i-VTEC in a real premium setup |
In the early to mid-2000s, Acura was a brand in its prime. Entries like the stunning 2004-2008 TL, the RSX Type-S, and even the first-generation TSX made the premium Japanese manufacturer stand out from less-exciting names on the market. Since then, enthusiasts have given Acura a bit of hell for having softened their entries. Personally, the 2009 and newer TL was never a favourite of mine; I liked the way it drove but the odd shape turned me off to it. This year though, they’ve morphed two cars into one. The 2015 Acura TLX P-AWS I’ve driven here is a model-mix of both the TSX and the TL to make one excellent sedan.
The TLX is available with two motors. All-wheel-drive is only available with the larger V6 and the 9-speed ZF automatic transmission. The car I opted to drive is, in my opinion, the sweet spot in the TLX lineup – the 2.4L 4-cylinder i-VTEC motor coupled to the 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and front-wheel-drive. This engine is good for 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is definitely quicker, but the sound, feeling, and overall characteristics of the K24 motor all sell me on it pretty quickly.
Acura has introduced the RLX Sport Hybrid with the same dual-clutch transmission, a first for the brand. It’s an 8-speed unit, and shifts exceptionally quickly. The IDS system (short for Integrated Dynamics System) controls engine mapping, maximizing efficiency, shift points, throttle response, etcetera. My particular test car was set to remain in “Econ” mode unless otherwise specified. For a few spirited jaunts, I utilized “Sport+”, which wakes the car up and transforms it into something very similar to the slick first-generation TSX. That car was lovable for the noise of the i-VTEC, the awesome 6-speed manual gearbox, and its liveliness.
TLX is, as made obvious by its name, a halfway point between the dearly-departed TL and TSX, so it’s noticeably bigger than the latter. The size isn’t really a huge deal for me, because the sharp steering and its eagerness to run are reminiscent enough of the old car. Plus, it’s not like every car in the segment isn’t slowly growing anyhow. Fuel economy doesn’t take a step backward either; I averaged 7.8L/100km on premium fuel throughout my test week, which consisted of quite a bit of driving. I saw numbers as low as 6.6L/100km during highway cruising, sensational for a car of this size. Acura only “recommends” premium fuel, but from what I’ve heard from previous TSX owners, this motor doesn’t behave quite as sweetly on the regular ethanol-filled stuff.
Despite its front-wheel-drive nature, the Acura TLX handles pretty well thanks to the new Precision All-Wheel-Steer system. We previously experienced this system on Acura’s RLX that debuted just over a year ago. This system allows the rear wheels to turn ever so slightly, helping the car rotate even better and makes it a bit more responsive to commands. On some familiar hilly back roads, the TLX cornered with ease and confidence, almost paying homage and allowing me to reminisce about sharper Acuras of the past (can anyone say Integra Type-R?). One thing I do miss that used to be a regular feature on Acura sedans is a conventional handbrake. TLX now has a big-car-special parking brake, a foot operated pedal.
On the inside, the TLX is given the same “new Acura” interior treatment that we previewed on both the latest MDX as well as the RLX. My test car was the I-4 model with the optional Tech package, priced at $38,690. The interior setup is actually pretty awesome, with premium Milano leather-trimmed seats that are heated, as well as a heated steering wheel. Infotainment is controlled via two screens; mainly the aging Honda/Acura navigation system with control knob, and a second lower touchscreen with haptic feedback. The lower screen is extremely good, with minimal lag and simplistic controls. However, the “main” display is in dire need of an update; it’s essentially the same as the navigation unit on a close friend’s 2006 Accord EX-L sedan.
All TLXs come with heated leather seats, Smart key, rear-view camera, Jewel Eye LED headlights, dual zone climate control, a sunroof, and a few other gizmos. The Tech package is the one I predict most Canadian buyers will opt for. This adds a heated wheel, heated rear seats, remote starter, a navigation system, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), ELS 10-speaker sound system, and blind spot monitoring. I like how simple the climate control is to operate, and I can’t emphasize how good the haptic feedback is on the touchscreen. Additionally, I had this car in the winter, so I particularly appreciated the factory remote starter. It’s discrete and yet the two-way remote fob has a very long range and tells you if your car is on from a considerable distance.
Now, a few things that I wish Acura did differently. The Forward Collision Warning system at its default setting is way too sensitive. It starts screaming with a huge display message that reads “BRAKE!” in the instrument cluster spontaneously, even if you’re just coasting along at a safe distance behind another vehicle. Additionally, I think the Tech package should also include ventilated seats. Much lower-priced vehicles such as the Kia Forté are beginning to offer them, and I feel that in a couple years, they’re going to be just as standard across the industry as heated seats are right now.
I do understand Acura’s marketing technique behind offering all-wheel-drive only with the V6 model. I am definitely a believer that all-wheel-drive isn’t necessary to stay safe in a Canadian winter, and that proper winter tires are far more important and essential. However, I do think that SH-AWD is a great system and should definitely be offered on the 4-cylinder model. It’s a long shot, but I think this particular model, the TLX Tech, with SH-AWD would be a huge volume seller for Acura. I think the buyer would be more interested in seeing their money go towards SH-AWD than the P-AWS setup, which is good in its own regard.
The TSX and TL were known to have some of the sharpest headlights in the car business, and that wasn’t false. When I was in the car modification scene, I saw loads of people try and retrofit TSX projectors into headlight housings of cars ranging from the Chrysler LHS to the Ford Focus. As wasteful as those dollars were, the resulting product was excellent. Acura’s latest Jewel Eye LED setup is just as crisp and stunning to look at. It makes an already-elegant design stand out in a crowd. The seats are comfortable, the car is pretty efficient, and the powertrain is energetic enough to keep the purist smirking. For a premium sedan below the $40,000 mark, that’s not easy, but Acura has done it. I can’t wait to start seeing more of these on the roads.