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Peters’ Garage: 2021 Acura TLX

2021 TLX Type S

By Eric Peters

You used to be able to get a V-6 in a Honda Accord sedan. But now that one’s a four-cylinder-only sedan.

The good news is, there’s a new sedan made by Honda that’s available with the strongest V6 Honda ever put into a sedan.

The bad news is, it’s not being sold under the Honda label.

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It’s the Acura TLX sedan — which means you’ll be paying premium bucks for the premium badge.

But at least you can still get it with a six.

What It Is

The TLX is a medium-small sport sedan that competes most directly with the Audi A4 — which shares the same general front-wheel drive-based/all-wheel drive layout. Other cars in the class — such as the BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Cadillac CT4 and Genesis G70 — are similar in size, price and general appearance but are based on rear-wheel drive layouts, with all-wheel drive available optionally.

Prices start at $37,500 for the base trim, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive; Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel drive system is available optionally, bumping up the MSRP by $2,000 to $39,500.

A Type S with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and the SH-AWD system will be available in May; Acura hasn’t released pricing yet, but this one will probably sticker for about $50,000 to start.

What’s New

The TLX is completely redesigned.

A much more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is now standard, and an even more powerful turbocharged V-6 is optional.

All-wheel drive is now available with the four, too. Previously, you had to buy the optional V-6 to get all-wheel drive.

What’s Good

It’s much more muscular than before — with either engine.

You can still get a V-6 engine.

With the four, it’s a deal relative to rivals in the class such as the Audi A4 — which is also smaller and comes with a much less powerful standard engine.

What’s Not So Good

You can only get the V-6 in the Type S variant, which is a much more expensive variant.

While the TL’s front-wheel drive-based layout has an advantage in terms of traction, it’s also the same basic layout you’ll find underneath cars that aren’t in the luxury-badged class (and price range). Most of the models in the TLX ‘s price range, such as the BMW 3 and the Lexus IS, are based on rear-wheel drive layouts — which means you can light up the rear tires, if you’re into that.

Like all the cars in this class, the TLX has some needlessly overcomplex controls — such as the smartphone-emulating touchpad on the console.

Under the Hood

Acura has upped the TLX’s game considerably for 2021.

The car now comes standard with a 272-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is nearly as strong as the previously optional 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and which produces more torque (280 foot-pounds at just 1,600 rpm versus 267 foot-pounds at 4,500 rpm).

It’s paired with a new 10-speed automatic transmission, and you can choose either front-wheel drive or the optional Super Handling all-wheel drive system, which was not available with the 2.4-liter, 206-horsepower engine that was standard in the 2020 TLX.

The new Type S variant comes with the most powerful V-6 Acura has ever put into anything with four doors. It is also an all-new V-6, turbocharged and displacing 3.0 liters. It makes 355 horsepower and is also paired with the 10-speed automatic. The SH-AWD system is mandatory. Equipped with this engine, the TLX lives up to its looks, getting to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds.

On the Road

The TLX’s charm isn’t speed; it is tenacity.

Acura’s Super Handling all-wheel drive system is about grip, particularly in the curves — which it enhances by applying power side to side as well as the usual front to rear. This torque vectoring adjusts for both understeer (the tendency, especially of front-wheel drive cars, to track too deep into the curve during high-speed cornering) and oversteer (the tendency, especially of rear-wheel drive cars, to swing wide, tail out, as they approach the limit of grip in a curve taken at high speed).

At the Curb

You may have noticed how racy new sedans are looking, even formerly conservative-looking family sedans like the Accord. Their designers have been focusing on how they look because of how practical crossovers and SUVs are.

The new TLX looks really racy.

What’s ironic about all this show is that the TLX is actually a pretty practical sedan — certainly relative to several of its rivals, including the Audi A4 and the Lexus IS. For example, the Acura has 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space versus 10.8 in the Lexus IS and 12 in the Audi.

It also has 34.9 inches of rear seat legroom versus 32.2 in the Lexus IS.

Both rear seats fold forward, too, creating a large pass-through that significantly increases the viable cargo-carrying capacity of the TLX.

The Rest

The 17-speaker, 710-watt ELS ultrapremium audio system with twin Telford subwoofers (standard in the Type S) is exceptional; it’s one of the best available in this class — or any other.

The Bottom Line

Sedans are a tougher sell these days, but Acura hopes a sedan that’s a bit larger and a lot stronger than its comparably priced rivals will sell.

We’ll soon know.

2021 TLX Type S

Eric’s latest book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


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