What It Is
A midsize luxury sedan for the practical and tech-oriented buyer.
Nimble four-cylinder model, cabin is well-insulated from outside noise.
Interior is a little too reminiscent of cars from the Honda brand.
The Acura TLX is the Goldilocks solution for a midsize sedan.
What happens when you combine two of your favorite ingredients into one blender? Either your drink becomes the next Orange Julius that people will enjoy at malls across the country, or the mixture turns a mysterious brown color and produces a decidedly ambiguous and unsatisfying taste.
Fortunately when Acura execs decided to combine two of their past models into one new car, they were onto something. This year, Acura announced it will replace the sporty-yet-unrefined TSX and the larger TL model with one single car: the all-new TLX. Its goal was to combine the best of both worlds with just the right exterior proportions as well as both fun and luxurious driving characteristics.
We had the opportunity to drive the new TLX in Virginia recently, and we found the new TLX offers a well-rounded driving experience. While it may not offer the thrills of some competitors, we think it is a good option for families, comfort-oriented buyers, or those looking for something fresh on the market.
WalkaroundJust like its predecessors in the Acura lineup, the TLX features sedate styling. It may not be as instantly recognizable on the road in the same way as a BMW or Mercedes, but it does have a certain captivating elegance. The first thing that immediately stood out to us was the standard jewel LED headlights, which have become a signature piece on Acura models and even some Honda products.
Compared to the outgoing TL, this model features a longer roofline and short rear deck for a sportier look. The TLX is also 3.7-inches shorter in overall length, but it still features the same wheelbase and tandem passenger seating distance as the spacious TL, so it doesn't sacrifice interior space. Thanks to the new proportions, the TLX looks significantly tighter, cleaner, and more athletic than previous models.
Sitting DownAcura is known for its cars that feature a strong feature-per-dollar ratio, and the TLX is no different. Standard features on this model include power moonroof, rearview camera, push-button start, XM Satellite Radio, text message capability, Pandora, dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, and HomeLink. Whether equipped with the standard leatherette or optional perforated leather seats, the Acura TLX keeps drivers pretty comfortable on long drives.
Still, it was hard not to notice how much Acura was borrowing from Honda on its interior materials. Lots of hard plastics on the dash and stiff door panels left us wanting a little more from this luxury brand. Our least favorite part of the interior was the shiny, faux wood paneling highlighted with shiny alloy accents.
Navigating around town was easy with the available navigation system. Like most systems, it comes with a learning curve, but we found that the maps were uncluttered and easy to view. The TLX comes with two screens, which may be new for some buyers. A 7-inch touchscreen allows drivers to control radio, volume, climate, places, and other categories through a series of menus. An 8-inch color audio screen displays navigation maps, audio information, and a rearview camera.
DrivingDuring our time in Virginia, we had the opportunity to drive three versions of the TLX. The first model, which carries a 2.4-liter with 206 horsepower, felt exceptionally nimble and light on the road. A 3.5-liter V-6 comes with 84 more horsepower, and although this seems like a big boost, we didn't perceive this engine feeling significantly more powerful than the four-cylinder. We noticed the V-6 had a much more planted, heavier feel on the road, which some luxury buyers may prefer over the throw-around feel of the lighter car. Both these models have very responsive steering, thanks to Acura's Precision All-Wheel Steer technology, which allows the rear wheels to adjust toe angles independently of each other for increased maneuverability at low speeds and extra stability at high speeds.
We also drove the sole all-wheel drive option in the TLX lineup, which uses the V-6 engine. While we thought all the models featured a certain calculated drive feel, this model took things up a notch. Taking tight turns and corners in this model is a pleasure. While the four-cylinder model receives an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, V-6 models feature an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission, which also provides for smooth and seamless shifting. However, V-6 models feature an electronic gear selector, using an array of buttons that either pull up or push down to change between gears. We found this less intuitive than the standard lever found in the four-banger.
Those looking to buy a TLX shouldn't expect to pass BMWs in highway merging or impromptu stoplight races (we couldn't). But we think that more important is the TLX's exceptionally quiet cabin. Whether driving down the highway at high speeds or through back roads on a windy day, the TLX manages to keep what's outside away from the ears of the driver.
SummaryWe can't pretend that there isn't a lot of competition in this space from a variety of different players. Buyers may cross-shop this model with everything from BMWs to Buicks in the very popular $30,000 price range. But we think the Acura TLX provides a unique combination of nimble handling, livability, and overall value that many buyers want. At the same time though, competitors from Lexus and Audi feature more differentiation between the mainstream brands they come from (Toyota and Volkswagen).
We will go out on a limb and recommend most value-oriented buyers select the four-cylinder model. Although many buyers think of this as a compromise, we think of it as an advantage. Its exceptionally nimble drive feel, as well as its superior 24/35 mpg fuel economy rating, will please the lion's share of buyers.
Basic Specs2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder, eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with torque converter, 2WD, 206-hp, $30,995, 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy
3.5-liter direct injection V-6, nine-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, 2WD/AWD, 290 hp, $35,220, 21 mpg city/34 mpg hwy (2WD), 21 mpg city/31 mpg hwy (AWD)