2021 Acura TLX Review: Stylish and sporty, with lots of bang for the buck
The Honda Accord is a really decent car. It's perennially one of the top sellers in the U.S., and for good reason. But, sometimes the Accord isn't enough. That's where the Acura TLX comes in.
Acura has completely redesigned the TLX for the 2021 model year. It's made the car into a sharp-looking and better handling machine that is designed to remind buyers what Acura was all about in its 1990s and 2000s heyday. One quick trip around the neighborhood will show you that it achieves that, in spades. A longer trip will make you realize that it's okay to say "no" buying an SUV.
Diving the TLX is a pleasure. It's both comfortable to be in and engaging to toss around on the road.Photo courtesy of Acura
The exterior of the car looks good. It has LEDs in the right places for its premium price point and styling that makes it stand out (for all the right reasons) more than it blends in. The car is athletic in its state and a bit moody and aggressive while fitting in with the rest of the Acura family, which includes the redesigned 2022 MDX. Every bit of that is a positive.
The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord by a few inches in each direction.
The suggestion of performance extends from the outside to the inside though the cabin does not set aside the comfort and convenience features one typically wants from a sedan for the weight-saving suede substitute upholstery or unique and different-just-to-be-different knobs, dials, and buttons that make operation more complicated than it needs to be. The TLX is more than properly trimmed out for its price point.
One of the best features of the TLX is its space. The waterfall dashboard design gives the front passenger the illusion of having more space to occupy in front of them. There is more passenger volume in the 2021 TLX versus the 2020 - slightly more room - and all other -room metrics are nearly the same from the old generation to the next. The Accord has more headroom, three cubic feet more cargo space, and nearly 10 cubic feet more passenger space.
The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord.Photo courtesy of Acura
The center console's side bolsters, with their interiors accented in real wood add to the premium look and feel of the vehicle in an unexpected way. Between those bolsters are the Acura's climate controls. They are button-operated and match what is in the RDX and MDX. They're not as fancy as what you'll find in a luxury car, but for the premium segment, they're attractive enough and extremely easy to use, which makes them winners.
Putting the Dynamic Mode drive mode selector front and center in the TLX, RDX, and MDX makes it easy to use and puts it front of mind. The shifter being directly under it frees up center console space, a logical layout that is an equal part practical.
Speaking of dynamic, the TLX is a dynamic dream, for a non-sports car. While the tester was not the TLX Type S (that super sporty variant is coming later this year), it does have quite a bit of dynamic difference form the Accord. The TLX with all-wheel drive grips the road, even when you're pushing the limits of what it can handle.
Steering is accurate and properly weighted, and allows the car to easily go where you want it. The TLX takes corners with ease and little body lean. There's no need for super bolstered seats as the TLX doesn't toss you around unless you make it.
The car's waterfall dashboard gives the interior a spacious feeling.Photo courtesy of Acura
Acceleration from its 2.0--liter turbo-four is plenty for daily drivability, and even when you want to go have a riot behind the wheel on the weekend. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that delivers the 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque smoothly and relatively efficiently. Changing to the Sport drive model gives the TLX noticeably shorter shifts and changes up the throttle response and damping capability, and tightens up the steering. It's a proper Sport mode.
While you're at speed, or idling, there's a lot to take in on the driver's information display. Smartly, Acura has put the necessary information front and center. If you're looking for your trip meter, fuel efficiency, or odometer information, you're doing to need to look to the smaller area of the screen. While you might strain your eyes to see it, you don't really need the info displayed there on-the-go.
There are folks out there that complain about the Acura touch interface for the infotainment system controls. Spend some time with them and sincerely get to know them and they suddenly become incredibly easy to use. Just remember, unlike a mouse, there's no swiping to move the selector. It's a touch-for-touch system like on an iPad.
The touch pad interface and wireless device charging are well placed.Photo courtesy of Acura
The space where Acura has elected to fit the wireless device charger is also its own type of genius. It's below the center console bump out wrist rest for the touch interface, which holds it in place when carving corners, and keeps it close enough to the driver that you can look down and see what alert has popped up if you're not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at the time.
Acura's long list of standard and available safety and driver assist features help keep you going down the road without nagging. The car also has Acura's new airbag technology for the front seat passenger.
Pricing for the TLX starts at $37,500. As tested, the car was nearly $50,000. The TLX blows away its closest premium competition by a mile. Maybe more. It's also a lot better at $48,000 than what you'll find in many other luxury cars for the same price.
Most importantly though, Acura has put significant daylight between its Honda brother, not just in price, but also in materials, drivability, maneuverability, and design. That's a big step in the right direction for the brand.
- Hand-crafted 2021 Acura RDX PMC Edition comes with NSX's ... ›
- America's Safest Vehicles: These 49 cars and SUVs earned the IIHS ... ›
- Here are the 6 models Acura will introduce by 2022 according to a ... ›
- Acura reveals more model details ahead of on-sale date for 2021 Acura TLX Type S - AutomotiveMap ›