DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Sigh. RLX, then ILX and now TLX. Driving a new Acura has become a face-palm, beat-your-head-against-the-wall, Gob-Bluth-”C’MON!”-shouting event for me. All the resources of Honda Motor Company, the fanfare, the buildup, the teasers, the car-show unveilings…then the result shows up at the office.
And it’s always the same result. A perfectly adequate yet utterly forgettable transportation appliance.
When the stylists were given free reign to do something new to spice up the line, the result was the hideous egg-tooth TL. Now the brand has retreated into the blandest styling of anyone in the industry. It’s a shame that a promising show car was softened into this oversized ILX.
Our TLX Advance arrived with the available V6 engine and Honda’s AWD system, and driving impressions are very much those of a gussied-up Accord V6. Power is good, particularly at higher rpm, but the car’s nine-speed automatic exhibited less-than-luxurious shifting characteristics -- somewhat harsh with delayed upshifts -- regardless of which drive mode (Normal, Sport, Sport-plus or Eco) was selected.
Credit is due to
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: There are a few certainties that come with Acura vehicles: They are always going to have solid drivetrains, snappy handling traits and conservative styling. And it's no ...Mercedes-Benz C300 (even with the I4 engine) and Lexus ES; in fact, for roughly the same money the Hyundai Genesis V6 absolutely runs luxury circles around the TLX.
We’ll soon have the opportunity to drive a TLX four-cylinder, FWD model priced to compete in the low-end of the entry-lux market; that car will likely make a more economically compelling case for itself; unfortunately, it’ll look about the same and will likely feel even more like a fancy Accord.
With a nicely appointed interior, the 2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance is more than comfortable and quiet for extended commutes.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: Driving the TLX the other night, I enjoyed knowing that was equipped with SH-AWD a man walks by a TLX, sees that SH-AWD badge and thinks “Oh good. It’s the SH-AWD one.” But the lack of P-AWS was frankly, disturbing. I’m not one of those purists who would suggest that Acura shouldn’t even bother making cars without both SH-AWD and P-AWS, but I am not unwilling to admit that those people have a point. Acura’s people, anyone with any grasp of basic engineering and our own Graham Kozak will (perhaps rightly) point out that SH-AWD negates the need for P-AWS, but I guess I’m a just a hopeless technophile -- the more features and badges, the better, I say -- I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense.
Other than that, the TLX is a fine car. The exterior design is finally interesting enough that nobody felt the need to bolt a giant, fake-metal beak onto the front of it. That said, the lines seem like they’d be somewhat better suited to a longer car. The overall design is a big step in the right direction for Acura.
The interior is well designed and comfortable, though material choices aren’t going to blow anyone away. The center stack looks clean but the two-screen setup doesn’t make Acura’s user interface any easier to use. Acura went with a novel, push-button gear-selection mechanism which takes a little while to get used to, but works well enough.
Ultimately, this is a comfortable, efficient entry-level luxury car. It’s not bad to drive and it looks just fine. It just doesn’t do anything to really distinguish itself from competitors -- at least not until you can get one with P-AWS and SH-AWD.2015 Acura TLX sedan front 3-42015 Acura TLX sedan side2015 Acura TLX sedan rear 3-42015 Acura TLX grille close up2015 Acura TLX sedan LED headlight2015 Acura TLX sedan rear decklid SH-AWD badge2015 Acura TLX sedan V6 underhood2015 Acura TLX sedan I4 underhood2015 Acura TLX sedan infotainment center cluster 2015 Acura TLX sedan interior2015 Acura TLX sedan rear seats >Next Gallery: 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Double Cab review notes »
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: My friends at RealTime Racing out of Saukville, Wisc., are running a TLX in the GT class of the Pirelli World Challenge race series. That race car looks absolutely wicked with its flared carbon fiber bodywork, massive air dams in the front fascia, wide Forgeline wheels and honkin’ rear wing. That’s a full-fledge race car with a Honda Performance Development built twin-turbocharged V6 and sequential gearbox and has it going up against Ferrari 458s, Lamborghini Gallardos, Porsche 911s, McLaren MP4s, Audi R8s and Bentley Continental GT3s. That’s some serious competition for a car that begins life as a not-so-exotic four-door sedan.
I was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in
The car looks wicked with all of the carbon fiber bodywork and aerodynamic outfit. Photo by Jonathan Wong
So if you haven’t realized already, I’m a Honda/Acura fan. My first car was a 1999 Honda Prelude Type SH and my current car that I track is a 2008 Honda S2000 CR. There’s also a 2000 Acura Integra Type R in the family (which is the most successful model in World Challenge history thanks in large part to RealTime Racing). Like so many other starving Honda/Acura fans, I want them to build something exciting again. I want them to produce cars that are reflections of the company’s motorsports roots. I want badly for the TLX to be thrilling to drive.
After a weekend with this TLX SH-AWD, I’m a little underwhelmed, like Stoy is, from the excitement standpoint. The styling isn’t going to stop you in your tracks, but I would assume a darker paint color would go a long a way to help show off the lines a bit better. It’s certainly not an ugly car in stock form, but it’s just a bit soft. I do like the subtle slope up on the rear deck, though.
The cabin is lined with quality materials that are soft to the touch and the layout is simple with the touchscreen common in Honda/Acura products now that works well enough. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, and I was able to find a good driving position without much trouble. The transmission shifter controls may seem a little gimmicky, but I found it kind of neat.
I have no complaints about the direct-injected V6 that’s amazingly smooth with power building nicely to redline. The nine-speed transmission’s shifts in lower gears were a little lazy. Maybe some more fine tuning needs to be done to quicken things up. Manually selecting gears with the steering wheel paddles was responsive for an automatic, though.>
The Pirelli World Challenge GT grid just got more interesting with today's announcement at the Detroit auto show that RealTime Racing will return to the GT category with an all-new Acura TLX driven by ...
Ride quality is good and smooth. Steering is responsive to inputs with a nice, weighty feel tuned in. Brakes are grabby. But when I began to push the car, the front end would wash out in corners even with SH-AWD on the case fairly early. I was expecting sharper cornering characteristics. Then I got out and took a look at the tires, which explained a lot. There is Goodyear Eagle LS-2 tires on our test car which are all-season tires geared more towards the touring side of the spectrum, which explains the smooth and quiet ride and the early understeer tendencies. I would be very interested in trying the TLX SH-AWD with some more aggressive rubber.
The car as a whole is a strong product to help get Acura back on its feet, though, with the mass market. It’s got styling that won’t offend or totally bore people, a slick powertrain, well damped and quiet ride, a nicely trimmed interior and handling abilities that will be mildly exciting to the bulk of the car buying public. No, it doesn’t stand out in the crowd, but it’s a perfectly competent entry.
As for the enthusiasts, maybe Acura has plans on bringing back a Type S model? Think about it: A firmer suspension, larger and bigger tires, slightly upsized brakes, sportier body treatments, squeeze a few more horsepower out of the V6 and add more aggressive shift programming for the transmission and I think that may be the ticket to make me happier with this car. Please, Acura, do that! Then maybe I’ll be able to better relate to how Peter Cunningham feels during a World Challenge race in his TLX GT.
Oh, and do move forward with those rumored plans of building an Integra/RSX successor that came out during SEMA.
The overall design of the 2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance is a big step in the right direction for Acura.
West Coast Editor Mark Vaughn: Acura is hanging big hopes -- and a whole bunch of marketing firepower -- on this new sedan. The car will replace both the soon-to-be-departed TSX and the TL, a mighty big gap in the lineup, so Honda’s luxury division needs it to be a hit. So far the TLX seems to be doing well, on track to easily clear 50,000 units in its first 12 months on the market and it could even surpass 60,000.
I’m going to say it’s a high-tech midsize connectivity-and-luxury four-door. It’s a sedan for the modern electronic-safety-feature and infotainment enthusiast who likes his or her sportiness not so threateningly sporty. If you did one of those spider graphs with all the competitors on the perimeter of the graph, the TLX would be right in the middle of all of them.
My recent drive in this particular TLX test car was just in the urban and suburban confines of Greater Los Angeles. When I drove several TLXs on the long lead I got to take them on some pretty nice twisty roads in West Virginia and it was sporty fine -- up to a point. Once you passed that point and pushed it really hard, the tires slid all over and the car just understeered beyond what its electronics systems could do to save you. It’s not a sports sedan -- It’s not even a Lexus IS -- but I don’t think Acura buyers are looking for that.
The 2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance is equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 coupled with a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
I think they’ll be more impressed with all the technology acronyms: FCW, ACC, CMBS, etc. All those safety features are grouped under the heading Acura Watch. There’s forward collision warning, automatic cruise control, collision mitigation braking system; there’s a blind spot indicator; a narrow-band radar that allows rear cross traffic alert; a new monocular camera that helps detect pedestrians; and haptic feedback to keep the TLX on the straight and narrow. (I didn’t hit a single pedestrian the whole time I had the car so it must work.) The audio is 10-speaker Acura/ELS Studio Premium with a 490-watt maximum.
Heck, the key fob even works up to half a mile away.
I think those are the things Acura buyers want and I think they get ‘em in the new TLX. I think Acura will sell the 60,000 or so TLXs it needs to sell. But even with the TLX as its sales leader, the Acura division’s annual sales numbers don’t compare to other luxury makes. After 25 years of existence, neither Acura nor Infiniti have managed to play in the same ballpark as luxury stalwarts like BMW and Mercedes, which move three or four times as many cars out showroom doors as Acura; Lexus or Audi, which are almost double Acura’s sales; or even Cadillac, which outsells Acura by a fair margin. So why isn’t the division doing better than this? I think it goes back to the identity problem. What is an Acura? It’s not luxury like Mercedes or Lexus and it’s not performance like BMW or Audi. It’s somewhere in between all the others, which kind of leaves it lacking an identity. It’s the safe place to move up for insanely loyal Honda buyers, but there will only be about 60,000 or 70,000 of those in 2014, even if you throw in the ILX. So is Acura ever going to hit the big time? I know how: make a V8-powered rear drive flagship. Hint, that’s not the RL.>
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This 2014 Lexus ES 350 is all about comfort. As usual, Lexus comes through with great seats. They're both comfortable and supportive, with just the right amount of ...
EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: The TLX is supposed to be Acura’s savior from mediocrity, save for the NSX -- just one more car show, honest! -- and it’s a nice car, that’s for sure: comfortable and quiet, a faithful servant during a four-hour sprint from
I drove the TLX on
Let’s hope the NSX doesn’t have this problem.
And nine speeds? Count me as one of the guys going, “why?” Who the heck needs nine speeds? What can you do with nine speeds that you can’t achieve with six well-tuned ones? Shifts come nice and quickly, but I found myself mostly in 3rd or 4th -- and, back on straight roads to Los Angeles, skipping everything else right to ninth. (Did I mention that the TSX and TL came with Honda’s perfect manual? Not that I’m resentful of Americans’ buying habits or anything.)
Sport-plus, a moniker on the verge of overuse, holds gears until redline. This was a TL trademark. To be fair, it’s always fun to see a manufacturer throw caution to the wind by saying, “hey buddy, you wanna break this engine? You can break this engine. Just don’t cry foul when your warranty gets voided.”
A few weeks ago, I went to a walkaround of the new TLX. “This is most important launch in the history of Acura,” said senior marketing chief Michael Accavitti. “Even more important than the NSX.”
Well, yeah. I can see that -- the NSX had the luxury of having no expectations within the rest of the lineup. The TLX has to live up to the fond memories of the original TSX and the sleeper-status fun of the genuinely quick 3.7-liter TL with a stick. It certainly feels more grown-up, more buttoned-down than both.
But a car with the tagline “yeah, it’s that kind of thrill” is only fairly thrilling.
We had hoped for a little more sport in the 2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance.
By Autoweek Editors
>Base Price: $45,595
>As Tested Price: $45,595
>Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6; AWD, nine-speed automatic
>Output: 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
>Curb Weight: 3,774 lb
>Fuel Economy: 21/31/25 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
>Observed Fuel Economy: 23.9 mpg
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