2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance Review - Sleek, Yet Flawed, Sport

Fast Facts

2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance Fast Facts

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (272 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 280 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm)
Ten-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
21 city / 29 highway / 24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.3 city, 8.1 highway, 9.8 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$48,300 (U.S) / $46,505 (Canada)
As Tested
$49,325 (U.S.) / $46,505 (Canada)
Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $2,175 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2021 acura tlx sh awd advance review sleek yet flawed sport

Mid-size luxury sport sedans sometimes come up short when it comes to the sport part of the equation. Acura’s TLX, for the most part, does not.

Yeah, I know, I just gave away my conclusion upfront, thus violating a basic guideline of writing a review. Stick around to find out why I came to that conclusion after the local press fleet tossed me the keys all those months ago (hence the snow).

The biggest reason the TLX mostly succeeds as a sport sedan – luxury or not – is that Acura has imbued it with lively handling, at least up to a point. Push too hard and you’ll get reminded that this version isn’t the Type S, and that there are compromises involved when luxury ladled on. In this case, it results in tire-squealing understeer and body roll.

Still, you’ll have fun before you reach that point, thanks to steering that’s relatively lively and accurate – though still imbued with some of the artificial feel that plagues most modern cars using electronic systems.

A new double-wishbone front suspension surely helps, along with a five-link rear setup. My test car’s Advance Package also included adaptive dampers. It also had Acura’s SH-AWD all-wheel-drive system, which includes a rear stabilizer bar that’s 0.5 mm larger than the one on front-drive cars.

Underhood is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that makes 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The turbo four has plenty of grunt for merging and passing, though the car feels a tad heavy. Putting the car in sport mode seemed to give the car a boost – and it also made the handling a tad better, though it was still possible to reach the limit without too much effort. The transmission here is a 10-speed automatic.

As befits a luxury sport sedan, the ride isn’t sacrificed at the altar of handling. It’s pleasantly compliant with minimal softness.

The TLX may be fun to drive – again, up to a point – but it’s not without flaws. The front passenger area felt roomy and spacious, but the rear seats felt tight. As already noted, the car feels in need of a diet. The interior materials look good, though some feel cheap. I actually had to confirm with Acura that the wood in the cabin was real, as it didn’t feel that way.

The biggest con involving this car is the confounding touchpad infotainment-system controller. It requires a bit too much of a learning curve, and it’s almost as bad as what Lexus has served up in recent years. Maybe I’d feel better about it if I owned the car and got used to it over time.

I also took issue with panel gaps that looked a tad too wide to the naked eye (see below).

Standard features include LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch wheels, leather seats, heated front seats, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting, and a power moonroof. The Tech package added nav, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors. The Advance package adds the adaptive dampers, a 360-degree camera, LED fog lights, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, head-up display, premium audio, and wireless phone charger.

AcuraWatch is the name for the driver-aid suite, and here it includes adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, and traffic-jam assist.

That’s all for $48,300. Add the $1,025 destination fee and it’s $49,325.

The EPA lists fuel economy at 21/29/24.

The TLX makes for an all-around package that offers up a decent amount of driving excitement, within reason, while not sacrificing much in the way of comfort. If only the infotainment controls weren’t so annoying, and if the rear seat was a skoosh bigger. Still, if you have a budget for a luxury sedan and want to spice it up once in a while, the TLX deserves a look.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 40 comments
  • Daniel J Daniel J on Sep 21, 2021

    I just don't see the interior being 14k more than my Mazda 6 grand touring reserve.

  • AK AK on Sep 21, 2021

    Not much of a review and even less of a photo shoot. Since the comments are carrying this post, I guess I'll add that the thought of spending over 40k for this TLX is depressing. Looking at a base TLX (the only one I'd consider paying for), all you're getting over an Accord is exterior style (debatable), better seats and less road noise. That's not worth 7k to me.

  • Daniel J I believe anyone, at any level, should get paid as much as the market will bear. Why should CEOs have capped salaries or compensation but middle management shouldn't? If companies support poor CEOs and poor CEOs keep getting rewarded, it's up to the consumer and investors to force that company to either get a better CEO or to reduce the salary of that CEO. What I find hilarious is that consumers will continue to support companies where the pay for the CEOs is very high. And the same people complain. I stopped buying from Amazon during the pandemic. Everyone happily buys from them but the CEO makes bank. Same way with Walmart and many other retailers. Tim Cook got 100m in compensation last year yet people line up to buy Iphones. People who complain and still buy the products must not really care that much.
  • TDIGuy Glad to see this discussion come up just as my Facebook is being flooded with ads for a race track event coming up near Toronto. Seems to be billed as a chance to see a lot of exotic cars, but also watch various categories of cars on the race track. This is the kind of event that might generate some interest in getting on the track.Sorry for lack of detail, but I'm not doing this in attempt to spam, but more to show there are attempts being made to increase interest. That said, someone made the point that there are less and less people out there with something that could be driven on a race track (i.e. a car), so it does leave it to the grass roots type of racers to keep this going.
  • DedBull The more opportunities you present people with legal means to enjoy their hobbies, the less they are tempted to do those activities illegally. The challenge becomes making a business case out of the resulting facility. We have to be vigilant in preserving the facilities we have, as well as exploring options to expand when available.
  • Johnster Not feelin' it. The traditional unreliability of turbo engines is a big turn-off, especially in a work truck that (I hope) you'd want to keep on the road for 200,000 miles or more without having major repairs.
  • ToolGuy Car audio is way overpriced.