Fans of the Honda and Acura brands are well aware that the Accord and TLX are similar vehicles in many ways. Both sedans are built upon front-wheel drive platforms. Both are made by Americans, from primarily American-sourced components, in Marysville, Ohio. Both also do well in their “core” competitive segments. So, is a mid to top trim Accord the “same thing as” a mid to top trim Acura TLX? Not by any stretch of the imagination based on our testing. Both are great vehicles, but the Acura TLX is at another level than the Accord.
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2021 Honda Accord vs. 2021 Acura TLX – The Tale of the Tape
While both are similar in size, and both are four-door sedans, they don’t share any dimensions. The Accord is longer than the Acura TLX, rides on a shorter wheelbase, is narrower, and slightly taller. The Accord is also much larger inside and has a meaningfully-larger cargo volume.
When top trims are compared, the Accord is a lighter vehicle, mainly because it is front-wheel drive and the top trim of the TLX is all-wheel drive. 500 pounds is a lot of weight in a sporty sedan. In the TLX trims without AWD, the Accord still has a 272-pound “lightness” advantage. One notable difference in the weights is that the distribution is closer to 50-50 over the front and rear wheels in the top trim TLX cars. That is usually an indicator of handling benefits.
2021 Acura TLX vs. 2021 Honda Accord – Notable Feature Differences and Similarities
The Accord and TLX are best compared in their top trims when it comes to features. Both have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all trim levels, but for 2021 the Accord’s is expected to be wireless. The Accord also has a spare tire on all trims (except Hybrid trims). The TLX has no spare on any trim. Nor are the TLX’s tires run-flat capable.
Similarities include a head-up display in top trims and heated and ventilated leather seats in both cars’ top trims. Having sat in both, we prefer the seats in the TLX. However, seat comfort is a subjective thing, certainly not a measurable aspect of a car.
Both cars have excellent ergonomics. The TLX has a remote touch interface system, and the Accord offers a touch-screen interface. Both have volume knobs, but the TLX moves its to the center console. We prefer the simplicity of the Accord’s interface. Truthfully, we rarely use any interface other than steering wheel controls now that Google Assistant is part of all Android-Auto-equipped cars.
While both offer quality audio systems in all trims, the Acura ELS Studio Premium Audio with its ceiling-mounted speakers is a dramatic leap above any Accord’s audio system we have ever experienced. Frankly, the better of the two ELS systems one can opt for in the TLX is as good as that found any vehicle at any price point we have ever experienced. Be sure to try the better of the two ELS systems if you shop for a TLX. It is simply amazing.
2021 Acura TLX vs. Honda Accord – Pricing
When comparing prices of the 2021 TLX to prices of the 2021 Honda Accord, it is essential to match the vehicles as closely as practical. Accords with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine start at around $30K. However, the top trim Touring 2.0T at about $40K is the closest match to the “base” TLX.
The TLX starts in FWD at about $40k. SH-AWD adds $2K. The Technology Package adds $4K. The Advance Package adds another $4,700, and you have to opt-in to the Tech Package to get it. We tested an Advance Package (2.0T) with SH-AWD, and the price was $49,825 including destination fees and $500 white paint. Pricing for the A-Spec with the new 3.0-liter, V6, turbocharged engine has not yet been announced, but we would count on another $5K for that very top trim.
2021 Acura TLX Advance vs. Honda Accord 2.0T Touring – The Drive
We drove the prior-generation top-trim 2020 TLX 3.5L SH-AWD PMC Edition with its V6 engine last year. Exactly one year ago, in fact. Our notes reminded us that the V6 was starting to feel a bit less powerful and a lot less torquey than the other competitors in the segment in the $50K-ish price range. Although we know the V6 Honda / Acura engines well, and my family has owned both brands, the new 2.0-liter turbo has a much better torque experience. With its maximum torque available at just 1,600 RPMS, the 2.0-liter engine pulls harder and more linearly than does the old non-turbo V6 no longer available in either model for 2021. To put it simply, you won’t miss the old V6. Trust me, we’ve had three in the family and still own a V6 Accord.
Both cars are real-world quick and arguably “fast” in real-world driving. With a 0-60 MPH time under 6 seconds and excellent responsiveness in sport modes, these are entertaining cars to toss around where space and circumstances permit. Which we rarely find in our Metro Boston surroundings. More often, we are slogging through traffic or cruising on the highway. In both situations, the 10-speed auto transmissions and low-end torque from the 4-cylinder turbo engines do great. Honda killed off its manual transmission option for the Accord for the 2021 model year due to lack of buyer interest. So both the 2.0T-equipped Accords and all TLX cars currently for sale have the same transmission.
While both the FWD Accord and the SH-AWD-equipped TLX are satisfying to drive into a corner, the TLX feels different. It feels lower, wider, and shorter than the Accord (and it is). It feels more planted. It feels like it understeers less. The TLX feels more satisfying when you have a bit of space to wring out the car. Both have great comfort over rough roads, and both are comfortable highway cruisers. We also found the TLX’s brake pedal is dialed-in perfectly. It’s not race-car hard, but there is no “daily-driver” mushiness, and the pedal responds to your inputs in a predictable and satisfying way.
2021 Acura TLX Advance vs. Honda Accord 2.0T Touring – Conclusion
While these are two cars we would call siblings, both have their advantages. The Accord is only less expensive when you compare the TLX with more features. At about $40K, they are equal in price and similar in content. The Accord is larger inside and has a larger cargo capacity. The wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay available in the Accord is a big deal to this reviewer. We also feel a spare tire is a vital safety feature, particularly in the era of COVID-19. So, the Accord can be viewed as a “budget TLX” in some ways and more practical in some ways.
However, drive a $50K TLX, and there is no comparison. All-wheel drive, a lower, wider stance with a longer wheelbase, and the superior Acura attention to detail make the TLX feel like a better vehicle in almost every way. Then you crank the ELS audio system and think, “Yup, worth the cost.”
The best thing about this matchup is the incredible range of fine details from which a shopper can choose. Honda and Acura are both brands of the same company making cars in the same place. One has the edge in practicality, and one has the advantage in performance, refinement, and satisfaction. We would not say that these two are head to head competitors. The Accord leads its segment in many ways, including in sales. The TLX is one of the stronger options in the premium ICE-powered sedan segment. Both do what they are designed to do so well that fans of the brand will be thrilled with their choice.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin