- Mid-size room in small footprint
- Lavish high-tech options
- Super 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox
- All-wheel drive available
- No manual gearbox offered
- Interior materials not particularly premium
- Sayonara, TSX wagon
The 2016 Acura TLX is light on luxury feel, but it has great interior space, lots of technology, and in its base version, supremely enjoyable performance and handling.
The 2016 Acura TLX sedan slots between two conventional luxury-car classes. A car with mid-size interior space but a compact footprint, it replaced both the TL and TSX sedans in the 2015 model year.
The TLX doesn't just have space. It has a lavish array of technology and features. It's not truly a luxury car but it has a lot of the same content, for a much lower price--and that makes it substantially different from evocative new entries like the Benz CLA-Class.
The design shares some of its styling cues with the larger Acura RLX sedan, including distinctive rows of LEDs in the headlamps and more underlining the side mirrors. Exaggerated fender outlines and a toned-down version of the brand's horizontal silver "beak" give more distinction to an otherwise handsome but generic sedan shape. Not everyone will like it, but few will find if offensive.
A variety of engines, transmissions, and drive systems are mixed and matched to create three distinct models. The base model gets power from a 2.4-liter inline-4 putting out 206 horsepower, coupled to a new 8-speed, dual-clutch transmission with the unusual addition of a torque converter. The effect is to smooth out the usual jerky shift patterns of dual-clutch gearboxes, while keeping the quick, clean shifts, whether you're driving with brio or just taking it easy. The inline-4 TLX comes only with front-wheel drive.
The two higher-level models get power from a 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 hp. Both engines use variable valve timing and direct injection to get the most from their relatively small displacement. The V-6 is paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission; its extra cogs look impressive on the spec sheet, but in the real world it's a pokey, reluctant shifter, especially in fast uphill highway merges. Its less-sporting character is indicated by its push-button interface.
The V-6 is the only way to get all-wheel drive, unfortunately. The awkwardly named Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system uses torque-vectoring to aid in stable and predictable cornering. If you stick with front-wheel drive, whether with the inline-4 or the V-6, the TLX adds rear-wheel steering via a setup like the one on the bigger RLX.
In our drives of various TLX test cars, we found the 4-cylinder version the better, more rewarding version. Its well-balanced setup grants it predictable, remarkably settled handling. The 6-cylinder feels heavier, sluggish, a feeling the 9-speed does nothing to help. All TLX sedans get a 4-mode system that changes throttle response, steering weight, and shift points for a wide range in driving feel, from comfortable to sporty.
Though it also subs in for the TSX--the European Honda Accord, more or less--the TLX has interior room on par with the now-discontinued TL. It rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase, but is almost 4 inches shorter overall. Despite that, it has roughly the same interior volume as the TL, enough for 5 passengers.
On the safety front, the TLX pulls up shy. It's not for lack of safety gear: Acura offers adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitors. It's been rated an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, but new standards have changed and its "Marginal" small-overlap front-impact score drops it from the award ranks. The TLX gets five stars in every test category from the NHTSA.
Standard equipment on every TLX includes LED daytime running lights, plus conveniences such as hill start assist, cruise control, automatic headlights, and heated side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down. Bluetooth with streaming audio is standard, as is Siri Eyes Free. Seven-speaker audio comes standard as well, along with a USB audio interface and satellite radio.
The TLX lineup starts with the 4-cylinder, front-drive model and its 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which earns a rating of 24 mpg city, 35 highway, 28 combined. The two V-6 engines, which are separated by front- or all-wheel drive manage similar ratings: 21/34/25 mpg for front-drive, 21/31/25 mpg with AWD.