2021 Acura TLX A-Spec SH-AWD new car reviews

For 2021, Acura completely resigned the TLX using a dedicated platform and offering new engine options.

Until the Type S comes out, all TLXs come equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged K20 four-cylinder engine rated at 272 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque and backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission. (The Type S will make do with a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6.) Regardless of which of the four flavors you choose, all TLX models can be had with either front-wheel drive or Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).

We sampled the A-spec version, which is the sportiest option until the Type S arrives in late May of this year. The A-spec, similar to other Acura models so equipped, is mechanically identical to the other TLXs, though it does come with some exclusive options, like the Apex Blue Pearl exterior,  bright-red interior, flat-bottom steering wheel and Shark Gray wheels.

What's it like to drive the spicy version of the new TLX? Read our driving impressions below.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

I first drove the TLX A-Spec on a busy road at the height of rush hour, just after picking it up from our editor’s house. While our rush hours in the greater Volusia County, Florida, are not Chicago or DC-level, our busy stop and go two-lanes in an unfamiliar car are a great litmus test for how quickly a car endears itself to you.

In the case of the TLX, it happened fairly quickly. I’m still no fan of the touchpad mouse control used to select various options on the driver info center—something like Mazda’s directional joystick/knob works much better and is more accurate—at least Acura gives you plenty of traditional controls to adjust the important stuff without distracting your attention too much or for too long.

Not that I’m against technology in cars. Quite to the contrary, I like having deep access to all of a car’s functions, but I also appreciate immediate, tangible access to the stuff I use most frequently, and I don’t care if those switches take up extra dash real-estate.

But so far, I’m judging the TLX as an appliance, which the aggressively bolstered seas, thick-rimmed wheel and sharp chassis response is informing me is not what the A-Spec variant is biased toward. Unfortunately, the sporting character fades a bit as traffic clears and you’re allowed to tip deeper into the throttle.

While the steering is crisp and nicely weighted and gives plenty of road feel, even at 60%, power from the 272-horsepower turbo-four does not seem up to the capability of the chassis. Roll into the gas and the TLX A-Spec becomes its own worst PR flak, giving you exceptional response and balance without the authority to move it from corner to corner as it deserves.

With 350 horsepower, this car could be a giant-slayer. BMW 3-Series and C-Class Benzes would either stand and salute in respect or run and hide in fear. But at 272—and what feels like a generous rating at that—the TLX feels like it lags behind some of its competitors as an all-around package.

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/24/21 11:16 a.m.

I've heard similar reviews that there is at least one part of the equation that's holding the car back from being a true competitor in its class. Hopefully, the more powerful Type S solves that problem.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/24/21 12:34 p.m.

Well, since we know we have the Type S coming.. I'd say this review is pretty encouraging.

Makes me that much more excited for the Type S.


rothwem Reader
3/24/21 1:36 p.m.

Its weird, this driveline feels downright quick in an RDX.  I wonder if there's some torque limited funny business going on, or perhaps an odd transmission calibration?  Or I guess as you mention, the chassis is just so good that it makes the rest of the car feel slow.  

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
3/24/21 2:05 p.m.

Interesting... I still have fond memories of my track day with the last generation TLX:


Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
3/24/21 3:13 p.m.

I wonder if this has the torque vectoring rear diff unit. 

noddaz UltraDork
3/24/21 5:31 p.m.

I work at an Acura dealer.

HEY HONDA!  Put this "all TLXs come equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged K20 four-cylinder engine rated at 272 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque" into an ILX please.

Nuff' said.

GCrites80s HalfDork
3/24/21 8:11 p.m.

^That would be cool. With the ILX, when Civic goes to 11th Gen have you heard if ILX will also go to 11th Gen, stay at 9th Gen or go to 10th Gen for some reason?

Dootz Reader
3/24/21 10:00 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

It would be immense sabotage to not have the ILX go straight to the 11th gen platform, but sadly I expect it to be moved to the 10th gen (or just be cancelled altogether in favor of bringing in the CDX)

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