As a replacement for two discontinued models, the Acura TLX is poised to deliver a ton of value to premium sedan shoppers. How? By being versatile, affordable and feature filled. A week’s worth of time in a fully equipped V6 model with all-wheel drive proved as much, but there are a few things that rub me the wrong way.
What went wrong? It certainly wasn’t the design of the TLX. The car is stylish inside and out. It’s taken me some time to get used to the beak-like grille, but there’s no doubt that the TLX looks genuinely handsome, as a luxury car should. The fully equipped model I tested featured nice 18-inch wheels, which when combined with the standard LED headlights and taillights help complete the grown-up, premium look.
Engine: 3.5 L V6, 290 HP, 267 lb-ft.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy (US): 21 MPG city, 31 MPG highway, 24 MPG observed
Fuel economy (CDN): 11.2 L/100 kms city 7.5 L/100 km highway, 10.9 L/100 km observed
Price (US): TLX starts at $31,915 after destination charges, $45,620 as tested
Price (CDN): TLX starts at $37,164 after destination charges, $49,664 as tested
The interior is just as well designed with a large soft touch dash panel and wood grain accents. However, I feel that the push-button gear selector is a bit gimmicky. Other cars that have moved away from traditional gear levers have at least opened up the area between the passengers for more cargo space. This isn’t the case in the TLX.
Fortunately, there is quite a bit of passenger space in the car. Adults can sit comfortably in the rear seats and the 14.3 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk is plenty for groceries or luggage.
It’s the small things that tarnish the atmosphere of the Acura’s interior. There are far too many buttons, which make the car a bit intimidating to first time users. That will likely fade with time and familiarity, but the touch-screen interface for the audio system is something that won’t improve. It’s frustrating and unintuitive to have a touchscreen interface with a limited display of audio information and another knob-based interface for the TLX’s navigation and infotainment system.
At least Acura’s ELS premium audio system – standard on V6 all-wheel drive models – sounds rich and premium. Additionally, when you’re not pumping music, the cabin is especially quiet.
Another positive in the TLX is just how much technology it offers. All models come with some kind of handling enhancement as base models come with Acura’s precision all-wheel steering (P-AWS) system, while fully loaded V6 models can come with “super-handling all-wheel drive” (SH-AWD). As you might already know, Acura’s SH-AWD system uses torque vectoring to send power to wheels not only between the front and rear axles, but side-to-side as well. The new SH-AWD system is lighter and is more eager to send power to the rear wheels than the last generation system.
Beyond the handling technology, the TLX is available with a number of driver assists. As luxury car buyers may want their car to do the thinking for them, the TLX is extraordinarily well equipped in this area. There are the basics like rear-view cameras, parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring, but Acura offers much more than that. A front collision warning system helps you stay focused on the road, while an active lane keeping system keeps you from drifting into another lane on the highway. The lane keeping system is sensitive to the point of being annoying and I eventually disabled it to avoid setting off its alarm.
Adaptive cruise control is also available, and proved to be useful on long highway stints. Other cool features like a remote controlled starter, heated and ventilated seats and rain sensing windshield wipers are available.
Success on the Road
That feel is also accomplished on the road, as the suspension is compliant and soft. With its newly designed four-wheel independent suspension system, I barely noticed road bumps as I drove over them.
Handling is a mixed bag. The steering feel is a little on the vague side, but the all-wheel drive system makes highway on ramps a lot of fun to drive.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine may sound familiar to the Honda faithful, but Acura says it’s unique to the brand. It puts out 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque while feeling lively and rev-happy. It’s a shame then that the nine-speed automatic is less refined than the engine and all-wheel drive setup it’s mated to. There are hitches and pauses between gears, it allows the car to roll while switching from drive to reverse and that ends up making it feel underdeveloped.
There are a few different drive modes that can help make the car feel a bit more engaging. The sport and sport plus mode seemed to lock out higher gears, in order to give a better sense of responsiveness. I found myself reaching for the Eco mode, which settled the transmission into the highest gear possible and resulted in fewer gear changes, making the car feel far more comfortable to drive. Paddle shifters are found behind the steering wheel, but there’s a pretty big disconnect between pulling the paddles and the transmission responding.
In our first test drive of the TLX, we found that the eight-speed dual-clutch unit in the four-cylinder model was superior. But if you want all-wheel drive, you need to get the nine-speed and V6. Hopefully Acura offers the four-cylinder model with all-wheel drive in the future.
Is the value there?
Starting at $31,915 for a base four-cylinder model, the Acura TLX seems like better value than the entry-level Mercedes CLA and Audi A3. It’s bigger than both of those cars and comes better equipped, too. The V6, all-wheel-drive model with the Advance Package rang in at a whopping $45,620. That’s a huge gap between the high and low end of the range, but remember, Acura is replacing two of its old models (the TSX and the TL) with the TLX.
Fuel economy for the V6 all-wheel drive model is rated at 21 MPG city and 31 MPG combined. I managed to nail those numbers consistently, averaging 24 MPG.
The TLX is versatile, well equipped and full of value, but this V6 model just didn’t do it for me. It’s a little on the pricey side and the transmission needs some extra work. For now only consider this model if you need to have an AWD version of it. Otherwise the low cost and superior transmission in the four-cylinder model will prove to be a better purchase.
GALLERY: 2015 Acura TLX