Vehicle Comparison Highlights:
- Both sedans’ faster versions use a turbocharged V6
- The TLX is both larger and cheaper than the A4
- There’s no standard AWD for the TLX
The entry-level luxury cars segment is a competitive one. It’s where buyers start looking to move into nicer cars without spending the same money someone might be willing to spend on, say, a BMW M3. And no two cars in this segment are more close in competition than the 2021 Audi A4 and the 2021 Acura TLX. Both Audi and Acura each have their respective faster versions, and it’s time to sort out which is best in this four-way comparison.
|Vehicle||2021 Audi A4/S4||2021 Acura TLX/Type S|
$53,345-$54,145 (Type S)
|Engine Options||2.0L Turbo 4-cyl. mild hybrid|
3.0L Turbo V6 (S4)
|2.0L Turbo 4-cyl.|
3.0L Turbo V6 (Type S)
|Horsepower||201 hp/261 hp|
349 hp (S4)
355 hp (Type S)
|Torque||236 lb-ft/273 lb-ft|
369 lb-ft (S4)
354 lb-ft (Type S)
|Transmission||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
8-speed dual-clutch automatic (S4)
10-speed automatic (Type S)
19/24/21 (Type S)
|IIHS Safety Rating||Top Safety Pick|
Top Safety Pick (S4)
|Top Safety Pick+|
Top Safety Pick+ (Type S)
|NHTSA Safety Rating||5 Stars|
5 Stars (S4)
5 Stars (Type S)
The Audi A4 and S4 could be peak German engineering
- Pros: The A4 brings luxury tech and comfort to the masses, but for a price
- Cons: The Audi S4 outperforms the TLX Type S, but at what cost?
Honestly, it’s insane how close these two are. The 2021 Audi A4 offers a turbocharged four-cylinder, just like the Acura, and each offer AWD either as standard or very low in the model hierarchy. Plus, both models offer faster turbo V6 versions. As for the 2021 Audi A4, well, it’s definitely a luxury car first and a bargain second. That shows in the 2021 Audi A4’s interior, which is much nicer than both the TLX and the faster S model. However, it is a smidge smaller, and the Acura edges it out in the reliability department.
That leaves us with the legendary Audi S4. The fast Audi is a staple in the luxury sports sedan world, and it’s been around for almost as long as Acura has. Unfortunately, the S4 lacks a lot of visual distinction from the 2021 Audi A4, a sticking point for some. What isn’t a sticking point is the performance. There’s a lack of feel throughout, but the S4 more than makes up for that with sure-footed handling and a killer interior.
The Acura TLX and Type S compete with Germany’s best sedans
- Pros: The 2021 TLX is a bargain luxury sedan well worth the AWD upgrade
- Cons: The Acura TLX Type S is let down by it’s weight, and Acura’s interiors need more work still
And that interior brings us to the TLX and one of its biggest weaknesses. Despite the serious revisions made by Acura for the 2021 Acura TLX, the model still lacks the interior to compete with German rivals. However, the TLX is bigger, and cargo space is noticeably more ample across the model range. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for the non-standard AWD, which starts at $40,545, a hair pricer than the Audi.
That said, where both Audi models lack a great deal of driving feel, the TLX and Type S don’t. Acura nailed the chassis tuning here, a must for the faster version of the TLX. Despite the missing AWD in lower-trim models, the brand’s SH-AWD more than makes up for it, and feels just as good, if not better than Audi’s. While the TLX Type S is the road less traveled for sports sedans, the S4 still beats it for outright performance, coming in almost 300 lbs lighter.
Which of the fast luxury cars is right for you?
Our verdict is a split vote. If you’re after either the 2021 Aud A4 or the 2021 Acura TLX, it’s best to stick with the TLX. The bargain price is a huge boon, especially given how much options cost on the Audi. If you can live with having a slightly less luxury interior, the Acura is for you. However, if you want to go fast, you’ve got to spend the money. The Audi S4 takes the fast car cake here, owing largely to its weight advantage and dual-clutch transmission. In short, the “F” in “Four Rings” stands for fast, if you can stomach the price.