2021 Acura TLX A-Spec Review: A great luxury sedan


Acura, the luxury vehicle division of Honda, was known to produce performance oriented, tuner-friendly, fun to drive sedans like the TL, CL, and TSX in early 2000s. The first generation TLX was introduced in 2014 as the successor to the popular TL and TSX models. Unfortunately, the resulting car failed to reach the high bars set by its predecessors. Notably, the TLX loses the front double wishbone suspension and the all-aluminum front subframe of the TL.

Fast forward to 2021, Acura is ready to reconnect with its performance orientated roots with the second generation TLX. Its design is based on the Type S concept that was unveiled in 2019. The new TLX, riding on a brand new platform, is larger, more powerful, and feature-packed. 

While crossovers are dominating the markets these days, a flagship sedan showcases the identity of a brand, and that is what Acura aims to do with the 2021 TLX. Thanks to Acura Canada, I was loaned the 2021 Acura TLX A-Spec for one week to test drive. Below is my unbiased review. 


The exterior design of the 2021 Acura TLX is heavily influenced by the handsome Type S concept. Compared with the previous generation, the new TLX features a longer wheelbase, an extended dash-to-axle ratio, a wider body, and a lower roof. It is the first Acura sedan to be designed around the brand’s Precision Crafted Performance ethos, and most will agree that it is one gorgeous-looking car. In fact, my neighbor's 18 year old kid saw me getting into the TLX and shouted from across the street (social distancing, good for him!) that it is his dream car. 

At the front, the bold diamond pentagon grille is flanked by high-tech looking Jewel Eye LED headlights and “Chicane” LED daytime running lights inspired by the Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype race car. The only thing I have issue with is the plastic cover that hides the front sensing radar in the center of the grille, but Acura is not the only company that utilizes this design. 

From the side, the long hood, tapered greenhouse, and fastback silhouette give the impression that the TLX is a rear wheel drive sedan. Angled surfaces are used to make the TLX look slimmer in the mid section, and subsequently accentuate the muscular wheel arches. Our A-Spec sport package tester comes with Shark Grey 19-inch wheels. I think bigger tires will further enhance the sporty nature of the car. 

The distinctive LED tailights feature the same “Chicane” LED highlights as the headlights. A black up-swept decklid and dual exhaust outlets make the rear profile look extra spirited. 

Overall, I very much enjoy the look of the new TLX. Maybe it can look more aggressive, but I am guessing Acura is saving some upgrades for the Type S high performance variant that should be arriving soon. 


Befitting a flagship luxury sedan, the interior of the 2021 TLX is significantly more premium than its predecessor. High-grade materials include real aluminum trims, soft-touch leather surfaces, and open-pore wood for the Platinum Elite trim. The dashboard looks high-tech but slightly busy. Just like all recent Acura and Honda vehicles I have been in, the shift lever is replaced by gear shift buttons. I have gotten pretty used to the layout of the buttons and am able to switch gears without looking at them. But for someone encountering such a design for the first time, it is going to take some getting used to. A large dynamic drive selection knob is located above the gear shift buttons, perhaps a rotary style gear selector would be a better use of such a fancy knob. 

The front seats are very comfortable. The standard 12-way power adjustable seats provide great lumbar and lateral supports, they are also both heated and ventilated. The Platinum Elite trim gets upgraded 16-way power adjustable front seats and heated rear seats. I find the rear seats comfortable, and provide adequate legroom for my 5’8” frame. Taller passengers might find the legroom a little cramped. Our A-Spec tester features unique details such as a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel and metal-plated paddle shifters. I wish the shifters are made of real metals because the plating shifters don't really feel cold to the touch.


The TLX features a high-mounted 10.2” display that is not a touchscreen. Instead, a console mounted touchpad is used to control the infotainment system. The touchpad is different from many others on the market because it is based on an Absolute Position mapping system. Basically the top right corner of the touchpad represents the top right corner of the display, unlike that of a swipe based control system. It is a rather polarizing design. People either hate it, or have no problem with it at all. I am of the latter. Once your fingers develop the corresponding muscle memory, clicking on the correct icon on the screen becomes much faster and intuitive. There is another dedicated touchpad on the right to control the right portion of the screen and three quick access buttons up top. Also, Acura has listened to the customers and includes physical Power, Volume, and Seek controls with the TLX. The palm rest position is excellent, and I love how the floating design allows for more space for the wireless charging pad below. 

The A-Spec comes with a standard 7” full-color multi-information display in the center gauge cluster. It is accompanied by two analog dials which show vehicle speed and engine rpm. I am not a fan of the red on silver color scheme of the analog dials. A full-digital design would suit the high-tech cockpit much better. The optional 10.5” Head-Up Display is only available for the top trim, but the excellent Acura ELS STUDIO 3D premium audio system is available for A-Spec trim and above. 

The new TLX supports Android Auto and Apple Carplay, but the touchpad reverts back to swipe mode when using these systems. In addition, the latest generation of AcuraLink provides an array of internet-based services, including emergency roadside assistance, remote locking/unlocking and engine start, stolen vehicle tracking, remote diagnostics, geofencing, speed tracking and Acura concierge services. 

Safety and Driver Assistance

Acura has always been very generous with providing safety features, and the 2021 TLX is no exception. 

The following systems are standard for all TLX trims:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist
  • Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS®)
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system
  • Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) system
  • Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
  • Traffic Jam Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow

Except for the lowest trim, the follows features are also included:

  • Blind Spot Information (BSI) system
  • Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system
  • Rear and Front Parking Sensor

A-Spec and Platinum Elite trim also get the optional Surround View Camera System. 

The 2021 TLX receives a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from IIHS and a 5-star overall vehicle score from NHTSA partially thanks to the proprietary Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure and the company’s new front passenger airbag technology that acts like a baseball catcher’s mitt to provide additional protection to the front occupant’s head in a steeply angled frontal collision.


Standard 2021 TLX models are powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces up to 272hp of power and 280lb-ft of torque. Compared to the previous TLX’s standard 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine, it delivers 66 additional horsepower and 98lb-ft more torque. This little 2.0L turbocharged engine is even more powerful than the previous TLX’s optional 3.5L V6. Unfortunately, there is a significant turbo lag when the car is in normal drive mode. The lag is less noticeable if you put it in Sport mode, but still there. On the other hand, Acura’s 10-speed automatic transmission is excellent. On the road, the transmission changes between gears smoothly and quickly. The paddle shifters are not as responsive as I would like, but I am happy to leave the gear shifting to the car in most situations. 0-100km/hr happens in as little as 6.5 seconds. While some of its rivals can make the speed a little faster, the TLX is not far off.

The rear-biased all wheel drive system of the TLX is called “Super Handling ALL-Wheel Drive” (SH-AWD) by the company. The 4th generation SH-AWD system sends up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle during normal driving conditions. The torque-vectoring system can apportion up to 100 percent of that rear-axle torque between either the left and right rear wheels, improving traction and vehicle stability in challenging driving conditions. 

The new TLX also heralds the return of double wishbone front suspension that was once found in the TL. The double wishbone design allows for greater load capacity, more precise handling, and increased tire-road contact in corners. 

On paper, the TLX seems to have all the ingredients of a great sports sedan. The suspension is excellent. The chassis feels neutral and well balanced. I very much enjoy driving the TLX around town and on highways. But somehow, the car can feel slightly disconnected when driven hard. The steering is precise, but provides little feedback from the road.  The transmission is slow to downshift at times, and the turbo lag is significant enough to hinder a truly excellent driving experience. I have a feeling all the shortcomings can be corrected with simple software updates. 

On the other hand, there is the Type-S variant that is coming in the near future. The Type-S will be powered by an all-new 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine and four-piston Brembo front calipers. True enthusiasts might want to wait for the Type-S variant, but I think standard TLX should satisfy the majority of the intended buyers. 

The 2021 TLX is rated at 11.3L/100km City, 8.1L/100km Highway, and 9.8L/100km combined. Of course I pushed the car pretty hard during my one week test drive, and obtained a fuel economy figure of 12.8L/100km. 

Cargo Space & Storage

The new TLX has 382L of trunk space. That is slightly larger than the previous TLX(374L) but significantly smaller than the Accord (473L). There is a tire inflation kit under the trunk floor. It is also where the car battery is located. The 60/40 split second row seats can be folded to allow access to the cabin. 

In cabin storage options are plentiful. The glove compartment is on the larger side, so are the front door pockets. The center console storage bin is nice and deep. I particularly like the dedicated wireless charging pad. Rear passengers enjoy decently sized door pockets, hard shell storage pouches behind the front seats, and cup holders in the folding armrest. 


Overall, I am very impressed with the brand new 2021 Acura TLX. It is what a flagship luxury sedan should be: competent, stylish, and premium. If performance is what you are looking for, wait for the Type-S variant. For the rest, the TLX presents a great value proposition. 

Test Vehicle
2021 Acura TLX A-Spec

$49,905 CAD as tested

Performance Red Pearl


Popular Posts