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2021 Acura TLX - Review by Larry Nutson



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Performance and Style


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By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel


Acura uses the term Precision Crafted Performance in describing its newest vehicles and the direction of the brand. 

The 2021 Acura TLX continues the performance focus of Acura established with the launch of the second-generation NSX supercar, the brand’s return to motorsports competition, and by new approaches to Acura design and technology first seen in concept vehicles and in the newest-generation Acura RDX utility vehicle.

The 2021 TLX is entirely new, built on its own dedicated and all-new platform. It’s aimed at today’s sports sedan buyer. And yes, people still buy sedans….they make up about 25 to 30% of the market.


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One look at the new TLX with its wide stance and very balanced proportions brings excitement. A longer wheelbase, wide track, lower roofline, and long dash-to-axle ratio all make for a very commanding presence. The view from the rear is especially athletic.

The TLX’s new look features an all-LED lighting package that includes next-generation 4-lamp Acura JewelEye headlights, “Chicane” daytime running lights and taillights inspired by the ARX-05 DPi race car, along with a new, wider Diamond Pentagon grille, upswept rear deck, and large dual exhausts finishers. 

Every new TLX is built on an all-new, Acura-exclusive body and chassis architecture designed for high levels of driving performance. Increased stiffness and the use of new, more advanced, lightweight materials and assembly techniques make for overall improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics. A new double wishbone front suspension enhances TLX’s handling prowess. 

A new high-capacity, belt-driven and variable-ratio electric power steering system, NSX-derived electro-servo brake-by-wire technology, and available Adaptive Damper System, all provide for more responsive and also customizable ride and handling performance. 

Front-to-rear weight balance is improved by the extensive use of aluminum, including in the front bumper, hood, front fenders and front shock tower mounts, along with the relocation of the 12-volt battery from the engine bay to the trunk. 

The new standard powertrain is the same 272-hp 2.0-liter DOHC, direct injected and turbocharged engine and 10-speed automatic transmission that debuted in the latest- generation RDX utility vehicle. The 10-speed automatic offers a wider ratio range, more discrete gears, 4-gear direct downshifts, and a lower first gear for exceptional launch performance.

All TLX models, which are front-wheel drive, can be equipped with the latest generation of Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), with performance-elevating torque-vectoring capability. This is Acura’s 4th-gen SH-AWD system and has 40 percent more rear torque capacity and 30 percent quicker front-to-rear torque transfer than the 3rd-gen system. The system can transfer up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle, continuously apportioning 100 percent of that rear-axle torque between the left and right rear wheels. 

Every TLX has a full contingent of Advanced Driver-Assist Safety (ADAS) features which includes automatic braking and pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, amongst others. 

The 2021 Acura TLX is offered with four distinct grades: TLX, TLX with Technology Package, TLX A-Spec, and TLX with Advance Package. 


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The 5-seat TLX is plenty roomy up front with a rear seat that is just okay for average size folk. The tiered dashboard is a focal point. Wood and metal trim, soft-touch materials, hand-stitching as well as ambient lighting at night provide a premium look and feel. The True Touchpad infotainment interface uses absolute positioning for easier and more accurate movement to key functions. In any case, it does take some acclimation and then muscle memory takes over.

For my Chicago-based drive I experienced the 2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance. Roads were dry and clear so I was able to put the 272-hp to good use. There’s plenty to move the TLX quite sportily. The 10-speed automatic is very smooth and the selectable Comfort, Normal, and Sport drive modes that adjust engine fuel and spark mapping, shift points, steering effort, and suspension damping make for more fun.

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Zero to 60 mph is in about 6 seconds which is a really decent acceleration performance. I like is Acura’s AWD system. It provides very balanced dry-road handling as well as added security and confidence on compromised road surfaces such as rain or snow.

The TLX A-Spec and TLX with Advance Package feature a state-of-the-art 710-watt 17 speaker, 16-channel ELS STUDIO 3D Audio System. And, wow! Audiophiles will love it. With the comfy seating and pleasant interior you might just better enjoy your favorite tunes out on the highway.  

TLXs with SH-AWD are rated in EPA lab testing at 24 combined mpg with 21 city mpg and 29 highway mpg. EPA ratings for the front-wheel drive TLX are 22 city mpg and 31 highway mpg.

TLX pricing starts at $37,500. TLX w/Tech is $41,500, A-spec is $44,250, Advance is $46,300 and Advance SH-AWD is $48,300. More details and information on the 2021 Acura TLX can be found at www.acura.com.

If you are considering a well-defined sports sedan, look beyond the well-known German brands. The TLX with its impressive driving characteristics, premium cabin finishes, lots of new tech and great value pricing make it a worthy contender.


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Speaking of performance and motorsports. Almost exactly 30 years after Acura’s first class win at Daytona International Raceway, the manufacturer triumphed again as Wayne Taylor Racing won the recent 59th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The DPi class Acura ARX-05 of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves delivered Wayne Taylor Racing its fourth win in five years at the season-opening round in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.

And note, a high-performance TLX Type S powered by a 355-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 and with all-wheel drive, Brembo brakes and performance wheels and tires is coming this year.

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy