First Drive: 2021 Acura TLX Reborn With Performance in Mind

Acura targets two categories—compact sport sedan and luxury midsized sedan—with one model

2021 Acura TLX Type S front three-quarters view

Acura hopes to position its new 2021 TLX luxury sports sedan as a tweener: priced like a compact luxury sedan, but sized to compete with more-expensive luxury midsized sedans.

Initially, the 2021 Acura TLX will be offered with front- or all-wheel drive and a 272-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. In spring 2021, a high-performance Type S version with AWD and a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine making approximately 355 hp will be available.

Even though SUVs continue to proliferate, Acura says premium sedans still comprise enough of the market today that it makes sense for the automaker to invest in the TLX.

More On New Models

While we have plans to buy one as soon as they go on sale, we took the opportunity to rent one from the automaker to get some early first impressions. 

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial assessment of the 2021 Acura TLX is available to you here. We plan to put it through more than 50 tests at CR's Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

If you haven’t signed up to become a member yet, you can click below to do so and access this full article and all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

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What we drove: 2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD A-Spec
Powertrain: 272-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 10-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive.
MSRP: $46,250
Options: Performance Red Pearl paint ($500)
Total options: $500
Destination fee: $1,025
Total cost: $47,775

CR's Take

Following the demise of the RLX, Acura sees the TLX as a viable option in both the compact sports sedan and midsized sedan classes. The 2021 Acura TLX  skews larger than its direct competitors, such as the Audi A4BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But given the TLX’s driving experience, we think it also straddles high-end nonluxury sedans such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry

The new car is roomy and has sharp styling inside and out. But it's saddled with Acura's unintuitive touchpad-based infotainment system and push-button gear selector, both of which require extra attention to operate. Acura does include a variety of advanced safety equipment, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, as standard equipment. But, disappointingly, blind spot warning isn't available on the base version.

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