- 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.
2016 Acura TLX
The 2016 Acura TLX is handsome and well-proportioned, but its lines still may not appeal to everyone.
Is the TLX a beautiful car? Most shoppers probably wouldn't think so, but they'd likely agree on handsome, once they got past the front end. It has a chrome bar with a beak-like appearance, which tones down Acura's previously prominent chrome chevron grille (the "bionic beaver" look).
The side profile is aggressively arched, almost heading toward coupe territory, if it weren’t for that long, roomy center roof section. Flared rear fenders are accented by character lines, hinting at sporty potential. Simple curves at the rear partly conceal a lip spoiler at the end of the trunk lid, while twin tailpipes at the bottom of the bumper fascia are carefully inset and deliberately inconspicuous. Unusually for sedans, many will feel its best view is from the rear three-quarter angle.
The interior is handsome, especially around the driver. At the controls, you face some easy-to-read instruments and a dual stack of screens that look suitable for the car's price and mission. A bleak, awkward expanse of plastic sits in front of the passenger, sucking up all the light from the knees up.
Plain but premium in feel, the rear-seat area keeps things on the down low. V-6 cars get better trim and leather, which dresses it up much better than in base versions.
2016 Acura TLX
The 2016 Acura TLX may start with only an inline-4, but it's nimble, lithe, and superbly tuned.
The 2016 Acura TLX comes with three different powertrains, each with a mix of qualities that will suit it to slightly different audiences. The base model has an inline-4 and front-wheel drive, and it can be updated to a V-6. The top of the line is a V-6 with all-wheel drive.
Enthusiasts may find the base model the best one, though it lacks the premium features and four driven wheels of the top version. But it's arguably the best balanced version, it's easy to toss around corners with confidence, and it remains sufficiently comfortable to impress your in-laws and do double duty as sober business transport.
That base engine, a 2.4-liter inline-4, puts out a not-overwhelming 206 horsepower, but it's happy to rev and sounds great doing so. Even better, it's perfectly matched with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission that has the unexpected addition of a torque converter. The combination eliminates every last trace of lurching and jerking that dry-clutch DCT drivers know well, but retains the crisp upshifting of the gearbox, and rev-matches on the downshift to boot.
If you want to shift yourself, put it into Sport+ mode, slide the gear lever over to manual, and shift to your heart's content via the paddles behind the steering wheel. It upshifts automatically at redline, but it also holds a lower gear if you're trying to limit torque coming out of a fast corner. It's exactly what you want as a driver. It's lightweight, it's clever, and it just works--and works well.
Move up to the V-6 models and some of the lovely lightweight flingability is lost, both to the added weight and also to the vagaries of the 9-speed automatic transmission. Still offering both Sport and Sport+ modes, and the same paddle shifters, the extra gear does little to improve the experience, while its programming contrasts badly with the 8-speed DCT's refined brilliance. Shifts become jerky, slow, and lazy; downshifts lack zing; and, remarkably, you can wait 3 seconds or more before anything at all happens when switching from reverse into drive.
The extra torque of the 290-hp V-6 starts to elicit some bad behavior from the front-wheel-drive TLX. Taking off hard from a stop spins the wheels to the point of screeching the tires even with traction control on. While the added power over the four is noticeable, it's not overwhelming, and the better-behaved four-cylinder just feels like a better match for the sweetly balanced chassis of the TLX. Adding Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) to the V-6 eliminates the wheel spin, making the SH-AWD version feel much more sure-footed, but 300 pounds of extra weight further saps acceleration, leaving the car feeling a bit flat.
The base TLX just seems to swing with the pavement more sweetly. It's lighter, by about 500 pounds, and that alone makes it more of a natural back-road companion. Brilliant suspension tuning lets the steering stay in tune with the pavement, and the TLX remains composed even over big bumps, and flat through the apexes. All-wheel steering helps the base 4-cylinder model feel nimble at low speeds, stable at highway digits.
2016 Acura TLX
Comfort & Quality
The 2016 Acura TLX is comfortable and spacious, even if its cabin isn't quite up to luxury levels.
The 2016 Acura TLX provides a relatively large cabin in a pleasantly compact footprint, but that offers both advantages and drawbacks for the car. It compares well against competitors in its price range, with a roomy front compartment and relatively spacious seats in the rear, plus ample trunk space. The cabin comes with a number of convenient storage options, including door bins, a center console, and a glove box.
The TLX does better than nearly any other car on the market--and certainly as well as or better than any car in its competitive set--in quiet, hushed travel. Below 80 mph, wind and road noise are almost non-existent, providing a serene driving experience that permits conversations at normal volumes and takes some of the subtle stress out of longer road trips.
On the other hand, while the TLX interior has pleasant enough materials, but they hardly shout premium. Its design falls short of the style-meets-comfort aesthetic found in the upper end of the class. From the dual-screen infotainment layout, through the comfortable but unremarkable seats, to the rather plain and bleak passenger side of the dashboard, Acura is still a world away from standouts like the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It's not that the TLX disappoints, exactly, but it doesn't make as good a first (or second) impression--even when leather is used to wrap many surfaces in the upper-tier trim levels.
2016 Acura TLX
The 2016 Acura TLX has stumbled in the IIHS' small-overlap crash test.
The Acura TLX had all but perfect safety ratings for 2015 when it was new, but crash-test data for 2016 drops its scores. Last year it earned the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award from the notoriously picky IIHS.
The independent insurance agency gave the TLX its top rating of "Good" in all tests except the tough new small-overlap front crash test, where it's fallen from an "Acceptable" score last year to "Marginal" for the 2016 model year.
The NHTSA gave it the top rating of five stars in every test. You can't do better than that.
During a test drive of the 2015 Acura TLX, we found the lane-departure warning and active lane-keeping assist systems both easy to use and effective, though they're still not quite there for semi-autonomous use. Instead, they provide extra information for drivers, who need to stay aware of the circumstances around them.
Standard safety features include seven airbags, traction and stability control, anti-lock braking, brake assist, LED daytime running lights, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more.
Several option packages offer more features, including several that we tested. Upgrade a TLX with the Technology or Advance package, or specify the V-6, and you'll get lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors and rear traffic alerts.
2016 Acura TLX
The 2016 Acura TLX comes well-equipped from the start, and the the Technology and Advance packages provide serious upgrades
The 2016 Acura TLX comes with a lot of equipment from the start, and aficionados of both high tech and luxury will appreciate the Technology and Advance packages that can be added.
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. Apple's Siri Eyes Free interface is standard, as is integrated text message and e-mail capability, Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming audio. The sound system has seven standard speakers, along with satellite radio and USB/iPod audio interface, and more.
That Technology package adds quite a collection of features, many of them safety-related. It includes rain-sensing windshield wipers, high-tech safety systems such as lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, and rear traffic alert. On top of that are a full navigation system with 3-D view, real-time traffic data, AcuraLink infotainment, a premium Acura/ELS Studio audio system with 10 speakers, HD Radio, and more.
For buyers who want further features and equipment, the Advance Package bundles not only everything that's in the Technology package but also adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors; and heated and ventilated seats--among other extras.
Against other vehicles in its class, the Acura TLX offers a remarkable array of equipment and features, representing tremendous value for the price.
2016 Acura TLX
The 2016 Acura TLX is about average for its class in fuel efficiency.
The 2016 Acura TLX offers three different powertrains, but none of them is a standout in fuel efficiency against other contenders in its class. There are no plug-in hybrid or diesel options, just three sizes of gasoline engine with various combinations of transmission and driven wheels.
The TLX lineup starts with a front-drive, 4-cylinder engine with an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which earns a rating of 24 mpg city, 35 highway, 28 combined.
The two higher-end models with V-6 engines both feature a 9-speed automatic transmission, with front- or all-wheel drive being the difference between the two. Both are rated at 25 mpg combined, with each having a 21-mpg city rating, but adding all-wheel drive knocks down the highway rating from 34 mpg to 31 mpg.
Overall, the TLX should be adequately efficient on highway trips or longer commutes. But its mediocre city ratings keep it from earning any green credentials--and buyers should note that premium gasoline is recommended in all scenarios.
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