Straight off the bat, the new for 2015 Acura TLX is an interesting marketing choice for the Honda Conglomerate. It replaces both the TSX and TL (hence the TLX moniker, I’m assuming) and the prices reflect this. Available with both a 2.4L i4 pushing 204hp and a 3.5L V6 running at 290hp, you’re also able to choose between SH-AWD and Precision All Wheel Steering. Depending on the combination and trim level, you’re looking to spend between $34000 and $49000. This puts the TLX right into the BMW 3 and 4 Series sights, as well as the Audi A4, Mercedes C - Class, and the Lexus IS range. Considering the popularity of this particular market, the TLX has some serious competition to beat if it wants to succeed.
I actually really like the look of this car. I think it has that perfect design blend of track wear and business suit attire, especially in the dark grey colour choice my tester had. Yes, it still has the trademark Acura beak but it’s much more low key than they used to be and, frankly, it actually suits the overall design. The side profile is taut and the rear is handsome, if a tad generic. I know it’s not necessarily Acura’s fault as there are so many government guidelines about where certain parts need to be that there’s only a limited amount of acceptable conservative designs to be drawn out there. That said, I think they did the best they could with this thing.
LED’s adorn the car everywhere. From the rear license plate lights, to the puddle lights in the side view mirrors, right to the headlights. Not only do LED bulbs look better and shine more brightly, they also allow for power savings. Hell, Acura says that their LED headlights alone draw 41 percent less power.
And those headlights… Five LED’s per side, ten in total. They’re cool just to look at, and the actual light output is damn good as well. There’s a bit of rainbow hazing at the cutoffs, but nothing dazzling. And the high beams did an excellent job at highlighting the dark Coquihalla roads, even during an unexpected rainstorm near the Summit.
The inside of the TLX is a nice place to be. The seats were infinitely adjustable as was the steering wheel. The pedals were fixed, but that was alright. Just as you would expect, all of the controls fell easily into hand. The seats were comfortable, which is important for me. I was in a car accident over a decade ago that involved a drunk driver and one of the injuries to my shoulder never healed properly. As a result, I have a hard time finding a seat that’s comfortable and adjusts to a position that doesn’t aggravate my shoulder as I drive. Surprisingly this one did both, which I highly appreciated.
Unlike the Civic I tested the previous week, the layout is of the more traditional kind. The gauge cluster had a nice 3D appearance with the tach and speedo gauges placed slightly outward from the rest. My one complaint is that reading the speed was a little difficult. I felt the gauge was slightly too small and had too many numbers on it, making it a little hard to tell at a quick glance what your speed is. A HUD would have benefited greatly in this car.
There are two screens in the centre stack, one touch screen, one not. The upper, non-touch screen solely relays all your navigation information, while the lower screen acts as your main media screen. While the TLX use that screen for the majority of your HVAC and audio selections, the fact that you can quickly adjust heat using a toggle (!!!) switch for both driver and passenger side was nice.
Rear seat room was comfortable and I don’t doubt it could handle two adults for an extended trip without any major complaints. Headroom was slightly limited, but not to the sort of extreme that car like the BMW 6 Gran Coupe has.
The trunk is cavernous and can easily swallow a week’s worth of vacation packing. There were also a couple of hidden cubbies inside to prevent items from rolling around.
Where the interior falters is in the quality and, in a couple small areas, the fit and finish. At the base level price point, everything is completely acceptable. However, even the top range model shares the same pieces and I think that was a mistake. The piano black finish was nice, but the trim pieces are aluminum coloured plastic. At the high end, it’s beginning to compete with cars that have real pieces of brushed aluminum and real chunks of polished wood. I know if I were dropping nearly $50,000 on a car, I’d prefer the pieces I touch to feel as nice as possible. And while the fit and finish was generally good, a couple of minor bits felt like they were tacked on as an afterthought. The collision warning light pod at the base of the windshield in particular looked quite bad as there was a noticeable gap in the trim surround and just felt like it wasn’t part of the original design. There were a couple of other minor things, but for the most part I chalked it down to the fact that this is a first model year car, and a press model to boot.
All that said, all the places you would normally touch inside a car were covered in either leather or soft plastic. The buttons and stalks felt solid and made a pleasant sound when engaged.
This car is available with almost every piece of tech you can think of. For the driver, you can have adaptive radar cruise control, lane departure warning, auto braking, heated/cooled seats, dual zone HVAC, auto-on headlights and wipers, back up camera and rear-cross warning, blindspot detection, and much more. Also, if you’re an iPhone user, it has Siri Eyes Free functionality. As the last iPhone I owned is a 3G that isn’t Siri compatible, this was an option I didn’t get to test.
The major pieces of tech I was interested in were the cruise control, auto braking and lane departure. As automakers are seemingly slowly working towards autonomous vehicles, these current systems can be thought of as early beta units. For legal purposes I’m not going to tell you to actually go out and do this, but the TLX is actually capable of driving itself on certain roads in certain conditions… so long as you don’t have any sharp turns and the line markings are clear and visible. I didn’t even realize I had turned on the lane departure mode at one point until I started feeling the wheel move by itself in my hand. That was a bizarre experience, I wont lie. It’s not perfect, however. While it uses line markings to gauge where the car is, I noticed that occasionally it gets confused and will actually use other markings on the road instead. At one point I was driving on a section of highway that was under construction, so it didn’t have any line markings. However, what it did have was a bunch of tar lines to seal cracks. And even though I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to, boy did that confuse the hell out of the system. But, as I said earlier, early beta units. Everything else worked as advertised and I didn’t have any complaints with the tech inside the car.
DRIVETRAIN (8/10 - based on engine and AWD only)
As I mentioned earlier, the TLX comes with two different engine choices, a 205hp 2.4L I4 and a 290hp 3.5L V6. The 2.4L sadly loses it’s old stick shift, but instead gains an eight-speed dual cutch system (think VW’s DSG or Porsche’s PDK), with an added torque converter for help at low speeds. The 3.5L comes solely with a nine-speed automatic. The V6 also has AWD as an optional extra, provided you’re willing to do without the all-wheel steering. My tester was of the latter variant, the 3.5L V6 SH-AWD.
The V6 had a pleasant sound and definitely put out enough power to haul itself out of any situation it found itself in. 300hp is, I feel, the line where you get just enough power before it starts becoming something to get you into trouble.
While this isn’t something I like to do, I’m unable to talk about the nine-speed transmission that was in my particular car. Near the end of the week, my test car developed a transmission issue (insert snide Honda automatic transmission issue comment here). Conveniently it started having issues a few blocks away from an Acura dealership where an old friend from high school is a service advisor. Turned out there is a known issue with a certain batch of transmissions that left the factory and this was unfortunately one of those cars. He had the car in and out of the shop in a couple days, but at that point I had already gone back into Kamloops so I didn’t get a chance to see how it turned out. I was assured that the nine-speed transmission, provided it’s been given the latest firmware update, is quite pleasant to use and has no further known issues. And after talking to a couple of owners who have had the update done, they agree with it. Just, for the love of god, if you do get a nine-speed transmission, make sure it has the update. That is all I will say about it.
On the road, it’s a very pleasant cruiser. It will easily gobble up the miles without you ever noticing them going by. Highway cruising with lots of elevation changes is where this car seemed to be the happiest. Plenty of power to pass fully loaded B-Trains on the hills, and quiet enough once you drop it into cruise control on the flat straightaways.
Unfortunately it doesn’t do corners as well as I had hoped. It’s still perfectly adequate, but you start feeling the weight of the car once it leans into a corner. The AWD will also induce (expected) understeer if you push it too hard. It’s not bad at taking a twisty route, but it falls short of many of it’s competitors.
Even at Coquihalla highway speeds, the interior stayed nice and quiet. There was minimal wind noise, which was only spoiled as soon as I’d pop the sunroof into the vent position. The engine noise was subdued at cruising speed, but would immediately make itself known once you buried the go-fast pedal. The exhaust noise was inaudible from the cabin, but the noise of that V6 was enough.
On the audio end of things, the 7-speaker system sounded good. With an included sub, it was more than acceptable for bass heavy music. And when you wanted to listen to something a little more subdued like Beethoven, the mid- and high-tones were nice and clear. It was definitely not a knock-your-socks-off system, but it was still an excellent system to listen to. Steering wheel controls, which I think should be standard equipment on cars, made switching songs and your source material a breeze.
FUEL ECONOMY (7/10)
Even with a heavy foot, the long Coquihalla mountain climbs, and a 3.5L V6, the TLX still returned acceptable fuel mileage. I’ve unfortunately lost my notebook that had my economy calculations in it, but the 350km drive from Richmond to Kamloops took just over half a tank. The downside is that the TLX requires Premium gas in both engines, so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re pulling up to the gas station. That said, many of us currently (or have previously) run ECU tunes that require 91 or 94 octane, so the sticker shock likely won’t bother a lot.
The Acura TLX has entered the arena against some serious competition. While it holds it’s own at the lower price bracket against its rivals at BMW and Lexus, it starts losing its appeal once you hit the V6 AWD price bracket. Acura manages to keep ahead by offering as much tech as possible to cram into the TLX, but starts losing out on the sportiness aspect. Honda also hasn’t quite managed to match ze Germans when it comes to designing a luxury car that you never want to leave, though this TLX is a sure sign that they’re coming ever closer. And though they’re not there yet, don’t let that prevent you from giving this car a chance.
What Honda/Acura does have on their side is their reputation for quality and reliability. While they have had a few stumbles in the past like their automatic transmission of the late 90’s/early 00’s, they are still a byword for reliability right after Toyota and Lexus. Of course any new car with a gazillion tech gadgets run the risk of having more break, Acura’s record should help sooth some of those fears.
And while it’s no canyon carver, the TLX is an excellent long haul cruiser with enough tech to keep you happy and safe. And, frankly, let’s be honest with ourselves here: you’re more likely to be stuck in rush hour traffic or doing the school run than driving the Sea to Sky or the Hwy1 Canyon route. And because of that, this is the car you want to be in.
Priced from $34,990 (2.4L Base)
As tested at $47,490 (3.5L Elite SH-AWD)
If you’ve made it this far, my apologies for the wall of text. The breakdown occurred on my way to taking photos of the car and I was unable to snap anymore before it went back to the press fleet.