September 20, 2020
2021 Acura TLX vs. Audi A4, BMW 330i, Mercedes C300, Volvo S60: How these AWD sedans stack up

2021 Acura TLX vs. Audi A4, BMW 330i, Mercedes C300, Volvo S60: How these AWD sedans stack up


Sharp style isn’t just reserved for the Type S trim.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

The Acura TLX certainly has its fans, but over the years it (and its predecessors) have struggled for legitimacy against the established premium European competition. The new 2021 TLX that officially debuted Thursday aims to change that with sharp physicality and a promising pair of turbocharged engine options. Let’s see how Acura’s new sport sedan stacks up against the premium competition.

The usual suspects are here: Audi’s newly announced 2021 A4, the BMW 330i, the Mercedes-Benz C300 and we’re also including the Volvo S60, another underdog in this class. Like the Audi and the Volvo, the 2021 TLX features standard front-wheel drive; the Bimmer and Benz send their power to the rear. All five sedans are available with optional all-wheel-drive, so we’ll be looking at those configurations to level the playing field.

Powertrain

The upcoming TLX Type S is certainly exciting with its 355-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo V6, but for now, let’s focus on the standard powertrain: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. This is the same VTEC turbo engine found in Acura’s RDX crossover, with 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. In this presumably lighter chassis, it should feel more responsive.

The TLX claims “the highest horsepower in its core competitive set,” according to Acura, and technically that’s true. The A4, 3 Series and C300 are all members of the around-250-horsepower club. However, for this all-wheel-drive comparison, we have to look at the Volvo S60 T6 AWD which — with its supercharged and turbocharged engine — raises the bar to 316 ponies. If you’re feeling the need for speed, maybe check out the Swede.

Powertrain

Engine Power Torque Transmission
Acura TLX SH-AWD 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged 272 hp 280 lb.-ft. 10-speed auto
Audi A4 Quattro 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged, 12-volt mild-hybrid 261 hp 273 lb.-ft. 7-speed DCT
BMW 330i xDrive 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged 255 hp 294 lb.-ft. 8-speed auto
Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged 255 hp 273 lb.-ft. 9-speed auto
Volvo S60 T6 AWD 2.0-liter I4 turbocharged and supercharged 316 hp 295 lb.-ft. 8-speed auto

Fuel economy

Acura has not stated fuel economy estimates for the new-generation TLX, but we can make an educated guess based on the RDX’s numbers. The crossover is good for 21 city, 27 highway and 23 combined miles per gallon. In the sedan’s presumably lighter chassis, we should expect slightly better numbers.

It’ll need that extra efficiency to ascend from its previous spot near the bottom of the pile. The Volvo S60, the most powerful of the bunch, is (for now) the least efficient competitor with 21 city mpg, 32 highway mpg and 25 mpg combined — still better than the 2019 TLX. Slightly better is the Mercedes-Benz C300 at 26 combined mpg. Audi hasn’t released numbers for its 2021 A4, but we don’t think it’ll be too far off of the 2020 model’s 27 combined mpg. 

The current king of the hill is the BMW 330i xDrive at 25 city, 34 highway and 28 combined mpg. Frankly, we don’t think the Acura will beat that, but if the TLX manages to land in the middle of the pack, it’ll still be a solid step up over last year. 

Fuel Economy

City Highway Combined
Acura TLX TBA TBA TBA
Audi A4 24 mpg (est.) 32 mpg (est.) 27 mpg (est.)
BMW 330i 25 mpg 34 mpg 28 mpg
Mercedes-Benz C300 23 mpg 33 mpg 26 mpg
Volvo S60 21 mpg 32 mpg 25 mpg

Dimensions

The TLX’s new look — based on the Type S concept — is wrapped around a new platform that is longer and wider than before. The wheelbase also stretches to 113.0 inches, a gain of 3.7 inches. Interestingly, the roof sits 0.6-inch lower (56.4) than last year, which contributes to the wide and low look.

The TLX is now the longest model in this roundup, measuring over 7 inches longer than the next longest Audi A4 and over 10 inches longer than the C-Class. The Acura’s 113-inch wheelbase is also one of the longest in the class. Acura’s TLX has long straddled the size spectrum between these compact sedans and their midsize counterparts.

With 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space, the TLX lands right in the middle of the pack. The BMW has the biggest boot in the bunch at 17 cubic feet, while S60 drivers make do with just 11.6 cubes. Interestingly, the Volvo is the broadest sedan at 80.3 inches — about 5 inches wider than the Acura — if wide bois are a thing you’re into.

Dimensions

Length Width Height Wheelbase Cargo volume
Acura TLX 194.6 in. 75.2 in. 56.4 in. 113 in. 13.5 cu. ft.
Audi A4 187.5 in. 72.7 in. 56.2 in. 111 in. 12.0 cu. ft.
BMW 330i 185.7 in. 71.9 in. 56.8 in. 112.2 in. 17.0 cu. ft.
Mercedes-Benz C300 184.5 in. 71.3 in. 56.3 in. 111.8 in. 12.6 cu. ft.
Volvo S60 187.4 in. 72.8 in. 56.6 in. 113.1 in. 11.6 cu. ft.

Technology

The Acura’s 10.2-inch infotainment looks system looks nigh identical to the one in the RDX. We’re not in love with its True Touchpad Interface — which is similar in some ways to Lexus’ Remote Touch controller —  but the “absolute positioning” control method works well enough once you get used to it. Some folks, however, may never get used to it.

Of the competitive set, the Audi A4’s 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen infotainment system and Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster is our personal favorite with a very intuitive interface that should be easy for anyone who’s used a phone to pick up. The 3 Series’ iDrive infotainment is a lot better than it used to be, but can still be a bit confusing to navigate. Volvo Sensus is another mixed bag; the core functions are easy enough to reach but, once you get beyond the main screen, it can also be a bit clunky and awkward to use. Folks tend to love or hate this one with few in between. Meanwhile, the C-Class’ COMAND tech is about a generation behind its cohort; it won’t get the latest MBUX infotainment until its next update.

All five sedans feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though the BMW’s use of only wireless connectivity for Android devices limits it to a select few phones that support cable-free connection. 

All 2021 TLX models will come equipped with the automaker’s AcuraWatch suite of driver aid and assistance systems as standard equipment. That means buyers get adaptive cruise control with a new low-speed Traffic Jam Assist function, lane-keeping steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, automatic collision-mitigation braking and driver-awareness monitoring without checking a single box. These features are available on all of the competitive models, but are often tied to options packages or limited to upper trim levels, increasing the cost for the Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo buyers. 

Pricing

The 2021 TLX will start at $38,525 including a $1,025 destination charge when it arrives in dealerships this fall and all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option. Final Type S pricing is still unknown, but Acura says it’ll start just above $50,000.

If we’re right, the Acura will likely snag the most affordable crown of this comparison, rolling out for less than the S60 T6 AWD ($40,550), the A4 45 Quattro ($40,900), C300 4Matic ($43,400) and 330i xDrive ($42,750).

Pricing

Base price Destination charge
Acura TLX SH-AWD $40,525 $1,025
Audi A4 45 Quattro $40,900 $995
BMW 330i xDrive $42,750 $995
Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic $43,400 $995
Volvo S60 T6 AWD $40,550 $995


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Originally published on May 28.
Update, Aug. 20: Adds pricing information.



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