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

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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.

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • 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.

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
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