2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance – Week in Review

Odometer (TLX):  927

Usually when a car’s getting dropped off at the house, it means that I’ve added to the collection.  This time, the delivery was just a short-term loan — but it was a fun one!

I’ve followed the launch of the second-generation TLX since the August 2019 reveal of the “Type S Concept” in Monterey, California.  Last month, the car went on sale in non-S trims, and next spring the model lineup will be fully complete when the Type S variant with an all-new 3-liter V6 turbo goes on sale.

The TLX’s original platform which debuted in 2014 was revamped from the ground up, and Acura did its homework to place the car at the front of the competitive segment in terms of design, technology, performance, and handling.  The car I received was configured in Advance spec, coming in at $49,325 including destination and handling.

I’ll keep things short & sweet with regard to my takeaways, because after all, I’m just an everyday journalist with an oddball Acura-ddiction.  I’ll share my review in bullet point form, just like I share data with senior leaders at the office.  I guess I’m still in my 9-5 mode this evening.

Love it:

  • Performance from the 2.0-liter 272-hp inline-four is surprisingly snappy.  The car delivers easy acceleration especially considering its size.
  • The TLX steering, for some reason, is one of my favorite things.  The radius is small, the wheel is nicely weighted and has the right thickness to it.
  • Interior fit & finish are top-notch, with quality materials including open-pore wood and nice leather.  Ambient lighting (customizable in over 20 colors) gives a luxo-vibe.  My fellow Acura-driving friend Daniel (who’s currently in an RDX A-Spec) said the same.
  • Adding onto that, the cabin overall just feels “cozy” to me.  The positions of the armrests are nicely laid out, and thanks to a console-mounted volume knob, you don’t have to reach for anything.
  • Tech & audio system are A+.  I like the resolution of the infotainment screens.  The ELS 17-speaker 3D sound system will really knock your socks off.
  • Aesthetically, I think the car looks really wicked from the front and I like the LED-everything lighting.  The rear, I’m not yet too fond of but I think with some aero accessory treatment could be pretty sweet.
  • SH-AWD delivers really good cornering and traction.
  • Wireless phone charging (part of the Advance package) was a welcome alternative to fumbling with a charge cord each time I got inside the vehicle.
  • Overall, the car ‘drives smaller than it is.’  As in, it’s a huge car dimensionally but it feels light and nimble.

Questionable:

  • It’s likely I didn’t fully understand all the individualization capability in the driving dynamics settings, but whether configured in Sport, Comfort, or Normal, I seemed to detect some floatiness in the suspension and it felt like it bounced rather than absorbed bumps in some cases.
  • I wish Auto-Stop/Start could be set up to never come back on, but it seemed to reactivate every time I turned off the car.
  • The 10-speed transmission gives good power whenever and wherever needed, but the Park button was unsettling.  The car felt like it would continue to jostle for a second after I pushed it.

Indifferent:

  • I didn’t really like the touchpad interface initially but grew to not mind it.  It beats having to put greasy fingers on a touch-screen.  Plus it’s pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it.
  • Head-up display is a nice feature for some, but I preferred to turn it off and just rely on the large, nicely laid out gauges in the cluster.

Thoughts?

The car is exceptional enough that it confirmed my decision to get one.  Not in this trim level, but rather as an upcoming Type S variant in 2021.  I think it’ll make a suitable daily driver to grow up to after having driven the ILX for nearly 8 years.  Even though it sacrifices a clutch pedal and some of the “raw” driving feel, it more than makes up for that with the abundance of tech and creature comforts.  Plus it can still look and feel sporty.

Stay tuned.  Thanks for reading!

23 Responses to “2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance – Week in Review”

  1. Ahhh I’m glad this solidified the Type S for you!

  2. I do love the exterior styling of the TLX, the Acura design team have really smashed it out of the park. Not sure I could bring myself to buy a modern automatic. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that they’ll introduce a manual option later down the line!

    • I know what you mean! My collection’s ratio of manuals to automatics has been sliding, since I grabbed the SLX, TL, and RL. So I’m inevitably trending in that direction.

  3. If we’re g going to be critical…

    > I’m not enamored with the side profile as I feel it looks too “chunky.”
    Part of the problem lies in the rear quarter window which now is no longer integrated within the door, is too angular and seems disjointed to me.

    > The rear end reminds me a little of the Alfa Giulia. And I do like the tail lamp design especially compared with the mundane look of the current truncated “boomerang” design on the RDX, Accord & Honda CUVs.

    > While I do agree the front end design is very pleasing I have to take a long hard look before I’m able to differentiate it from the previous generation.

    > I also share your frustration regarding the Auto-Stop/Start. It was inevitable that this day would come. Car makers are grasping at all the low hanging fruit to improve fuel economy and too many were disabling these. But I’m hopeful that the aftermarket will soon offer a fix for this.

    > It’s nice to see SH-AWD offered in 4-cyl models.

    > Not a fan of piano black plastic since it scratches so easily and shows it so it’s nice to see it’s only used minimally.

    > Happy to hear double wishbone suspension is back… but only in the front.

    > There was a time back in the day when car makers all agreed on standardizing certain features so as to not to onfuse drivers who owned/drove different car brands. One of the those was the ubiquitous “PRNDL” transmission shifters. Now it’s become a free for all with regard to shifter design. I’m sure people will adapt to their daily drivers but like too many other features they’re just not intuitive.

    I maybe resistant to embrace change but why is it necessary to redesign features just to be different and make them more difficult to use?

    Of course once you own the car and accommodate to it all will be forgiven… right?

    • PRNDL, too funny. I remember when that was a thing! Yeah, not happening any more. There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve on this one, as with any new car. And I share your sentiments on the piano black – luckily its use in this application was light. I think the rear quarter window is where I struggle with design, too. When I get my Type-S it’s going to be in that Tiger Eye color so maybe people will be too transfixed about the wild color and not focus on design so much. I’m getting excited for something new. You’ll have to join when I peel the wrapping paper off it.

  4. Good review! Your findings are similar to what I’ve seen in others, including various YT vids. I like what they did with the power train integration in that the 2-liter turbo seems to have ample power along with a nice engine note. The Type-S should really be a screamer, and I’m sure it’ll be a better value than some of the high performance competition from BMW, Audi, etc. I would guess around $55K, but you’ll probably know before most. 😉

    • I know! $55k is more than I’ve spent on any car, so it’s a lot to think about. In fact I think my most expensive automotive purchase was my $24k NSX nine years ago. I’ll keep you posted as the plans come together. Best case scenario: I pick up my TLX-S in Ohio at the factory and cross-country drive it home!

      • That would be awesome! If it happens, there will be a mandatory stop in these parts so I can see it. Think we’ll be maskless by then? 😷

  5. I really enjoyed the review, especially since the TLX is on the short list of cars I would want to test drive if I had to replace the Accord. I agree with you on the auto stop/start function – when I test drove a CLA-class Mercedes a few years ago, I found not being able to permanently defeat the auto off function highly annoying. Interesting observation about the suspension tuning. As you said, I wonder if that’s an early production issue. Glad to see the car got high marks overall, though!

    Also… almost 8 years since you got the ILX? Sheesh… time flies!

    • I know, and that ILX has served me (and others) well. It just finished up a 6-day stint as a “rental” for a friend who was visiting from out of town. I’ll keep it around for similar purposes, it’s been such a bulletproof ride for all these years.

  6. That’s a pretty color combo. I like the front and back. There is that piece of plastic over the front emblem that looks a little strange especially when sunlight reflects off of it. The trunk would benefit from a small spoiler either attached to the rear edge of the lid or a small spoiler that sticks up just a bit from the deck.

    I really like how the dash flows to the console. The seat design is pretty.

    It would be great if your cross country trip brought you thru Texas on I-10.

    • I’ll start looking at route options! Totally agree – as I recall, the front ‘A’ emblem houses some of the technology for the adaptive cruise control so it has that look to it. And the seats are awesome for sure. 17-way powered too, I think? I don’t have the sticker in front of me right at the moment. Hope you have a great weekend.

      • That makes sense about the adaptive cruise control. Did the seats have a massage setting? If they’re that fancy, I thought they might.

        Have a great weekend too! Lots of driving here for work this weekend. The WX finally broke here. I think it may be a couple months before we see 90 temps again.

  7. TY MACWALTERS Says:

    Excitement is high for this car! The new design for 2021 is definitely a winner in my mind. I finally got to see this car in person for the first time this week; in person it is a striking car. While I haven’t driven the car yet, the drivetrain and interior is comparable to the RDX, and you know I’m very familiar with the RDX. With that said, the two (RDX and TLX) make for a very reminiscent feeling *dare I say the 90’s*. Following a number of reviews remarking the touchpad infotainment system dislikes, I have to say I didn’t find it to be much of a learning curve. Matter of fact, I prefer it over the system in Ridgeline; however, that’s not saying a lot because I find the Ridgeline’s system very slow and very annoying at times due it’s inability to connect with my phone. All in all, I’m waiting with baited breath for the Type-S. From time to time, I scream in my head “When is it going to get here!?”

    Great review Tyson – excited to read more.

    • Good perspectives all around – at some point I think you should do a walkaround / driving demo of your Ridgeline. I’ve never really gotten up close and personal with one.

  8. Alex Loker Says:

    Auto start-stop is the devil’s invention. The TLX does sound like a nice car. Looking forward to your purchase and reviews!

  9. You’re SERIOUS going to buy a “brand new” and “automatic” or are you use 2020’ing all of us?!

  10. You’re seriously going to buy a brand new AND automatic or are you just 2020’ing all of us.
    (that’s what SHOULD have been posted!)

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