Acura’s 2015 TLX is a hard-working car, burdened with the unenviable task of replacing two outgoing models, the TSX and TL. This backwards two-for-one deal makes sense: there was some overlap between those two cars in terms of size, performance and pricing, so paring the line down to a single mid-sizer is a smart idea.
The TLX I drove is the ostensible replacement for the smaller TSX, powered by a four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels alone; to get AWD, you have to move up to the V6 engine and a near-$40,000 price. TLX pricing starts around the same point as the TSX, at just under $35,000, and ranges up to $47,500 for the SH-AWD Elite model, a car that’s a bit cheaper than the outgoing TL’s top model.
Dual-clutch transmissions are all the rage at the moment, and Acura jumps on the bandwagon with its first, an eight-speed that serves as the only gearbox for four-cylinder TLX models. However, Acura’s dual-clutch setup is different from others for its use of a torque converter. This is the device, in a traditional automatic, that allows the driver to stop the car while in gear without stalling the engine. According to Acura, it’s used here to reduce the amount of “shift shock” felt by the car’s occupants as the transmission does its work, but the thing is, the best dual-clutch transmissions are some of the smoothest automatics around (see Volkswagen’s DSG or Porsche’s PDK).
In our experience, the TLX’s worked just fine when warmed up, but right after a cold start, there wasn’t a torque converter in the world that could fix our tester’s weird tendency to let the engine briefly rev up as it changed gears, causing a rough engagement as it moved into the next higher ratio.
The car performed nicely otherwise, but my overall impression was of a car that lacks the pleasant solidity that always gave the TSX and TL a feel more Germanic than Japanese. This one feels light on its feet, with good handling, but the steering lacks feedback for a car marketed as a sport sedan.
Four-cylinder power is a fine fit here, the engine’s 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque proving plenty to move the TLX with ease. The meat of the power comes high in the engine’s power band, so if quick acceleration is what you’re after, choose sport or sport-plus mode through the car’s IDS (integrated dynamics system), which alters throttle response and transmission shift points. Normal mode and eco modes are fine for tooling around in traffic, but their soft throttle responses do nothing to showcase the engine’s smooth power delivery and (once it warms up) the quick-shifting transmission.
Fuel consumption is rated at 9.6/6.6 L/100 km (city/highway), and my tester averaged 11 L/100 km over two weeks of cold winter weather.
Inside, the TLX offers space comparable to the old TL, with comfortable seats and well-appointed furnishings. Less impressive is the low front seating position, which compromises the view out.
Acura’s touchscreen-based stereo and navigation setup (included in my Tech-trimmed tester) is a mix of like and dislike: the dual display screens look sharp, but a few frequently-used items, like the heated seats, are now couched in the touch controls, requiring two steps to activate them. Granted, the TLX’s dash design is much cleaner than the TL’s, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a step forward.
The trunk is an improvement: the TL’s was an ill-shaped space unsuited to any bulky cargo, but the new car’s boot has a flat floor; this car also has rear seats that fold, something Asian luxury sedan manufacturers have only recently realized the value of.
Speaking of value, here’s a rare care whose value for the dollar arguably improves when you add a few options. My Tech tester is one up from the base model, and for less than $39,000, adds navigation, lane keeping assist, blind spot detection, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats to the already decent list of standard kit that comes in the $35,000 car.
That makes the TLX one of the best deals going in the luxury sedan segment, even looking like a bargain next to the Hyundai Genesis, which, while it comes standard with AWD and a V6 engine, only truly matches the TLX’s convenience feature content when it’s optioned to $10,000 more than my Acura tester. That said, for another ten large, the TLX comes with its own V6 and all-wheel traction, making that car a better one to compare with the Hyundai.
An attractive price helps make up for many shortcomings; while this car falls short in its mission in my eyes (at least next to its predecessor) it is still, on balance, a good car. It may not make my list of favourites for 2015, but it might well be good enough for yours, and at less than $40,000 for such a well-equipped car, I wouldn’t fault you for taking one home.