The outgoing Acura TLX brought a knife to a gun fight. With its 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and 206 hp, it needed more—way more—to compete against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C Classes of the world. That also applied to its interior.
Fortunately, the second-generation 2021 Acura TLX is better prepared for a rivalry that’s fiercer than ever. With new warriors like the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Genesis G70—both previously named MotorTrend Car of the Year—Acura’s sport sedan is ready for combat.
The 2021 TLX is getting a major overhaul. It ditches almost everything its predecessor has, including its cabin. With a standard 2.0-liter turbo that produces 272 hp and the return of the Type S performance variant, Acura is cooking something tasteful. Inside, the TLX borrows many elements from the RDX crossover, bringing much-needed change to the interior.
The 2021 Acura TLX’s cabin is more luxurious and attractive than the outgoing model. Here’s why.
2021 Acura TLX—The Technology
If you’ve been inside the Acura RDX before, the 2021 TLX will look familiar. The 10.2-inch infotainment screen sits at the top of the dash, and the high center console splits the space between the driver and front passenger. Using the same interface as the RDX, the TLX adapts a touchpad as the single way to control the infotainment system. After reviewing the RDX’s system for a year, we concluded the interface is hard to use. There’s a steep learning curve for new Acura customers. The brand says over-the-air updates have made the touchpad more intuitive to use, and its dealers are teaching new buyers how to properly operate the infotainment.
Designers moved the volume knob and tuning buttons by the touchpad, making the center console more organized. (The RDX has these controls just below the screen). Like in all Acuras these days, the shifter takes its form in an array of buttons to free up space in the cabin.
One modern touch is the 24-color ambient lighting system. To make the colors more relatable, Acura paired each hue with a famous highway around the world. Pacific Coast Highway, for example, will display an ocean-blue color.
The TLX can be optioned with the crisp ELS Studio premium audio system that’s in the RDX, except the sedan gets 17 speakers instead of 16. We’re big fans of this system, and we’re sure the TLX will deliver a better experience.
One miss is the lack of a full digital display for the instrument panel. Other sport sedans offer a digital screen on higher trims, but the TLX falls short. What the TLX does have is a 7.0-inch color display between the analog speedometer and tach. The screen has several “cards” that show a digital speedo, traffic sign recognition and tire pressure, among others, but we miss the full-on experience of a bigger display.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, which is nice considering the RDX doesn’t support the latter. Occupants can find two USB ports in the front and a wireless charger on the top trim. There are no USB ports for rear seat passengers, unfortunately.