The successor to both the TL and the TSX |
Acura has morphed the TL and the TLX into one new performance sedan.
MIDDLEBURG, VIRGINIA – I still consider the 2004-2008 Acura TL to be one of the sexiest sedans ever sold. Yes, I did just say that. Its 2009 redesign was a serious step backwards design-wise, even though enthusiasts could choose a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive (SH-AWD) configuration if they wished. The Acura TSX has become somewhat an icon; it’s a step into the premium market aimed towards the younger crowd. Now though, Acura has morphed the TL and the TSX into one new performance sedan. They flew me to Middleburg, VA, to drive the all-new 2015 Acura TLX.
The first thing you notice about the new TLX is how it looks. Acura has created short overhangs, a lower roofline to create a low, wide stance, and a relatively short rear deck. This makes for a perfectly proportionate car that looks, if not striking, elegant and very inoffensive. All models come with the Jewel Eye LED headlights that have become an Acura signature trait; there’s a full suite of LED lighting throughout the car. There isn’t any imitation Audi LED strip here; the whole headlight is beautiful and declares that it’s a real luxury car wherever it goes.
I had a chance to speak very closely with the research and development team on the TLX project, and I came out of this with a massive amount of confidence in this car. This isn’t a group that has been paid well to engineer a great car. This is a group of real car guys that truly believe in the product they have made, and take great pleasure in talking about its strengths as well as acknowledging its weak points (there aren’t very many on this car).
In combining two aging models into one “supermodel”, the TLX has been given two engines, essentially creating three models. One consistent feature throughout the TLX lineup is the Precision All-Wheel-Steer that debuted on the RLX last year. The base car is powered by a 2.4L inline 4-cylinder with VTEC; it puts out 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. A common misconception is that this engine is carried over from the TSX – this is not the case. All four-cylinder models are equipped with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, an Acura first. All-wheel-drive is not available on the four-cylinder car.
I really liked how the outgoing TSX drove. Sure, it was getting a bit long in the tooth at the end of its life cycle, but it still provided an excellent amount of driving satisfaction. The high-revving 4-cylinder and the 6-speed manual on the last test car I drove was particularly satisfying, and I am sad to see the manual go. However, the dual-clutch transmission on the new TLX is the next best thing. It’s a brilliant shifting gearbox with incredibly slick shifts. Fuel economy is significantly improved as well over both the outgoing 5-speed automatic as well as the 6-speed manual.
Upper trim level TLXs get around by means of a direct-injected 3.5L V6, available with front or all-wheel-drive. Though this engine is also available in the Acura RLX and MDX, a trait unique to the TLX is the 9-speed automatic transmission. This engine is also good for 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Available with the V6 engine is the latest iteration of the Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive system. The Acura TLX does feel like a proper luxury sports sedan, and this powertrain is very refined. It’s not the greatest on low-end power, but once you get going, it feels confident and quick, and handling is very agile.
I had the chance to put the TLX through its paces in some beautiful Virginia country roads. It feels nimble enough to boot around urban centers at lower speeds, and the car seems to transform at higher speeds to be surprisingly stable and tame. There is a “Sport+” mode that sharpens throttle response, holds shifts and adapts the whole car for maximum performance. For those looking to conserve fuel, the “Econ” mode focuses on fuel economy and adjusts settings and performance accordingly. The four-cylinder model is aimed right at the young bachelor looking for a sporty yet premium sedan (former TSX buyers), while the two V6 models (especially the SH-AWD one) are aimed at older TL shoppers.
One huge improvement that I saw as a weakness in the outgoing cars is the overall interior noise level. The TLX has been refined and perfected to have a minimal amount of wind and road noise; highway road noise is almost inaudible. A proper conversation can be had without having to raise your voices at highway speeds, something that wasn’t the case in the outgoing TSX. All models come with heated front seats, a power sunroof, Active Noise Control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40 split folding seats, a multi-angle rear-view camera, and for Canada only, the front windshield de-icer.
There are, as expected, a few packages available. The Technology Package adds AcuraLink, the navigation system, a 10-speaker ELS Surround Sound system, premium Milano leather, a remote starter, and a few other things. The top-trim Elite Package adds ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control, LED fog lights, headlight washes (Canada only), perimeter approach/puddle lights, and a few other toys. Canadian pricing for the 2015 Acura TLX starts at $34,990 for the 2.4L P-AWS model, and goes right up through $47,490 for the fully-loaded V6 SH-AWD Elite. A fun fact is, while the FWD V6 comes with the Tech Package as standard equipment, it’s possible to get a V6 SH-AWD model in “base” trim.
So, do I like the car? I really do. The Acura TL has always had a warm place in my heart for it. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the most recent model, I’m still sad to see the TL nameplate go. The new Acura TLX is definitely a worthy successor. It isn’t always easy to improve on a car that everybody considered the best thing since sliced bread, and it’s almost impossible to simultaneously replace two favourites. However, Acura has done it – the new TLX provides a combination of sport, luxury, and performance to make for one of the best premium values in the Canadian market right now.
First Drive: 2015 Acura TLX Gallery