Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy: Up to 35 MPG highway
Pricing: The tested model cost $35,920 including $895 in destination fees.
No, they’re not giving vehicles away but the brand’s new TLX sedan really is like buying one car and getting a second one free. You see, this all-new midsize luxury four-door is serving double duty. It’s replacing both the TSX and TL in Acura’s Lineup, two sedans that were a bit too close to one another.
The TLX slots in between the compact ILX and the much larger RLX, which serves as Acura’s default flagship model, at least until the NSX supercar arrives. As for this Goldilocks car it’s designed to appeal to a broad array of sports-sedan shoppers by offering an appealing blend of practicality, luxury and dynamism.
ACE in the Hole
Appropriately for an all-new model, the 2015 TLX is built on a freshly engineered platform that incorporates liberal amounts of ultra-high-strength steel for structural rigidity and enhanced accident protection. The car also features a fair bit of aluminum, with the hood, bumper beams and front subframe being fashioned of this lightweight metal. Additionally the steering hangar beam is made from magnesium, for maximum mass efficiency.
Overall the TLX’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering structure, ACE for short features numerous developments that make it more rigid than past models and consequently even more able to brush off the forces of a crash. In typical Honda fashion this car has earned “Top Safety Pick+” honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest rating handed out by the IIHS.
VTEC Times Two
When it comes to propulsion, Acura offers two different engines in the TLX, though both feature direct fuel injection and i-VTEC for increased performance and efficiency. The base unit is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that delivers 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque.
For buyers that want to turn the performance wick up a little higher there’s an available 3.5-liter V6 engine. It puts out a muscular 290 horses and 267 lb-ft of torque. These figures have increased by 10 and 13, respectively compared to the best that was mustered by the same engine found in the outgoing TL.
Along with these powerplants the company also offers two brand-new transmissions. The four-banger is exclusively paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic that also brandishes a conventional fluid-filled torque converter. This arrangement offers drivers lightning-fast gear-changes without sacrificing silky-smooth launches or leaving behind the benefits of torque multiplication. The V6 engine’s dance partner is a nine-speed automatic; models so equipped can also be had with Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD).
The four-cylinder drivetrain is remarkably effective and efficient. TLX models with the 2.4-liter engine sticker at 24 MPG in urban driving and 35 on the interstate, figures that result in a combined score of 28 MPG. In heavy-footed real-world testing we averaged around 31, which is impressive to say the least. Naturally, opting for V6 thrust bites into efficiency by a few MPG, as does all-wheel drive.
One feature of particular note is found on all front-drive TLXs. Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steer system (P-AWS) independently controls the toe angle of each rear wheel, something that supposedly helps keep the car on the driver’s desired line while navigating corners. It also aids in making quick maneuvers, increases high-speed stability and helps with low-velocity turns.
Regrettably during my week with the car I really didn’t notice this system, either it’s so well integrated that its functionality is completely transparent or it’s simply not very effective. I’d be inclined to say it’s the former but the latter wouldn’t surprise me. I’ll get into more about how this car handles in just a few paragraphs.
Pop a door, slide inside and you’re treated to a well-executed interior. High-quality materials abound and the overall design is futuristic but not over-the-top. The car’s dashboard is swoopy yet symmetrical and its door panels are sculpted and supple.
There’s a cornucopia of standard equipment. Features including keyless entry with push-button start, a multi-angle rear-view camera, an electric parking brake, dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof and USB connectivity are but a handful of the TLX’s included items.
Of course if you want to go crazy with the order sheet you can opt for the “Advance Package,” which gets you things like collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning ventilated front seats and more.
The TLX I evaluated was equipped with the midrange Tech Package, an item that adds about four grand to the car’s $32,000 base price. It includes things like a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, a 10-speaker ESL sound system, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing windshield wipers and, well, you get the idea.
One thing that caused me much confusion was this car’s infotainment system. With two screens and multiple ways of interacting with its controls things are challenging to say the least. Even after a week I still hadn’t managed to figure out how everything worked. Some functions could be controlled with hard buttons and others required prodding of the touch-screen; it’s a weird mish-mash that I’m not fond of. Adjusting the radio presets was even a challenge at first. C’mon, Acura! It shouldn’t be this difficult.
Fortunately with narrow pillars and a relatively low beltline the TLX’s sightlines are generally pretty good. Additionally its backseat is unusually spacious with a nice amount of legroom. Overall the TLX feels suitably premium but not quite luxurious. Even if it’s more Accord than Aston Martin, it’s still a nice car.
It’s That Kind of Thrill …
Given the modest amount of displacement at its disposal the four-cylinder-equipped TLX is surprisingly fleet. It accelerates with verve from a standstill and sprints ahead as the tachometer needle sweeps toward redline. Acura’s little direct-injected banger is quite versatile and honestly there’s little need for the optional V6, unless of course you want to spend more money, both at the dealership and gas pump.
The car’s brisk performance is no doubt made possible by a quick-witted transmission. With eight ratios available there’s a gear for every situation, though all is not perfect with this hybridized automatic. Sure it can up-shift in the blink of an eye thanks to its dual-clutch design but regrettably these ratio swaps are not always as smooth as they should be, especially in cold weather; shifts can feel a little raggedy. The addition of a torque converter prevents undesirable slipping sensations when taking off from a stop and helps the car scoot but unfortunately does little to smooth things out in other areas.
As for the rest of the TLX’s driving experience it’s entirely competent, with a refined grace that’s befitting of a luxury model. Not that it feels disconnected but there’s a pleasant isolation to the car; the way vibration and impact harshness gets blocked is admirable.
Unfortunately the steering feel is a little vague, a bit distant. Even with the back tires participating in directional changes, the TLX’s tiller never really seems telepathic. The effort is a bit light and the responses slightly syrupy. It doesn’t really encourage you to hustle, though you can. Regrettably there are few real thrills to be had with car, marketing tagline be damned.
The 2015 Acura TLX 2.4L with the optional tech package is a fine premium sedan. It offers a quiet, spacious interior, surprisingly brisk acceleration and outstanding fuel economy. It’s attractively priced and built like a Swiss watch. The model I evaluated cost just 80 bucks shy of 36 grand, which seems like a bargain given how expensive cars are these days, and it was far from a stripped-down penalty box.
Regrettably the TLX feels more Honda Accord than high achievement. It’s a well-engineered automobile but given the choice between this and either a 3 Series or an A4 I’d have to go German for the added passion and engagement.