opinionated at any speed

2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance

Sun, 12/27/2020 - 9:30am

Knowing that Acura is Honda’s upmarket brand, you might expect its re-designed and re-engineered new TLX to be a plush and whisper-quiet “mature” sedan—a Lexus by another name, perhaps. But you’d be wrong. And possibly surprised.

In fact, Lexus, worried that its cars are “boring” to driving aficionados, might follow Acura’s lead: This TLX “delivers precision-crafted performance to premium sports sedan enthusiasts.” The maker also calls it “simply the best performing, best handling and most well-appointed Acura sedan ever.” 

Quite a statement. And surely true, even though our TLX Advance version comes with the base 4-cylinder engine, not the 355HP V-6 that’s due in the spring. Still, 272 horsepower isn’t shabby and this TLX can hit an on-ramp with authority. A seamless, manually shiftable 10-speed automatic transmission helps; so does SH-AWD, Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. That’s Honda’s 4th-generation torque-vectoring system, which adds power to the outside wheels in a corner. A good driver can feel it working, and AWD is always welcome too. 

The new TLX has a flex-free chassis underpinned by a sporting suspension and accurate, nicely weighted variable-ratio steering. With better weight distribution than the old car, it’s nimble for its size, and every function—damping, steering, braking, even shifting gears—reacts progressively as speed and need increase. 

The TLX used to line up with the likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes C-Class, but now it has moved up a notch. This longer, lower, wider car has the presence of an A5 or E-Class, and the cabin, instruments and features were upgraded to match. 

Bottom line: This TLX Advance lists for $49,825, all in, but the entry-level model starts at just $38,525 and the Technology trim adds another $2,000. That might be the TLX value-performance leader, at least till the $50K Type S arrives.