2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD A-SPEC - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Stunning looks and performance tempered by overly complex system controls
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Back in May of 2020, Acura announced an all new TLX would be arriving for 2021. This week, the re-imagined TLX arrived in my driveway for a one week stay. Without question, this new iteration is stunning to behold. Photographing it in subdued early morning light revealed the rhythmic complexity of its sheet metal, and the graceful attention to detail apparent in the sculpting of the A-Spec specific front and rear clips. Our test sedan was finished in Lunar Silver Metallic, a particularly complimentary color when paired with the matching Shark Grey Interwoven A-Spec alloy rims. These 19x8.5 alloys mounted 255/40R19 Michelin Primacy A/S (all-season) radials with a treadwear rating of TW 580.
In contrast to the restrained appearance of the exterior, the flashy interior visually pops your eyeballs, with ebony seats bisected by broad bands of crimson striping. My wife thought the contrast was a bit much but I rather enjoyed the audacity. In any event, the A-Spec's black leather-trimmed sport seats benefit in comfort and support from the red UltraSuede inserts. Both driver and passenger front seats are 12-way adjustable, and feature a valet style slide to ease entry and exit. Although the new TLX has grown by 5 inches in overall length compared to its predecessor, the growth in wheelbase is just 4 inches. But that extra 4 inch pickup makes for happier back seat travel time for passengers. The rear bench seat echoes the bravura cosmetic trim of the front seats.
Acura offers eight different versions of the new TLX, beginning with a Standard base model, a Technology Package edition, the A-Spec Package we drove, and an Advanced Package which tops the model line. These four ranges can be ordered with either front wheel drive or all wheel drive, with a $2,000 up-charge for AWD. The Standard model FWD retails for $37,500, the FWD Technology starts at $41,500, the FWD A-Spec lists for $44,250, and the FWD Advanced Package costs $46,300. Since our test car boasted Super Handling All Wheel-Drive" (SH-AWD), it carried a base price of $46,250, and an out-the-door tag of $47,250. Acura thankfully eliminated any extra cost options.
In keeping with Acura's long standing commitment to building high performance vehicles like the NSX sports car, it should come as no surprise that the TLX is endowed with many of the racing game's tricks of the trade that transform a family sedan into a sports sedan. The TLX utilizes such top line technology, with a double wishbone front suspension system and a multi-link rear layout. Adaptive dampers allow the driver to fine tune the compression and rebound characteristics of the shock absorbers by manipulating a Drive Mode twist dial on the center console. No matter what mode you select, however, the ride of the TLX remains steadfastly stiff, thanks in part to the inclusion of a stout 29.5 inch diameter front anti-sway bar, and somewhat softer 20mm rear bar. Vented front brake rotors and solid rears all measure 13 inches in diameter. While the TLX A-Spec is certainly no race car with its curb weight of 3,990lbs, it convincingly behaves like one. If Acura's intent with the redesign of the TLX was to appeal to potential BMW 3 Series buyers, they've given those customers a real reason to consider the TLX A-Spec instead.
In addition to the performance niceties of the A-Spec package, Acura also includes a vibrant ELS Studio 3D premium audio system with no less than 17 speakers. While this concert hall of sound can be used to drown out the mechanical whine of the TLX' potent turbo motor, I chose to keep the ELS system muted in favor of the mechanical symphony provided by the turbocharged 2.0 liter four which cranks out 272hp at a shrill 6500rpm. This engine connects to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission equipped with paddle shifters. You can play those shifters like a concert pianist since you have enough gears to perform a complete concerto. Amazingly, the top four gears (7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th) are all overdrive gears, with 6th gear being the only gear set in the transmission offering direct drive (1:1). Final Drive ratio for this complex transmission is 3.59:1, so the TLX has plenty of grunt off the line - enough to cut a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds, and a quarter mile sprint of 14.5 seconds at 97mph. Top speed is 131mph.
Although our reaction to the handling and ergonomics of the TLX was largely positive, we were not impressed with the unintuitive control interface governing most systems. This proved difficult to use when standing still and virtually unusable when underway. Adding levels of complexity to each transaction may make your inner 16 year old child happy, but is sure to frustrate the adult you. Why would you need to go through 2 menu pages to locate the AM radio band? Particularly irksome was the overly complicated stop/start procedure which lights the engine from a cold start. We could never be quite sure when the engine was running, and when it had shut itself off. This became a real problem when the TLX failed to restart for over a minute in a heavy traffic jam as we frantically cycled the start/stop sequence through its paces to no avail, but to a symphony of honking horns
2021 ACURA TLX SH-AWD A-SPEC
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, Direct Injection VTEC Turbo
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/29MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $47,275
HYPES: Race Track Breeding, Sleek Revamp
GRIPES: Start/Stop Comedy Routine, Overly Complex Menu Driven Controls
STAR RATING: 7 Stars out of 10