This is a big moment for Acura. With the release of this all-new 2015 TLX, a single model is replacing both the TL and the TSX. The TLX has taken a middle-of-the-road approach since it’s larger than the TSX but remains smaller than the TL. Acura claims that it offers a healthy mix of luxury and sport. But they are a company that is struggling to define themselves. Will the TLX help? Has Acura got a winner on its hands in a market dominated with German influence?
If you expect the new TLX to feel just like a German sport sedan, you will find yourself slightly disappointed. The Acura simply does not offer the same spirited drive. The 3.5L V6 isn’t the issue. With 290 horsepower, the longitudinally mounted engine is eager and willing to move you right along. However, the 9-speed transmission, like the ones we’ve experienced in both the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee, falls behind in spirited driving situations. The chassis is willing to cooperate, and you can find fun behind the wheel of the TLX, however it is a muted experience. The steering is precise, but lacking feel when turning. As we’ve found in our tests, the Cadillac ATS is the benchmark here. But if you shift your expectations towards a luxury sedan, the new TLX begins to make a lot of sense.
Acura’s IDS, or Integrated Dynamics System works well. A small button located on the console amongst the push-button transmission, it cycles the TLX from Economy mode to Normal, Sport and Sport +. Both Economy and Normal are relatively dull, but Sport and Sport + have a noticeable effect. The TLX gains a bit of sharpness and exhibits a driving exuberance that Acura has forgotten in recent years. When in Sport +, the normally eco-minded transmission holds shifts longer, and will not shift for you when reaching redline. Also, interestingly, the traction control in cooperation with the SH-AWD, or Super Handling-All Wheel Drive, is limited to provide a more natural, almost sporty, feel. Lastly the drive-by-wire throttle response is heightened.
There are, however, a few problems. The V6 in our tester sits far forward in the nose. You can feel the effect of this placement, even on normal roads. Our TLX tester also arrived shod with mud and snow tires, and not the high-performance all seasons that come standard. In the early Fall, that type of tire felt out of place and most likely negatively affected the handling. We reckon that the 2.4L four-cylinder TLX with P-AWS, or precision all-wheel steering, would be more nimble.
The luxury car market is not built purely on driving experience, however. The car must have the luxury feel and look of a car commanding the $45,595 asking price of our tester. On the outside, Acura’s Jewel Eye LED headlights are unique to look at and work fantastically at night. However, they occupy such a small amount of space on the front end of the car that it gives the TLX a squinting appearance. Out back, Acura tips its hands at the TLX’s true colors. Interestingly, the tailpipes are concealed under the rear bumper. That’s been a luxury hallmark for some time. If the TLX wanted to be more sporting, we would have liked to see them aggressively styled into the design, such as they were with the TL.
The cabin is covered in leather and faux stitching to give the appearance of luxury, but it does feel a little cheap and gimmicky in some places. The seats were comfortable with multiple adjustments, but they lacked bolstering for the sides. Rear legroom was also a little tight for a car in this class. On the infotainment front, the dual-screen setup is far superior to Infiniti’s system and is fairly easy to use. You just need to remember that the top screen and bottom are separate, yet joined when dealing with media. Once you get used to it, you realize that it’s a well thought out system, and the redundancies are kept to a minimum. The largest adjustment required adapting to Acura’s new push-button gear selector. A total button overload, the electronic gear selector is far from intuitive at first glance. Nobody on staff got in the Acura for the first time and immediately drove away. There were always a few moments of confusion as they instinctively reached for, and missed, the gear selector. That being said, the push to park, pull for reverse, and push a large button for drive does work just fine. After a few days, it becomes easier to adapt.
Acura may be marketing this car the wrong way. Instead of being a sporty sedan, it may be a better luxury car than you think. A soft ride, comfortable seats and hosts of safety features make the TLX a great family car, one that you would indeed pick over a comparable Lexus IS or Infiniti Q50. The TLX, however, isn’t the car that will transform Acura into a performance marque. It won’t be the Japanese performance substitute, leave that to Lexus’ F division. The Acura TLX turns out to be the sensible choice.
|2015 TLX 3.5L SH-AWD w/ Advanced Package||$44,700|
|As Tested MSRP||$45,595|