The 2021 Acura TLX is priced from $43,990 in Canada, $37,500 in the US.
This car is meant to mark Acura’s return to its roots.
How’s this for a quick answer: Yes, I think, emphasis on think, that the all-new 2021 Acura TLX is the beginning of the next era of performance luxury cars from Honda’s premium brand. Unfortunately, though, I think (so much thinking…) that Acura has to do far more to get the word out as I feel the launch back in May was too timid.
Granted, 2020 has not gone the way any of us had planned. Perhaps this is me getting emotional again when it comes to Acura but I feel as though too little fanfare was put behind the introduction and introduction of the TLX, easily the most important car for Acura from the last dozen years ( I mean it). Thankfully, the all-new 2021 TLX makes up for it in many ways.
Acura doing Acura
The first thing that must be understood when it comes to the TLX is that this is Acura once again doing Acura. No longer are they attempting to best Lexus and/or copy Audi. A good long glance in the direction of the TLX will clearly reveal that this is not Acura circa 2008.
Design-wise, the 2021 Acura TLX is off its rocker – it looks like nothing else in the segment. Modern design demands realistic proportions and no front or rear overhangs, among other considerations. Although the TLX does share the 4-door coupe-like rear sloping roofline, the front section is excessively long in relation to the remainder of the body. From head-on, the car is obsessively wide and flat, and it looks smashing. Without being too busy, it is absolutely unique.
The tested $49,290 A-Spec with the optional $500 Performance Red paint is the visual screamer of the model line. The extra aero bits including trunk spoiler, dark wheels, and LED fog light lend a little extra street-cred to this BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4 competitor. Against its Japanese counterparts, in the event anyone was wondering, it crushes them.
Haunted by the touchpad
The cabin is a series of hits and misses – the latter being old bad habits that Acura will simply not kick. Frankly, I don’t care if Acura invests $10 billion into its touchpad, it’s terrible, distracting, frustrating, and contrary to what they say about it, it’s anything but intuitive. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the standard 10.2-inch display offers a nice interface but the inability to access it through touchscreen commands or a “normal” selector wheel almost mars its potential.
Just above it are the transmission control buttons which are anything but sporty. This, the touchpad and the Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) wheel are all anti-climactic. Mercifully, Acura can still design a cockpit feel and string together a fantastic driving position and excellent seats. Generally speaking, the TLX’s interior quarters are very nice.
Even though design and comfort are important aspects for a luxury sport sedan, the drive, the power, and the experience remain key. Acura once held the secret to delivering cars with a light, agile and energetic chassis and powertrain and by golly, I think they’ve remembered how they used to do it.
THIS is how an Acura is supposed to drive!
The turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder is a main player in this newfound vigor (intended). Smaller, and predictably lighter than the old V6, it livens up the front axle, breathing life into steering and chassis responses. Its 272 horsepower (at 6,500 rpm) wonderfully complement the considerable 280 lb.-ft. of torque which is on tap from 1,600 rpm to 4,500 rpm. My only qualm is that the engine’s produced and pumped sound is more toy-ish than sporty.
The standard 10-speed automatic transmission is brilliantly programmed to keep engine speeds well within the desirable engine rev ranges for ideal performance. It operates imperceptibly when needed or will pound away at the gears when yanking on the wheel-mounted paddles.
Unlike the US where Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is optional on all trims, it’s standard on all models in Canada. Its abilities to manage torque front to back and side to side in the rear are well-established and on par or better than what the competition has to offer. You know it’s working when you think you’re really a good driver and expertly managed your favorite onramp at a high rate of speed.
Now, back to the chassis. The TLX features a double-wishbone suspension up front with a 5-arm multi-link rear suspension and, very much like Acura says, actually provides sporty agility. The car’s drive is equal parts refined and sharp for leisurely or spirited drives. Only the Platinum Elite is entitled to the adaptive dampers – I’m convinced they would add an extra layer of abilities to this already highly accomplished car.
Acura: Watch this space
As I write these words and think back to the 2021 Acura TLX, I’m finding myself wanting more wheel time. I honestly discovered and rediscovered a car that delivered the encounter I was hoping for but did not expect. I think Acura’s is back on track!
In a segment dominated by the Germans, Acura has finally created a worthy alternative.