All-new 2015 Acura TLX may have hit its target

The TLX aims to replace the Acura TSX and TL

Published: September 03, 2014 09:30 AM

Taking delivery of our new TLX had us wondering: Will Acura pull out of its current mediocre streak? The latest Acura sedans we’ve evaluated—the entry-level ILX and top-shelf RLX—pretty much fell flat in our tests. In fact, the RLX didn’t even score high enough to be recommended and, in addition to its so-so test results, the ILX rated very low in our latest owner-satisfaction survey.

Which brings us to the all-new TLX. There’s a lot riding on this car as it replaces not one but two decent performers: the TSX and TL. Acura says the TLX is closer in size to the TSX, but it has the same wheelbase as the TL. It’s available with either a 206-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine and offers the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Both engines and eight-speed dual-clutch (four cylinder) and nine-speed (V6) transmissions are new.

We bought a four-cylinder, front-drive model decked out with the “Tech” package, which adds a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, upgraded stereo, leather seats, and the latest safety gear (blind-spot and forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist and cross-traffic monitor). Cost: $35,920, which puts it in the sweet spot of sports sedans.

First impressions

Getting behind the wheel for the first time, we couldn’t escape the inevitable: Acura carried over the two-tier display layout for the car’s infotainment screens from the RLX and MDX. We really disliked the dual-screen approach for many of the controls and displays in those models; we found the interface frustrating and distracting, often requiring multiple steps to perform simple tasks. Sigh.

The four-cylinder engine and eight-speed transmission make a nice pair, with prompt responses, but it’s certainly not overpowering. Acura’s in-house transmission is a dual-clutch automated manual, but it adds a torque converter as in a conventional automatic. The idea is to gain the quick, direct shifts and fuel economy benefits, yet avoid the low-speed vibrations that often plague these setups. It works. And, the car is proving to be fuel efficient; we’re seeing about 29 mpg so far. We haven’t tried the V6 yet and that’s your only choice if you need AWD.

Handling is nothing to write home about, though. Steering response is prompt enough but falls short on feedback, no matter which mode you drive it in. You may expect the TLX to fall short of a Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, but in reality, it doesn’t even match the Buick Regal or Ford Fusion for handling agility.

The ride is taut and controlled, and the suspension provides decent absorption. Notably, the TLX has a more settled ride than the RLX. One area that the parent company Honda and the upscale sibling Acura seem to be improving is production of quieter cabins. No, the TLX isn’t as quiet as the best from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, but cabin noise is no longer a potential deal breaker with this new Acura, as it is with the ILX.

Inside, the seats are comfortable and the driving position is easily tailored to most body types. Rear-seat room is competitive for the class. Interior fit and finish also seem to continue to make the grade in a long line of Acura high points.

While the TLX may not be the most exciting to drive or to look at, so far it seems like it can be a viable alternative to those seeking a more affordable, less flashy alternative to the German competitors and don’t mind a sedan that’s less athletic. We’ll have a better idea of how the TLX plays out over the next several weeks and a few thousand more miles. Stay tuned.

—Mike Quincy

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