“The 2021 Acura TLX represents the latest step in Acura’s return to the performance brand it started out as,” says Jon Ikeda, Acura’s Brand Officer and architect of the Acura revival over the past 5 years. He also reaffirmed Acura’s dedication to the luxury sedan. “Acura is a performance brand and will not abandon the sedan market. Sedans are what’s left for real performance fans.”
This return to Acura’s roots includes the latest marketing campaign (”Less Talk, More Drive”), multiple race-winning supercars, and a model line incorporating more advanced technology and more aggressive styling. The 2021 Acura TLX reflects all of these shifts in direction, giving Acura’s all-new entry-luxury sedan more performance and presence. Both elements are obvious as soon as you approach the TLX, with its wider stance, crisper body lines, and intense exterior lighting (even when they’re not lit).
2021 Acura TLX: Engineered For Performance
Ikeda also emphasized the new TLX was engineered from the start with the high-performance Type S (arriving in the spring of 2021) in mind. This means everything from the TLX’s chassis and suspension design to interior and exterior styling is designed to support the Type S’ elevated performance demands. Chassis features include a stronger center tunnel structure, a new double-wishbone front suspension, and an NSX-derived electro-servo brake system. The result is the stiffest-ever Acura sedan body structure (50 percent higher torsional rigidity than the previous TLX) and dynamic performance upgrades you can sense immediately.
If the ultra-stiff chassis and exterior styling are the headlines for the all-new 2021 Acura TLX, the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine is the plot twist. Replacing the previous TLX’s four- and six-cylinder engines with a single 2.0-liter meant to cover the needs of both sounds risky. But this new 4-cylinder offers 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, that’s 48 more lb-ft than the outgoing V6, and 66 more horsepower and 98 more lb-ft of torque than the previous 4. These numbers are also delivered over a wider rpm range than the previous engines. Add in the new 10-speed transmission, which replaces the previous 9-speed, and the result is excellent throttle response and strong forward thrust.
How does the 2021 Acura TLX Drive?
The styling, chassis, and drivetrain upgrades all come together in the 2021 TLX, creating a luxury sedan that drives as well as it looks. It’s wide track, upgraded double-wishbone front suspension, and revised variable-ratio steering system take full advantage of the stiff chassis. Tackling twisty pavement illustrates the platform’s strength and the revised suspension and steering, while the engine’s broad torque band allows for a strong drive out of corners, especially if Acura’s trademark Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system is in place. SH-AWD can send up to 70 percent of torque to the rear wheels while sending up to 100 percent to either the right or left wheels, given the TLX additional confidence on wet or dry pavement.
The downside to the 2021 TLX’s larger, wider body and stronger chassis is increased weight, especially if SH-AWD is in place. Official numbers are available yet, but estimate put curb weight between 3,800 and 4,100 pounds. Acura did its best to counter TLX weight through the use of aluminum damper mounts, aluminum fenders, and relocating the battery to the trunk for better weight distribution. And it’s not that the TLX feels heavy from the driver’s seat. Quite the contrary, actually. But tire squeal and body movement in tight corners, at least when driven rapidly, betrays the mass involved. Admittedly, this is a level of driving most owners will rarely, if ever, partake. Stickier rubber and stiffer suspension settings should counteract both issues. Did we mention the imminent arrival of the TLX Type S, due in spring?
2021 Acura TLX Interior Design
Acura describes the new TLX’s cabin as “the most premium interior ever offered in an Acura sedan. The wide seats and high-tech features sustain the sedan’s exterior themes. The seats don’t just look wide, they take advantage of the TLX’s larger size to offer hip and shoulder room on par with an A6, 5 Series or E-Class. The rear seat is similarly broad, though legroom might be tight for full-size adults sitting behind full-size adults.
Beyond supple leather with contrasting stitching, the TLX offers wood and metal interior trim made of…real wood and real metal. These premium materials are enhanced by what Acura calls “Iconic Drive Lighting”, a colorful term for the TLX’s 27 interior lighting themes. Three of these themes are tied to the TLX’s driving modes (Comfort, Normal, Sport), with 24 additional options touting names like “Route 66” or “Baja Hwy 1” or “Suzuka”. As with exterior lighting, modern technology has given automotive engineers an entirely new set of toys to play with. And playing they are.
There’s more than premium material and creating lighting going on inside the new TLX. High-tech features range from the standard 10.2-inch HD touchscreen, in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to an optional 17-speaker, 710-watt Elliot Scheiner 3D audio system capable of decoding 5-channel audio. Luxury buyers have come to expect high-end sound in their vehicles, and they’re rarely disappointed. But Acura’s ELS systems often feel a cut above the competition, and the 2021 TLX continues this tradition. If you’re a serious audiophile you need to test-drive the car just to hear this system.
How Much Does the 2021 Acura TLX Cost?
The 2021 Acura TLX is priced at $37,500 for the base model. Standard equipment on the base TLX includes LED exterior lighting, 12-way power front seats, 18-inch wheels, and a 10-speaker audio system. This model also provides the AcuraWatch standard safety and convenience equipment, including automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and road and lane departure mitigation. Four new AcuraWatch features debut on the new TLX — traffic sign recognition, driver-attention monitor, expanded pedestrian detection, and traffic jam assist. Acura says these are $3,000 to $6,000 options on its competitors.
The TLX Tech trim starts at $41,500 and adds navigation, GPS-linked climate control, front and rear parking sensors, blind sport warning 19-inch wheels, premium leather seats and a 13-speaker ELS audio system. The A-Spec trim costs $44,500 and includes the Sport Appearance Package (darkened headlights and taillight, matte exterior trim, shark grey 19-inch wheels, rear spoiler), plus LED fog lights, a flat-bottom steering wheel, contrast stitching, wireless phone charging, heated and ventilated seats and the aforementioned 17-speaker ELS audio system.
The top TLX trim, Advance, costs $46,300 and adds Acura’s Adaptive Damping suspension system, a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, power-folding exterior mirrors, remote engine start, a surround-view camera, 16-way power front seats, and a full-color head-up display system. Every TLX trim is available with Acura’s Super-Handling All Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) for an additional $2,000. Seven exterior and four interior colors are available, plus Apex Blue with a red or ebony interior offered on A-Spec models only.
Is the 2021 Acura TLX a Good Luxury Sedan?
The new TLX’s solid chassis, attractive styling and value pricing make it a worthwhile consideration in the highly competitor entry-luxury sedan category. Acura is going up against heavy hitters, including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Each of them makes a compelling argument for different reasons, but if you’re looking for the best value in a capable, attractive luxury sedan, with exceptional safety technology, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, and a class-leading audio system thrown in for good measure, the TLX is your best option.