Acura replaces two models with one. Can the new TLX really do double-duty?
By MALCOLM GUNN
Acura shoppers might miss the 2014 TSX sedan and the larger TL, but not for long. Both of these retiring brands have been reconstituted under a single TLX model that is as diverse as its predecessors.
The TLX is Acura’s latest assault on the near-luxury sports-sedan segment that it practically invented back in the late 1990s. But with changing times and increased competition staring it in the face, Honda’s premium division has developed a whole new car that expands on the kind of performance and content choices originally offered in the TSX and TL.
The TLX comes to market with a taut and athletic body shell. Overall length has been cut by 3.7 inches, due to a reduction in the areas extending past the front and rear wheels. The car is also about an inch narrower and the roofline is slightly lower. The distance between the front and rear wheels remains identical to that of the TL, which ensures adequate legroom for rear-seat riders, even if overall interior volume remains on the snug side.
Styling is typical of what you would expect from Acura. The familiar shield-like grille is back, albeit subtler than what’s on the outgoing TSX/TL. Acura has also installed a set of its “Jewel Eye” multi-pod LED headlights. In back, the cool-looking dual-exhaust outlets, which were among of the TL’s sportiest features, are absent on the TLX, which is a shame.
The interior is nicely turned out and has a decidedly premium look and feel. The front seats aren’t as bolstered as those belonging to many of the car’s competitors, but they’re comfortable and still supportive.
Acura has incorporated two separate screens into the dash. One is for the standard rearview camera and available navigation system while a larger touch-screen operates the ventilation, communications and infotainment systems.
Under the TLX’s hood is where Acura bridges the gap between the two outgoing cars. TSX fans will find a similar, but brand new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 206 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automated manual transmission (dual clutch, or DCT). Uniquely, Acura’s engineers have added an automatic-transmission-style torque converter, ostensibly to smooth out the harsher upshifts and downshifts that are inherent in DCTs. It works well with this powerplant providing nearly seamless gear changes.
Optional is a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, 10 more horses and 13 pound-feet of torque more than the retiring 3.5 that was found in the TL.
A nine-speed automatic transmission with a console-mounted pushbutton gear selector is exclusive to the V6.
Both powerplants provide plenty of zip and achieve significant fuel-economy improvements over their predecessors. The thriftiest is the 2.4 with a rating of 24 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.
The four-cylinder TLX is strictly a front-wheel-driver, while V6 versions are available with an upgraded version of Acura’s SH-AWD. All front-drive four- and six-cylinder models come with all-wheel-steering (P-AWS) that slightly turns the rear wheels in the same direction (up to 1.8 degrees) with the fronts at higher speeds. This reduces understeer, which is a vehicle’s natural tendency to continue in a straight line, even when the steering wheel is turned.
During low-speed maneuvers, such as when entering a parking space, the P-AWS turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts, up to the same degree. This helps the TSX turn sharper.
Traveling rural Virginia’s corkscrew secondary roads, both systems seem to give the TLX a noticeable handling boost.
The TLX comes standard with ECON, Normal, Sport and Sport+ driving modes. The latter maximize the car’s performance abilities with crisper shifts, added steering effort and a throatier exhaust note.
Base pricing begins at $32,000, including destination charges, for the 2.4L and level out in the mid-$40,000 range for a loaded 3.5L with SH-AWD. Those values are appealing, compared to the competition and are compelling reasons for considering the TLX for your first or next upscale sedan.
What you should know: 2015 Acura TLX
Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive mid-size sedan
Engines (hp): 2.4-liter DOHC I4 (206); 3.5-liter SOHC V6 (290)
Transmissions: Eight-speed automated manual (I4); nine-speed automatic (V6)
Market position: Entry- and mid-luxury sedans are indeed popular, which is right in Acura’s wheelhouse. There’s obvious savings to having one model instead of two, without compromising the merits of the retiring TSX and TL.
Points: Acura plays it pretty safe with the styling; Four- and six-cylinder engines deliver more than adequate power; Smaller exterior, but passenger space is comfortable for four, but less so for five; Suspension provides firm but comfortable ride in most cases; Acura ends the question of overlap between the TSX and TL and the TL and top-rung RLX.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG: (city/hwy) 24/35 (2.4); Base price (incl. destination) $32,000
The seats are comfortable and supportive without having big side bolsters that make getting in and out a pain in some other cars. Overall interior volume is bit on the snug side, but it’s about the same as that of the outgoing TL, despite the TLX being smaller overall.
The tail section does away with artsy exhaust finishers. Instead, the mufflers exit below the rear bumper. Although shorter than the TL, the TLX has the same distance between the front and rear wheels.
Base price: $33,700
Entry sedan available in several versions, including hybrid and diesel variants.
Base price: $30,800
Sleek new base model available in FWD, AWD and hot AMG models.
Base price: $34,700
Available with a quartet of four-, five- and six- cylinder engines and AWD.