Acura TLX breathes new life into luxury car segment

The 2021 TLX carries a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) starting at $37,500. Designed, developed and manufactured by a team of Acura associates in Ohio and California, it is built on an all-new, Acura-exclusive platform. Metro News Service photo
The 2021 TLX carries a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) starting at $37,500. Designed, developed and manufactured by a team of Acura associates in Ohio and California, it is built on an all-new, Acura-exclusive platform. Metro News Service photo

My tester this week isn’t just a redesign. It’s a rebuild/redesign from the ground up. And that’s a good thing as it all but creates a new car. And it’s nice to say that word – car.

Cars seem to be passé now, having fallen out of favor with the American consumer. It’s a shame really because I’m a big fan of cars, especially luxurious, sporty ones.

Enter the 2021 Acura TLX. I hadn’t been behind the wheel of an Acura car in a couple years and I forgot how much I enjoyed them. With this all-new TLX, it merely reinforced how performance-oriented and deluxe this car is.

Kudos to Acura, Honda’s premium brand, on a job well-done as the Ohio-built TLX checks off many of the boxes you’d want from a luxury sedan.

The TLX oozes class. If you think it’s just a glorified Honda, you’d be wrong. There’s nothing in the Honda family that has the distinctive look of the TLX. Remember when Acura used to have a “beaky” front end? That’s gone, but if you squint you can still see a little remnant of that. The lines that sculpt the hood add an aggressive look; the lower profile shows a sporty stance. The back end loses some of the sporty distinction.

Four-cylinder turbo engines are all the craze right now and the TLX possesses a good one. The same turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that powers the RDX crossover is found in the smaller TLX. That translates to impressive power to the tune of 272 horsepower. The 10-speed automatic transmission is outstanding with no noticeable turbo lag. There are paddle shifters for those who prefer to take control.

My tester came equipped with SH-AWD which stands for Super Handling All Wheel Drive. What that means is more rear torque transfer to the rear axle. In layman’s terms, that translates to crisper handling and outstanding cornering.

Inside, once again the TLX shrugs off any “glorified Honda” comparisons with a cabin that is both sophisticated and technology-laden.

Acura calls it a modern cockpit design, and I can see that through its comfortable seats and sleek, modern touchpoints. The technology is great, but can be clunky to manipulate, specifically the infotainment system.

Acura’s True Touchpad Interface can be confounding and is not intuitive. But once you learn all the nuances and what they can do, you will be impressed. Note to all carmakers: Get rid of these touchpads. They aren’t driver-focused and are more complicated than need be.

The cargo room in the trunk is average for the segment with 13.5 cubic feet of space. The rear seats fold down to expand cargo space.

The 2021 TLX has four trims including TLX with front-wheel drive (FWD), TLX with Technology Package, TLX A-Spec and TLX with Advance Package. My tester was the TLX Advance Package with SH-AWD.

Base price of this top-of-the-line trim is $48,300. With a $500 upcharge for the platinum white color -- something Honda has started doing for the popular color -- my tester had a final price tag of $49,825, which includes destination and handling.

All-wheel drive can often decrease fuel economy. Even with AWD, my tester had excellent fuel economy with an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 29 mpg/highway. During my week with this car, getting into the turbo a lot, I still managed to get nearly 26 mpg.

For a redesign/rebuild, Acura has really made an impact with the 2021 TLX. Maybe, just maybe, this could lead to a reinvigoration of the car segment. One can only hope.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

2021 ACURA TLX SH-AWD ADVANCE

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $48,300/$49,825
  • Mileage.......................................... 21 mpg/city; 29 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 272 hp/280 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 10-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Marysville, Ohio

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