
Acura debuted the TLX in 2015 as its mid-size sedan entrant to replace the aging TL. Now in its second generation, the TLX has been redesigned from the ground up and aims to be “the most performance-focused sedan Acura has offered,” according to the Japanese automaker. After spending some time in both the A-Spec and Type S trim levels, I can say that the Acura definitely hit the mark.
What hasn’t changed, though, is the value proposition that the Acura TLX presents in the luxury mid-size segment. Going toe-to-toe with rivals like the Audi A4, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Acura TLX undercuts them in terms of pricing, however, it offers the same type of tech, power, and panache.
The 2021 Acura TLX offers up a sophisticated and sharp new look
Some may think that the 2021 Acura TLX looks too aggressive with its sharp angles and bold features. But I think it looks really athletic and sophisticated. Acura has always been good at designing its cars with a timeless look and this new TLX is no exception. Its honeycomb grille doesn’t look too imposing and the Jewel Eye LED headlights that accompany it give the car a sleek look from the front.
Walking around the car, it’s safe to say that the overall design looks busy with all of those curvatures, but somehow, it all just fits. Even the elongated LED taillights look futuristic, but classy, which is typically a detail that’s hard for car designers to get right. The TLX has grown a little as well as its wheelbase is three inches longer than its predecessor (194.6 inches).
According to Kelley Blue Book, that larger size puts the 2021 TLX in Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series territory, which could be too large for some buyers in the mid-size segment that it resides in.
The Acura TLX’s interior is sleek and detail-oriented
The aforementioned larger wheelbase is beneficial for the five passengers that the 2021 TLX can carry. There’s plenty of leg and headroom for the front seat passengers and rear-seat passengers won’t suffer, which is impressive considering the car’s sloping roofline. Even the middle-seat passenger can find some comfort, as long as they are no taller than five feet.
Speaking of comfort, I found the front seats to be extra supportive as they contour well to the occupant and provide a lot of cushioning for long drives. Additionally, the flat-bottom steering wheel that can be found on both the A-Spec and Type S trims is a nice touch. There are even metallic or wooden trims that complement the look depending on which trim level you pick.
In case you’re wondering if that trim is real, KBB reported that the execs at Acura proclaimed, “If it looks like metal, it’s metal. And if it looks like wood, it’s wood.” They’re always so great at paying attention to the finer details because that’s what matters the most.
Which Acura TLX trim level is right for you?
For the 2021 model year, the Acura TLX is available in five different trim levels: Standard, Technology, A-Spec, Advance, and Type S. There are currently nine different exterior colors to choose from and six different interior colors, depending on which trim configuration you choose.
My tester for the week was a TLX Type S shod in Performance Red Pearl with a black interior. But I also spent some time in a 2021 TLX A-Spec that was painted Modern Steel Metallic and came with a snazzy red interior.
What features does the Acura TLX come with?
Acura likes to value pack its vehicles based on its respective trim levels, which makes it easier for buyers to pick the right configuration for them. As such, the standard TLX includes a keyless entry with push-button start, leatherette upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, and LED lighting.
Stepping up to the Technology trim will give you a leather interior, navigation, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, 19-inch wheels, and a 13-speaker ELS premium audio system. If you want an even sportier look to your TLX, then opting for the A-Spec trim will dress it up with a sporty appearance package that includes darker wheels.
Although, it also includes tech-rich features like a 17-speaker ELS audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, remote engine start, a wireless phone charger, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
The top-trim TLX Advance adds an adaptive damper system that the driver can control with the twist of the knob in the center console, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a head-up display, and a surround-view camera.
Lastly, the TLX Type S is outfitted like the A-Spec model as it doesn’t include features like the surround-view camera, heated steering wheel, or heated rear seats. For the jump in price, you’re basically paying for the car’s performance with this trim, but we’ll cover that later.
How does the TLX handle?
The Acura TLX handles exceptionally well given its length and larger size. The TLX’s double-wishbone suspension up front and multi-link rear suspension allow it to rotate well in sharp corners when under load, but also give it a comfortable ride at highway speeds. While you might think that the TLX would ride rough, it doesn’t, even in Type S guise.
Of course, that trim level’s adaptive suspension helps a lot, especially when you put the car in “comfort mode.” However, even when you throw it into “Sport +,” the TLX feels very composed and light on its feet as the steering and suspension tighten up and the throttle is more responsive.
Furthermore, the TLX is available in either front-wheel-drive form or it can be outfitted with the brand’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system that vectors torque between wheels for better handling in any corner. Of course, I suggest the latter, especially if you live in a snow state.
No matter the trim level, the Acura TLX does not lack in the performance category
Every TLX trim level, except for the Type S, comes with the same engine under the hood: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. This engine produces 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, which is 13 more lb-ft than the outgoing V6 engine found in the first-generation TLX. You can definitely feel it as the mid-range power is enough to pull the car out of corners and onto the highway with ease.
But if you need more power, then the TLX Type S is what you seek. This enthusiast-oriented trim comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that pushes out 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, which is good for 0-60 times of 4.9 seconds according to Car and Driver’s testing. That engine, just like the base model, is matched to a 10-speed automatic transmission that can be quickly shifted via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
Having driven both engine configurations, I can say that they are both smooth and powerful in their own rights. However, it goes without saying that the Type S engine is a monster on the backroads once you get it wound up to the higher end of the powerband. Coupled with a rumbling exhaust note, the turbo 3.0-liter adds a heaping amount of gusto that your daily drive never knew it needed.
But if your daily drive necessitates better fuel economy, then you’ll want to go with the smaller engine, which garners an EPA-estimated 22 city/31 mpg highway in front-drive form and 21 city/29 highway mpg in all-wheel-drive form. As for the TLX Type S, the EPA estimates that it can achieve up to 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. During my time with it, I averaged 20 mpg in mixed driving situations in addition to having a heavy foot.
The Acura TLX is a very safe sedan
When it comes to safety, the beauty of the 2021 Acura TLX is that you don’t need to step up to higher trims to get some of the advanced features. As such, every TLX comes standard with the brand’s AcuraWatch suite of driver-assist features. That suite includes features like a Collision Mitigation Braking System, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, traffic jam assist, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning.
If you want other safety features like parking sensors, blind-spot detection, and a rear-cross traffic alert, then you’ll need to step up to at least the Technology trim level. All of these safety features attributed to the 2021 TLX winning the highly-coveted “Top Safety Pick +” award from the IIHS and even garnered it an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA.
Is the 2021 Acura TLX expensive to maintain?
Acura vehicles have always been renowned for their reliability and affordable maintenance and the 2021 TLX is no exception. Car Edge reports that it should cost an average of $2,019 for maintenance during the first five years of ownership. However, TLX owners can rest easy for the first few years when it comes to unforeseen repairs as the TLX comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty in addition to a 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The 2021 Acura TLX is a well-balanced luxury sedan packed with value
Ultimately, if you’re in the market for a mid-size luxury sedan, then you’ll get more than you bargained for with the 2021 Acura TLX. The car’s elegantly edgy styling, plush interior, and potent powertrains make it a force to be reckoned with when going head-to-head with its German rivals. When it comes to mixing luxury with sporty at an affordable price, there’s not much better out there than the Acura TLX.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Acura TLX an expert rating of 8.2 out of 10
The editors at MotorBiscuit gave the 2021 Acura TLX an overall rating of 8.2 out of 10. The Acura TLX is better than ever for this new model year and offers up a complete package in terms of styling and power. It also presents a great value over other competitors in the segment.