This is the TLX that Acura should have been building all along.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2021 Acura TLS
Base price (A-Spec trim): $49,405
Options: $500 Performance Red Pearl paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $50,005
Well, let’s get this out of the way – the new TLX is the best one yet – absolutely fantastic in almost every way, and the TLX I have been wishing for for a long time. Irritatingly, Honda/Acura doesn’t provide pricing/spec sheets to journalists, so you have to come up with what you think the car has for options, etc. The above is probably relatively accurate, but doesn’t include a couple of grand for Freight/PDI nor the applicable taxes. So keep that in mind.
I really like the proportions and the sculpted body that Acura has blessed the new TLX with. It has a long hood and a short rear deck, with sculpted, wicked hood creases, muscular rear haunches and a slick little trunk spoiler.
All the chrome is gone – Acura has replaced any exterior bling with black trim from the grille to the window surrounds. Acura adds a couple of A-Spec badges – on the cowl and on the trunk lid. The whole package looks aggressive and sporty – I love it!
The JewelEye LED headlights look great with the added LED signature driving lights, and they provided excellent lighting at night. Out back is another set of trick LEDs – these are some great-looking tail lights. And those wide dual rectangular exhaust tips look like they mean business.
The wheel wells are filled by 19-inch black alloy wheels with huge 255/40-sized boots on them.
The first thing I noticed is how low-slung the TLX is. You have to get down into the car, and the roof is low as well – so everything feels intimate, which I liked – but my older parents did not.
I enjoyed the styling of the cabin in the TLX. It has a real cockpit feel to it, with nifty angles and very nice materials. The fit and finish appeared to be flawless. The four red accent/ambient lighting strips are awesome and really add to the sporty feeling when it’s dark.
Special shout-out here to the awesome steering wheel – it’s fat, grippy with perforated leather sections, flat-bottomed, looks fantastic and it’s heated. Behind it is a set of traditional gauges, which surprised me, but they are backlit in red and set themselves apart and look great.
The heated and ventilated seats upholstered in leather and ultra-suede are 12-way adjustable, very comfortable and nicely bolstered for sportier driving.
The huge 10.2″ screen is split into two sections – a main one on the left, and a smaller sub-screen on the right – and it’s controlled by a similarly-split touchpad situated in front of a wrist rest on the console. Not my favourite way to control a screen, to be sure, but Acura’s is definitely better than Lexus’ system. Still, I prefer the simplicity of a touchscreen without any additional input devices.
Anyway, this system handles your phone, navigation, the incredible 17-speaker ELS audio system and plenty of vehicle settings.
There’s a wireless charging pad on the console, dual-zone climate control in the centre stack and a standard sunroof overhead.
The TLX, in this trim, is absolutely loaded with driver assistance technology. There’s a back-up camera with front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, traffic jam assist, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, blind-spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition. Bump it up to the highest trim level and Acura adds a colour heads-up display and a surround view camera system.
The rear seat space is limited but sufficient for average folks – I’m 5’10” and had a couple of inches of legroom to spare behind my own driving position but I was nearly at the max for headroom. But any really leggy passengers will be unhappy as the back of front seats is hard plastic and that’s no fun if your knees are digging into them. The middle seating position is really not appropriate for anyone – it’s narrow, raised and straddles a large floor tunnel, so even kids are uncomfortable there.
Acura sure makes it obvious there’s no love for rear seat passengers when it comes to added comfort and conveniences – the middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with a couple of cupholders, but otherwise nothing. No heated seats, no charging ports of any kind. It’s pretty spartan back there, particularly for a $50,000 car.
The armrest lid pops up to reveal a small storage bin with two USB plugs, a 12V plug and an old-school aux jack.
The trunk is a decent, usable size and the rear seat-backs split 60/40 and fold down to increase cargo space if you need to pass longer items through from the trunk into the car.
Under the Hood
Motivating the TLX is a 2L turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 272 HP at 6,500 RPM and 280 lb.ft of torque available from 1,600 RPM. It sends its power through a 10-speed automatic and on to all four corners through Acura’s impressive Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.
Acura rates this trim at 11.3/9.1 L/100 km (city/highway).
Now I averaged 15.8 L/100 km, which is truly awful. In the TLX’s defence, it was a cold winter week and we had no opportunity or need to get on the highway, so it only saw the freeway a couple of times – this was mainly slow winter driving, often with a heavy foot. You’ll see why shortly.
That cold week when I had the TLX made me appreciate the remote starter greatly.
The Integrated Dynamic System knob visually dominates a good portion of the centre stack and lets you choose between different driving modes – Normal, Comfort, Sport or a customizable Individual mode.
Regardless of the driving mode, this car goes. It has a ton of power, available from the moment you touch the accelerator. And it pulls hard through each gear with virtually no lag. It’s plenty of fun to drive.
The transmission is controlled with a push-button selector, and gears can be manually shifted using the paddle shifters. The transmission has its own Sport mode as well. The gearbox is smooth and it’s fast enough – but it definitely has to drop a number of gears when you’re cruising along and suddenly step on it, so that can take a second or so to get into the right gear.
Does the A-Spec have adaptive suspension? Nope – only the top-trim Platinum Elite does. Does it need it? Heck no! I didn’t miss it in the least. The handling is world-class. The car feels low, planted and secure and feels like it wants to play. It carves the corners at any speed and impressed me with its balance and athleticism. At the same time, the car rides nicely – it’s a firm, compliant suspension that reads more sporty than luxury but without compromising comfort.
Because I reviewed this car in the winter, I was able to put the all-wheel drive through its paces. First of all, it provides outstanding traction with winter tires. It’s competent and predictable and there’s no drama. But here’s the kicker. If you like to step on it just a bit more around the snowy corners, you can go ahead and do that here. Yes, the TLX will happily kick its tail out for some driving fun, and it will let you bring things back in line as quickly as you choose. I truly had a blast driving this around, and have no doubt that this contributed to the terrible fuel economy.
There’s a relatively interesting engine note when you’re heavy on the gas – I honestly couldn’t tell if it was real or artificial. And it doesn’t really matter – it sounds cool. Otherwise the car is impressively quiet during normal driving.
Braking is powerful, and visibility out of the car is quite good.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty high. She said it looked sporty, but not too sporty, and was excellent to drive. She struggled with the in-car tech a bit, and I think there’s a learning curve for that touchpad-screen system that might throw a few drivers off.
Well, if it hasn’t been obvious yet, I really, really liked the TLX. It looks fantastic, it’s tons of fun to drive, comfortable, luxurious and well-built. It’s not the most spacious car and the rear seating would benefit from a few extras but otherwise, what’s not to love?
On top of all that, I felt that it is priced well. If you’re someone in the market for a sporty sedan, the new TLX needs to be on your shopping list. It’s the best one yet!
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Acura Canada.
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