Acura is making a serious push to bring back the enthusiasm and excite its buyers again.
This is the 2021 Acura TLX Platinum Elite. Acura made a name for themselves in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a car company that made driving exciting. Their portfolio included the legendary NSX, the Integra Type R, various other Type S models, which featured patented technologies such as VTEC and SH-AWD to make for fun and exhilarating drives. However, the brand seemed to have gone away from the magic and instead focused on building more comfortable people haulers. This has led to buyers turning to other newcomers such as the Genesis G70 and the Kia Stinger GT when shopping for an entry-level sports sedan.
Stepping into 2021, Acura is making a serious push to bring back the enthusiasm and excite its buyers again. The first move was to introduce the all-new second-generation TLX with the high-performance TLX Type S to follow. Acura is confident that the TLX will help to deliver its Precision Crafted Performance commitment, and we set out with a TLX Platinum Elite to see if the brand can deliver on their promises.
Painted in the Phantom Violet Pearl that reflects either purple or black depending on the light condition, the TLX Platinum Elite has a refreshed look that is more athletic and performance focused. The styling resembles the striking Acura Type S prototype that was unveiled in 2019, with noticeably longer and wider dimensions than the outgoing TLX model. A fastback-style rear three-quarter view rounds out the TLX’s overall attractive appearance.
There will be two engine choices supplying power to the all-new TLX. The first to arrive is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder producing 272-horsepower at 6,500 RPM and 280 lb-ft. of torque from 1,600 to 4,500 RPM, with a 3.0-litre turbocharged engine to follow in the Type S. The 2.0T is a significant step up from the outgoing 206-horsepower 2.4-litre naturally aspirated engine, and is close in output to last year’s larger 3.5-litre engine.
Power from the TLX is smooth on acceleration in the city with lag showing only during sudden throttle input. The biggest letdown is the ten-speed automatic transmission that struggles to keep up with the punchy powerplant, and it also lacks the crisp feeling during shifts when compared to last year’s eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Acura has put in major work in creating the new chassis for the TLX. The company touts that the new TLX features the most rigid body structure ever in vehicles not named the NSX, and enhanced handling and cornering grip through the return of the double-wishbone front suspension technology. The TLX feels tight and willing to turn during our real-world testing, but understeer is evident and the vague steering feel negated much of the fun.
The good news is that the brand’s available Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system is lightning quick in directing power to the wheels that require traction and we did not encounter much slip even in icy conditions. We also enjoyed being able to dial in the TLX’s suspension firmness with the Platinum Elite exclusive Adaptive Damper System.
Fuel consumption for the 2021 Acura TLX is rated at 11.2L/100 km in the city and 8.0L/100 km on the highway for a combined rating of 9.8L/100 km. We observed a slightly higher average of 12.5L/100km during our city commute with the cold icy weather partly to blame. Premium 91-octane fuel is recommended for the 60-litre fuel tank.
The interior of the 2021 TLX has also received a complete makeover. The dual screen cockpit has been replaced by a single 10.2-inch screen atop the centre console. The infotainment is controlled by a ‘True Touchpad Interface’ that asks its users to place their finger on the position that corresponds to the onscreen command location. This unique inputting method takes a bit of time to get used to and can be distracting at times, but gets easier as drivers get acquainted with the system. Smart phone users will be able to connect using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The TLX Platinum Elite comes with 16-way power adjustable front seats that are heated and cooled with a handy feature that automatically turns on either system based on the outside temperature. The seats are nicely cushioned and comfortable for long drives, though we would prefer a touch extra side bolstering for lateral support. There is good head and legroom in the front, and its rear legroom is slightly above average. The trunk opening is shallower than we would have liked but the space itself is wide and deep.
A full suite of active safety systems is standard including Collision Mitigation Braking, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning systems. The TLX Platinum Elite also comes with Blind Spot Information, Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, and Traffic Jam Assist systems to assist drivers. Acura has introduced an all-new passenger front airbag technology that works like a baseball catcher’s mitt to reduce the chance of significant brain injury when the head slides off a conventional airbag in the event of an accident.
Pricing of the 2021 Acura TLX starts at $44,490, with our Platinum Elite trim starting at $52,190. The only add-on is $500 for the Phantom Violet Pearl paint job, thus bringing the as-tested total to $52,690. This enters into a heated playing field that puts it head-to-head against the Genesis G70 2.0T AWD and the Lexus IS 300 AWD. The TLX wins on its comfort with more interior space than the competition, while the Genesis delivers on a more athletic driving experience. We await the all-new 2021 Lexus IS 300 AWD to hit our garage so we can give all three a fair evaluation.
The 2021 Acura TLX Platinum Elite is a baby step in the right direction to bringing back the brand’s famed performance history. It puts together striking looks with a solid new platform, and we are excited for the arrival of the new Type S and its capable powertrain that promises to excite drivers again.
*Photos by Desmond Chan*