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The Underrated Japanese Luxury Sedan With A Legendary Engine

Here's why the Acura TLX is a well-kept secret on the Japanese tuner scene.

I feel like we don't talk enough about Honda's luxury arm, Acura. The TLX model is a relatively young Acura nameplate, dating back to 2014. In 2021, the second generation went on sale as a rival to the likes of BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4 to name a few. Acura is a small brand compared to the German premium trio, and the sales confirm it.  

Acura TLX sales in North America, between 2021 and 2023, amount to 81534 units – 76,124 for the US and 5,410 for Canada. This is roughly 1/3 of what each of the German premium competitors are selling each. Since I am a big fan of sports-luxury sedans, I decided to delve into it, and shed light on what makes the Acura TLX a great buy. 

The Type-R Power 

One gripe I have with the latest Honda Accord is that it no longer offers the 2.0-liter, turbo-four engine. The Acura TLX still does, and moreover, you can still buy it brand new. The K20 engine is one of the most legendary, Japanese inline-four engines for a good reason. Luckily, you can still get an Acura TLX with it as it is the base engine.  

  • 2021-2024 Acura TLX 2.0 Turbo performance specifications 
  • Engine: 2.0-liter, turbocharged, DOHC, inline-four 
  • Output: 272 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, 280 pound-feet at 1,600-4,500 RPM 
  • Transmission and driveline: 10-speed automatic, FWD/ SH-AWD 
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.1-5.6 seconds 
  • Fuel economy (EPA): 24-25 MPG combined, 21-22 MPG city, 29-31 MPG highway 

To be more precise, the Acura TLX gets the K20C6 engine, which has a few differences compared to the Honda Civic Type-R and Acura Integra Type-S engine. Those include a smaller turbocharger as well as different intake, exhaust, pistons, oil pump, exhaust valves, and camshafts.

The TLX's version of the K20 is much more similar to the one found in the outgoing Accord, but the TLX block features a balancing shaft. Long story short, despite the differences, the tuning potential is there, and as we know, aftermarket support for Honda's K-series engines is vast. 

The SH-AWD system 

The base Acura TLX sends power to the front wheels only, which doesn't exactly scream premium or sporty, especially when most competitors offer rear-wheel-drive-biased platforms. Still, Acura TLX benefits from the brand's Super Handling all-wheel-drive system.

It's still a front-wheel-biased system, which splits the torque 60:40 between the front and rear axles, in normal driving. It is also able to send up to 100 percent to either side when necessary and redistribute up to 90 percent of torque in a straight line to maximize acceleration. Sadly, the TLX does not come with limited-slip differentials. 

The AWD system in the Acura TLX works great with the 10-speed automatic with a 3.59:1 final drive ratio. More importantly, this 10-speed automatic features shorter gearing compared to Lexus's 10-speed unit, which is geared as if it is a five-speed. 

Acura's distinctive interior setup 

The second-generation Acura TLX has one of the most distinctive interiors of any sports-luxury sedan

Acura TLX's interior is well-sculpted and to me, it is what a luxury-sporty interior should be. Everything feels upscale, solid, and with logical arrangement. The 12.3-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is responsive, but the drive modes are switchable through a rotating knob for better access. Also, it is not a touchscreen. Interior space is also adequate although not the best in class. Sadly, you can't fold down the rear seats for extra cargo space. 

  • Front legroom – 42.5 inches 
  • Front legroom - 37.2 inches  
  • Rear headroom - 36.3 inches 
  • Rear legroom - 34.9 inches  
  • Rear shoulder room – 55.0 inches 
  • Rear hip room – 54.6 inches 
  • Passenger volume – 93.4 cubic feet 
  • Cargo space: - 13.5 cubic feet 

If you go for the A-Spec Package, you get sport seats with perforated leather, flat-bottom steering wheel, and a few sporty exterior touches.  

Acura TLX has a good reliability record 

I am looking at reliability data from a few reputable publications as well as consumer reports to determine the reliability score of the Acura TLX. As expected from a Honda product, the TLX is much-praised for its build quality and reliability.

I also looked at the first year of production as it is expected to be the most problematic. Consumer Reports indicate that the Acura TLX is a lot more reliable than the average new car, which is a feat, especially for a luxury car since they tend to have more issues further down the line. 

Reliability score: 75/ 100 (J.D. Power), 4.5/ 5 (RepairPal), 4.2/ 5 ( 

2021-2024 Acura TLX pricing 

Acura TLX can still be had with the legendary K20 engine, making it an underrated tuner car with a thing for luxury

You can still buy the Acura TLX as a brand-new car, but there are plenty of great, low-mileage examples out there. My internet search saw used prices starting from $23,000 for a base model to 35,000 for a high-spec 2.0 Turbo, AWD examples with very few miles.  

As a brand-new car, the 2024 Acura TLX starts at $45,000 MSRP, which is not far from the German premium rivals from BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Honda products (Acura included) tend to retain value very well, but considering the TLX is behind the competition in some regards, it may not be as attractive of a proposition.  

What I really want to see is someone building an AWD Acura TLX to over 600 horsepower, because until then, I feel like the TLX will continue to be an overlooked Japanese car. And I reckon, it has more tuning potential than the Acura Integra Type-S while having the ability to remain a comfortable, luxury sedan. 

About the author

Dimitar Angelov's automotive interests made him an expert in a wide variety of vehicles. Japanese brands like Toyota are closest to his heart, although performance cars in general are his favorite segment, which is why he is constantly on the lookout for the best deals on the market. Dimitar Angelov's car passion and knack for the written word led him to complete a Master of Arts in Media and Communications, and classic car restoration. Dim is happy to get behind the wheel of any car and share his impressions. You can follow Dimitar on XLinked-inInstagram, and Facebook.

Image sources: 2024 Acura TLX, 2024 Acura TLX