- Clears up brand confusion
- Loads of high-tech options
- Brilliant new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox
- Available all-wheel drive
- RIP TSX Wagon
- No manual-transmission option
- Interior materials don't feel as premium as we'd like in high-trim models
The 2015 Acura TLX offers impressive performance, ample features, and smart value.
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.
2015 Acura TLX
The 2015 Acura TLX’s styling won’t be for everyone, but it’s a handsome, well-proportioned car.
The 2015 Acura TLX isn't a beautiful car, but it is a very handsome one.
While Acura's corporate nose has softened and matured somewhat from its brash, beak-like broad chrome grille bar of recent years, it still remains somewhat off-putting to many observers. A strong, wide front end is crowned by the large shield-shaped grille, which itself is flanked by a pair of narrow, wide multi-element headlights. Running lights set low in the bumper and air intakes below those add depth and presence. Along the sides, the TLX’s profile is arched and aggressive, almost tending toward coupe-like if it weren’t for the long and roomy center section of the roof.
Character lines accentuate the flared rear fenders, further hinting at the sport potential of the TLX. At the rear, rather simple curves coax a trunk lid spoiler from the form of the metal, while carefully inset and inconspicuous tail pipes sit at the bottom of the bumper fascia. The TLX’s best angle is, to most eyes, its rear three-quarter view.
Inside, the TLX is quite comely, as long as you’re sitting in the driver’s seat. The attractive and easy-to-read instrument cluster and dual-screen center stack look high-tech and suitable to the car’s price point. From the passenger seat, however, a bleak and awkward expanse of black dashboard extends from one’s knees to the windshield; the material doesn’t speak of artistry either.
In the rear seat, things look a bit plainer than up front, but the atmosphere is still generally premium. In loaded V-6 models, all four seating positions benefit from the appearance of leather upholstery and trim elements.
2015 Acura TLX
Nimble and lithe in four-cylinder form, the 2015 Acura TLX is among the best-tuned cars in its segment.
Three types of TLX are available: a four-cylinder, front-drive base model; a V-6, front-drive upgrade; and a V-6, all-wheel drive model as the premium option.
For the enthusiast, the entry point to the TLX range may be the best version, even though it's not available with all-wheel drive and all of the premium extras you’ll find at the top of the TLX expanse. Why? Because it’s immaculately balanced, supremely chuckable, and still comfortable enough to drive the in-laws to brunch on Sunday.
That 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine isn’t massively powerful at 206 ponies, but it’s willing, and sounds great when revved out toward the top of the tach. Better yet, it’s mated with a truly brilliant (though counter-intuitive) 8-speed dual-clutch transmission mated to a torque converter. Why a torque converter? Because it completely eliminates all of the lurch and jerk of a traditional dry-clutch arrangement, while delivering all of the crisp upshifts and zingy rev-matched downshifts of the usual arrangement. It’s smart, it’s lightweight, and it just works.
Toss the TLX 2.4 into Sport+ mode via the IDS button, move the gear lever over into manual, and fire off gear changes with the steering wheel-mounted paddles to your heart’s content. It’ll automatically upshift at redline, but it’ll also hold a lower gear if you’re trying to limit torque application coming out of a fast corner. It’s most exactly what you want—and certainly never really objectionable.
But the TLX sings the sweetest when flitting through yumping, curving, switch-backing twists of two-lane. Nestled in the 3,400-pound range, the car feels lighter still, and the brilliant suspension tune leaves the steering feeling taut and accurate (if not quite precise), the car sorted over bumps, flat at the apexes, and ready to leap out of the corners at the top of the four-banger’s abilities. The Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system adds to the feeling of nimbleness at lower speeds, and enhances stability at freeway speeds (and higher). P-AWS is standard on the four-cylinder model.
Step up to the V-6 models and some of that lightweight fling-ability goes away, lost to weight (about 3,600 lbs depending on equipment), but also to the new 9-speed automatic transmission’s vagaries. Still offering Sport and Sport+ modes, and still offering the manual paddle shifters, the 9-speed gearbox’s extra cog does little to improve the experience, while its programming does much to contrast sharply with the refined brilliance of the 8-speed dual-clutch. Shifts are jerky, slow, and lazy; downshifts lack the zing you want to match revs; and when switching from reverse to drive, expect to wait a good 3-5 seconds before anything—anything at all—happens.
With the 290-horsepower V-6, the extra torque also begins to elicit some bad behavior from the front-drive model, spinning the wheels to the point of screechy tires even with traction control on when taking off hard from a stop. While the V-6’s power upgrade over the four is noticeable, it’s not massive, and the better-behaved four-cylinder seems a better match for the TLX’s balanced chassis. Adding Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) to the V-6 (the only way it’s available) takes away the wheel spin issues, making the TLX 3.5 feel much more sure-footed, but the extra weight (curb weight with SH-AWD sits around 3,750-3,800 lbs) saps acceleration further, leaving it feeling a bit flat.
At the end of a quick six hours in the TLX, covering some 270 miles, we found the car to be a worthy replacement to the previous TL--cabin space is nearly as good as the larger outgoing car’s, thanks to a shared wheelbase--and a marked upgrade from the fun-but-wheezy TSX.
2015 Acura TLX
Comfort & Quality
While not quite up to premium levels, the cabin of the 2015 Acura TLX is spacious and comfortable.
Acura's new TLX is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to categories and competition--it sits between the sizes of the previous Acura TL and TSX, offering a large cabin with a relatively small overall footprint. This in-betweener status yields both advantages and disadvantages for the TLX.
On the size side of things, the TLX fares very well against its similarly-priced competition, with roomy front and fairly spacious rear seats, and ample trunk space. Door bins, a center console area, and a glove box offer fair in-cabin storage space.
The TLX’s materials, on the other hand, are nice, but don’t shout true premium—certainly not in the way the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class does. The design, from the dual-screen infotainment layout, to the seats, to the rather plain and bleak passenger side of the dashboard, falls short of the style-meets-comfort aesthetic found in the upper end of the class, too. That’s not to say the car truly disappoints in any of those respects; it just doesn’t make as good a first (or second) impression, even in upper-tier trim levels where leather wraps many surfaces.
One thing 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--is keep quiet. Wind and road noise are almost non-existent below 80 mph, making for a serene driving experience that allows conversations at normal volumes and takes stress out of long drives.
2015 Acura TLX
The 2015 Acura TLX earns top-notch crash-test scores, and offers a host of standard and optional safety features.
The 2015 Acura TLX earns a five-star crash rating National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), thanks to its construction as well as considerable standard and available safety technology, as well as Acura’s safety-conscious engineering. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the TLX a Top Safety Pick+, with top marks in all categories except for an "acceptable" rating in the small-overlap frontal impact test.
Among the standard safety features are a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, seven airbags, traction and stability control, anti-lock braking, brake assist, LED daytime running lights, and more.
Optional extras available as part of the Technology, Advance, or V-6 upgrades, include a Forward Collision Warning System, Collision Mitigation Braking System with Head-Up Warning, Lane Departure Warning system, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation System, Blind Spot Information System, and Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor.
During our drive of the 2015 Acura TLX, we found the lane departure warning system and active lane keeping assist system to be effective and easy-to-use, if not quite up to the task of semi-autonomous use. They’re better taken as additive to the safety of an attentive driver.
Acura’s Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, a convenience feature that also impacts safety by effectively offering traffic jam assistance and limited semi-autonomous driving, behaved oddly, often failing to recognize opportunities to accelerate in traffic, and once, even accelerating toward a stopped vehicle at a traffic signal, requiring driver intervention to avoid a collision.
2015 Acura TLX
Well-equipped in base form, the Technology and Advance packages offer serious upgrades to the 2015 Acura TLX.
While the base configuration for the 2015 Acura TLX offers a fair set of equipment and features, those with an eye for more technology or luxury will appreciate the bundles Acura has put together in the form of the Technology and Advance packages.
All TLX models come standard with LED daytime running lights, a full complement of airbags, stability and traction control, and conveniences such as hill start assist, cruise control, automatic headlights, and heated side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down. On the tech front, Siri Eyes Free interface is standard, as is integrated text message and email capability, Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming audio, a seven-speaker audio system with Sirius XM radio and USB/iPod audio interface, and more.
The Technology package adds a host of features, including rain-sensing windshield wipers, high-tech safety systems like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Information System, and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor. Also included in the Technology package are navigation with 3D view, real-time traffic, AcuraLink infotainment, a premium Acura/ELS Studio audio system with 10 speakers, HD Radio, and more.
In practice, the Technology package’s safety technologies integrate to provide a great deal of additional alerts about what’s going on around the car. Our time driving early pre-production versions of the TLX revealed a few false alerts in the Forward Collision Warning system, but Acura says it will have those ironed out by the time the car reaches production later this year.
For those desiring even more equipment and features, there’s the Advance package. In addition to the features of the Technology package, the Advance package brings: Collision Mitigation Braking System with Head-Up Warning; Road Departure Mitigation System, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow; front and rear parking sensors; and heated and ventilated seats among other extras.
On the whole, the Acura TLX offers a great range of features and equipment, and, taken against its competition, offers tremendous value.
2015 Acura TLX
The 2015 Acura TLX isn't the greenest car in its segment, but it does well on highway gas mileage.
Unlike some of the complexities of the competition, the 2015 Acura TLX is available with just a handful of powertrain options. Each does well on highway gas mileage, but leaves a little to be desired in the overall picture.
The base configuration is a front-drive, four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which rates 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway for a combined rating of 28 mpg.
Stepping up to the V-6 models, a nine-speed automatic transmission is standard, but buyers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive. That choice won't impact gas mileage ratings, however, according to the EPA: V-6 models rate 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for a combined rating of 25 mpg with all-wheel drive, or 21 mpg city, 34 highway, and 25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive.
Those figures make the Acura TLX a decent performer on longer trips or commutes, thanks to the solid highway figures, but the lower in-town gas mileage keeps the TLX from truly green status even among its gas-burning competition.