Acura TLX vs. Lexus IS

By

Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - December 9, 2020

The Acura TLX is all new for the 2021 model year, ushering in an updated look, enhanced performance, a modern interior design, and more. It also has a new Type S model that pushes its performance even further.

Since the Lexus IS got its last redesign back in 2013, it should lose pretty handily to the TLX. Continue reading to see if there’s a good reason to choose the aging IS over the new and more modern TLX.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Acura TLX & the Lexus IS »

What the TLX Gets Right

The redesigned Acura TLX brings in a sportier new look, dropping its Honda Accord underpinnings. This gives it new proportions and a sportier drive than before.

Inside, the TLX features a forward-looking cabin that refrains from reaching too far into the space-pod design flaw many cars tread into. This cabin puts clear separation between the driver and passenger, further enhancing its sporty feel.

The TLX also boasts all the latest in tech, including a 10.2-inch display, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. However, the TLX’s screen isn't a touch unit. Instead, it uses a touchpad controller that’s every bit as frustrating as the Lexus IS’ touchpad interface. Higher-trimmed TLX models bring in legit luxury with a 13-speaker audio system, open-pore wood trim, a head-up display, upscale upholstery, and more. The IS tries to compete but falls short in delivering top-notch luxury in some areas.

The TLX has two powertrain options, starting with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, beating the IS 300 by 31 hp and 22 lb-ft. This powertrain sprints the TLX from 0-60 mph in the high-five-second range, which crushes the IS 300’s 6.9-second time.

In the TLX Type S lies a 3.0-liter turbo V6 with 355 hp that helps deliver a sub-five-second 0-60 mph time, which again comes out on top compared to the IS 350’s 5.6-second run. Plus, the Type S is a legit performance sedan, whereas the IS 350 is a good straight-line runner but isn’t as agile.

The TLX also delivers more passenger room with 34.9 inches of rear leg room, beating the IS by 2.7 inches. The TLX also has 13.5 cubic feet of cargo room to the IS’s paltry 10.8.

On top of all these advantages, the TLX starts from $39,025 including destination, which is $1,000 less than the base IS 300.

What the IS Gets Right

There isn’t a lot the Lexus IS does better than the Acura TLX, and that’s expected from a sedan that was last redesigned back in 2013. That said, its rear-wheel-drive setup gives it a more predictable feel in the corners than the front-heavy TLX.

Also, inside the cabin, the IS gains a new touchscreen that’s now 5.5 inches closer to the driver. This allows owners to bypass the frustrating touchpad infotainment interface that’s marred this luxury sedan for years. Acura, unfortunately, keeps its clunky touchpad.

Get That Classic Luxury Feel in the Lexus IS

The Lexus IS is one of the last of a dying breed of rear-driven luxury sedans, giving it that classic, in-control feel buyers crave. The TLX is front-driven, making it almost drag its nose through tight turns.

Our Verdict: Acura TLX

The redesign Acura TLX delivers a wallop in a head-to-head competition against the Lexus IS with its sharp design, powerful engine options, sporty drive, and upscale cabin. The IS simply can’t keep up in nearly all areas.

Take a closer look at the Acura TLX »

Take a closer look at the Lexus IS »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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