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The 2015 Acura TLX is a very interesting car, and not just because it straddles two size classes, offering the space of a mid-size sedan in something closer to the footprint of a compact. In replacing the former Acura TL and TSX, the TLX also brings a host of new technology to bear on the near-premium segment.
The TLX was shown at the 2014 Detroit auto show as a prototype, a lightly veiled version of the sedan due in Acura showrooms this fall. The new car adopts some of the cues found on the larger RLX sedan, with emphatic use of LED headlights and exaggerated fenders that house the 20-inch wheels of the concept car. LED lights also underline the sideview mirrors.
Two distinct models offer divergent faces to the TLX range: a base model, powered by a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine; and a higher-tier 3.5-liter V-6 option, good for 290 horsepower. Direct injection and variable valve timing help both engines make the most of their displacements. The four-cylinder is coupled to a new eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission with torque converter that smooths out all of the jerky tendencies of a typical dual-clutch, while simultaneously delivering fast, crisp shifts whether driving with spirit or cruising with ease. The V-6 engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, operated by a pushbutton interface in the center console. While the extra gears in the nine-speed sound impressive, in our time with the car we found it to be a hesitant, pokey gearbox often late to the party when quick acceleration was called for, such as when merging with fast traffic.
What then, is the advantage of the V-6 and nine-speed combo over the four-cylinder with the eight-speed dual-clutch? Available all-wheel drive.
Both the four-cylinder and V-6, when equipped with front-wheel drive, get the ability to steer the rear wheels slightly via actuators, a setup like that on the luxury RLX four-door, a system Acura calls Precision All-Wheel Steer, or P-AWS. With Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), the TLX has torque-vectoring control to assist with cornering. The TLX is be fitted with a four-mode driver-selectable system that alters steering weight, throttle response, and shift mapping to give it a more comfort- or sport-oriented feel.
In our experience driving the TLX, the front-drive four-cylinder is by far the most rewarding driver's car in the lineup, with an immaculately balanced chassis and very settled, predictable handling. The V-6 feels heavy and a bit more sluggish when cornering, a feeling exacerbated by the sluggish powertrain.
While it also replaces the Euro-Accord TSX, the new TLX is sized more like the outgoing TL. It rides on an identical wheelbase of 109.3 inches, but is shorter overall, at 190.2 inches (down nearly four). Interior space has stayed in the same range as that in the TL, good for five passengers. The cabin is also much more quiet, leveraging active noise cancellation for nearly silent driving up to 70 mph.
The 2015 TLX has been tested by both major U.S. agencies, and it earns some excellent, albeit not quite perfect, ratings. It's an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, with top marks in all but the small-overlap frontal impact test, and a five-star federal NCAP performer in every category. The TLX offers plenty of safety equipment including lane keeping systems, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors.
The EPA rates the four-cylinder TLX at 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. The V-6 front-drive TLX scores 21/34/25 mpg, and the V-6 all-wheel-drive TLX rates 21/31/25 mpg.