Acura’s sales-leading TLX midsize premium sports sedan is entirely refashioned for 2021 and the overriding first impression is wow, what a beauty.
The new TLX is longer, lower, and wider than the previous model, with more muscular styling, an expansive hood, tapered roofline, extended dash-to-axle ratio, and innovative creases and angles.
Increased structural rigidity and a new chassis with double-wishbone front suspension contribute to giving the new TLX sportier, more responsive handling.
There are three trim levels: base, Tech, A-Spec and Advance. Next spring, a Type S high-performance variant will be introduced.
The previous engines, an inline four-cylinder and a V6, have both been replaced for 2021 by a new 2.0-liter turbo four producing 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are a 66 horsepower and 100 pound-feet gain over the inline four-cylinder, and 13 pound-feet more than the V6 (as well as an additional 48 pound-feet at 1,500 rpm). The upcoming Type S will be powered by a 355-horsepower 3.0 liter V6.
Both new engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the 2021 TLX, and every model is available with Acura’s acclaimed SH-AWD full-time automatic all-wheel drive system. It’s a $2,000 option.
Fuel economy ratings for the four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive are 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. All-wheel drive reduces the numbers by one mile.
Pricing starts at $38,525 including a $1,025 destination charge for the TLX base model with front-wheel drive.
Standard features on the TLX base model include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, 12-way power adjustable and heated front seats with driver-seat memory, synthetic leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting, the AcuraWatch suite of safety and driver assistance technologies, and an infotainment system with 10.2-inch screen, touchpad controller, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, and 10-speaker audio.
My test car was the TLX A-Spec SH-AWD, whose base price is $47,275 including destination and the $2,000 AWD surcharge.
The A-Spec sport package embellishes the TLX with interior and exterior sport appearance upgrades. On the outside they include Shark Grey 19-inch wheels, gloss black accents, darkened headlight and taillight treatments, and a rear spoiler. Inside, they include a standout sport steering wheel, A-Spec badging, synthetic suede seat inserts, and contrast stitching.
Rounding out the A-Spec package are ventilated front seats, wireless phone charger, LED fog lights, and an Acura ELS premium audio system with 17 speakers.
The TLX’s rich interior has styling that coordinates beautifully with that of the exterior. Comfort is first-rate, even for the rear seats. Though there are safety belts for three in the rear, to make TLX a five-passenger sedan, the middle position isn’t suitable for long trips. The two outward seats are contoured, which makes the center position sort of a hump. Even with the car’s sloping roof, there’s plenty of headroom, and with the hump unoccupied, lots of lateral space.
Trunk space is 13.5 cubic feet, not a lot, but rear seats are foldable when extra space is required.
A touchpad in the center console is the primary control for the infotainment system. Rather than functioning like a computer touchpad, it mimics the display screen. So, you press the area on the touchpad that corresponds to the place you’d touch on the display screen if the display screen were a touchscreen, which it is not. Got it? The touchpad seemed finicky and I had trouble using it. My left-handedness puts me at a disadvantage with touchpads in cars. In any case, there are physical control options for the TLX system and those were put to good use during the test week.
Driving the sporty TLX is fun and pleasant. The turbo engine is robust, twisty roads are handled with precision, and the ride is dignified, not loud or rough, at all times.
2021 ACURA TLX A-SPEC SH-AWD
Base price, including destination charge: $47,275
Price as driven: $47,275
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.