2015 Acura TLX. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Pritchard
With rides that aren’t excessively pricey, hoity, powerful or blinged-out, many shoppers are drawn to Acura products things like residual value, reliability, and a no-nonsense ownership experience. For the luxury motoring masses, owning an Acura is a smart, practical, and level-headed decision strongly rooted in several sensible ideals. You might call Acura the Lisa Simpson of luxury brands.
And that’s why your writer was such a fan of the outgoing Acura TL SH-AWD. Key traits like level-headedness and sensibility and safety were largely front and centre here, meaning that its potent performance capabilities lived discreetly in the background like a sort of delightful little secret between it and its driver that could be called into action when appropriate. I always found the TL SH-AWD beautifully confident to drive peacefully or wildly, on bare pavement or snow and ice or anything in between. It was smart and sensible first- Acura doesn’t build cars designed to set the driving enthusiast’s soul on absolute fire- but the undercover performance of the TL was a real treat.
That TL SH-AWD is gone now, replaced by the new-for-2015 TLX- an all-new sedan model that fills the space of both the larger TL and slightly smaller TSX before it in Acura’s lineup. Since the TLX fills the shoes of two cars, it’s available with heaps of selection to help it cater to a wide base of shoppers, which is important, says Acura, when trying to balance the scales back from several years of strong SUV sales and poor sales of sedans.
TLX selection works thusly: you get four or six-cylinder power, two or four-wheel drive and an eight or nine-speed transmission, both automatic. The 2.4L four-cylinder makes 206 horses, comes front-wheel drive only, and has a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission bolted to it. The V6 is a 3.5L with 290 hp, and comes only with a nine-speed automatic. A new, lighter, smaller, faster-acting and more torque-vectoring SH-AWD system is available (V6 only), and all two-wheel drive models have four-wheel steering. No matter which TLX you choose, you’ve always got all four wheels helping to steer or rotate the car, in one way or another.
2015 Acura TLX, engine bay. Click image to enlarge
It’s all housed in a new frame structure that’s stiffer and stronger than the outgoing models it replaces, with things like hot-stamped door rings and up to a 100 percent increase in strength at the suspension mounting points contributing to more precise handling, less flex, and less noise. Key structural segments are even filled with a sound absorbing spray-in expanding foam. The same team behind this new TLX worked on numerous TL and TSX generations prior to it – and excitedly talk about getting to test and develop new measures like these to create a better driving experience.
The sound deadening foam and stiffer chassis has worked. On the road, if you kill the stereo and HVAC fan and just absorb the sound around you, the TLX feels very much as if it’s been carefully tuned to block unwanted noises and sensations from entering the cabin. You hear the soft pitter-patter of tires over expansion joints and a subtle roar from the road beneath – but near-nil levels of wind noise and appreciable efforts from the suspension to filter out the smaller bumps and cracks leave drivers to feel only the good stuff, if anything at all.
2015 Acura TLX driver’s seat & steering wheel. Click image to enlarge
Those drivers take it in from a cabin that’s typical Acura. There’s plenty of soft dash material with depthy, swooping character lines sculpted in for a visual connection between multiple areas, a touch of exposed stitching, and graceful curves of metal-plate accenting that flow down the console. If you’re coming out of a few-year-old Acura model, much of the materials and colours and a good portion of the controls will feel familiar. If it’s your first go-around testing competitors in the luxury scene, you’ll find the atmosphere balanced somewhere between the formal and serious look of a Benz or BMW, and the more high-tech, daring look typical in Audi and Infiniti machinery.
The driving experience, if you’re coming out of a last-generation TL, will also be familiar, which is a good thing. The V6-powered TLX, which is smaller overall than the TL before it overall but just as big inside, has a heavy, dense and planted character to it, even when pushed. The TL was a solid and creamy car, and the TLX maintains that – while turning in a quieter ride than the outgoing unit and perhaps feeling a touch softer. The new engine is a little less furious-sounding when opened up though just as snippy at high revs, the steering still clamps the thing to the driver’s selected line, and the suspension is, perhaps, a touch less busy on rougher surfaces. It’s much of what owners of the last-generation TL liked, but a little more upscale around the edges.