Fresh off a 2021 redesign, the Acura TLX carries over unchanged. It's not quite a world-beater, but the TLX is a good features-per-dollar value against its competition—compact luxury sport sedans and entry-level midsize options, too.
The TLX is the latest in a long line of feisty Acura sedans, and the Type S model is a promising sign that Acura still cares about performance models.
The TLX is a bridge between sport sedan worlds. This generation is longer and wider than the last, bringing proportions in line with midsize sedans like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5 Series. In price and performance, the TLX aligns more closely with compact sedans like the C-Class or 3 Series.
Aesthetically, the TLX is at the head of the pack. The stance is wide and athletic, and the sheetmetal doesn't stray far from the sharp Type S concept car. Inside, design is clean and driver-focused, right down to an invitingly chunky steering wheel.
The extra size doesn't help make the rear seat feel as roomy as you'd expect, and it adds a couple hundred pounds of weight. As a result, the TLX never felt quite as eager as we expected. The suspension is balanced, and turn-in is quick, but agility is compromised, and we wish for a snappier transmission.
If there's a saving grace for the TLX, it's value. Starting just under $40,000, the TLX is priced below most compact luxury sedans, let alone its midsize competitors. Judiciously configured, the TLX is a bargain. It may not win out at the track, and there are definitely more well-rounded options, but it's a pleasant everyday companion. Plus, you'll stand out from the horde of BMWs.
Most TLX trims house a competent 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Unlike many sport sedans, the TLX starts with front-wheel drive. Acura's all-wheel-drive system is a $2,000 option, and we recommend it. EPA-rated fuel economy maxes out at 22/31 mpg city/highway, which is a few notches below most rivals.
The TLX Type S ups the ante with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6. Total output comes to 355 hp and 354 lb-ft. Expect the TLX Type S to hit 60 in just over 5 seconds. The Type S is only available with all-wheel drive, and fuel economy falls to 19/25 mpg city/highway.
Regardless of engine, every TLX sends power through a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The TLX has its flaws, but none of them is in the safety department. The IIHS gave the TLX a perfect report card and a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award. The NHTSA was equally impressed, bestowing a five-star overall rating.
The TLX also comes with an impressive suite of active safety tech. Standard features include automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a driver attention monitor. It's an impressive kit, and it's more comprehensive than standard suites from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. The only missing piece is blind-spot monitoring, which is standard on all trims except base.
The TLX is sized like a midsizer but will more often be compared to compacts. Against a similarly priced Genesis G70, the TLX stacks up well.
Cargo space (behind second row):
Legroom (first/second/third rows):
Infotainment in the TLX runs through a 10.2-inch screen on the dash. Acura bucks the trend by rejecting a touchscreen—instead, the system is controlled through a touch-sensitive pad on the center console. It's not a bad interface once you're used to it, but the learning curve can be steep.
The TLX's optional ELS sound system deserves special mention. Designed with the help of a Grammy-winning producer, the architecture places speakers strategically to eliminate structural vibration. It sounds gorgeous.
Acura isn't the only brand attacking the luxury establishment from below. In recent years, Genesis and Volvo have established themselves as budget-friendly alternatives to top-tier luxury badges.
The Genesis G70 is priced near the TLX, and its interior is more luxurious than the MSRP suggests. The G70 has the performance chops to run with the big dogs, and it may be a better choice than the TLX for enthusiasts. The G70's biggest downside is its size, which cuts down on cargo capacity and leg room.
The Volvo S60 combines stunning Scandinavian design with a host of features and an optional plug-in hybrid powertrain. It rivals the TLX for value and offers slightly more passenger space. The S60's front-wheel-drive-biased architecture makes it less fun than rivals, however, and it's better suited to long distances than corner carving.
The TLX is available in five trims (base, Technology, A-Spec, Advance, and Type S) ranging in price from about $39,000 to just under $55,000. For maximum value, avoid the loaded Advance model. After adding all-wheel drive, a basic TLX costs around $41,000 and provides solid savings over a comparable BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
If we were considering a 2022 TLX, we'd try the A-Spec trim. At just over $45,000, it adds a few worthwhile perks, including a flat-bottom steering wheel and that lovely sound system.