2016 Acura TLX: Thinking outside the sport sedan box
Acura introduced its category-busting TLX luxury sedan last year and has left it largely alone for 2016. Why change what works, even if it's a little unconventional?
The TLX replaced two previous model, the compact TL and the midsize TSX. it's just a little bit larger than a typical compact on the outside but has the room of a midsize on the inside. This clever compromise makes the TLX easy to drive and park in urban areas, while still providing ample room for five passengers and a large truck.
Unlike some competitors, Acura offers only two conventional engines in the TLX, a 2.4-liter inline four that produces a respectable 260 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out a healthier 290 horsepower. There are no turbocharged, supercharged, diesel or hybrid options, which suggests the TLX is not really meant to compete with the most powerful or exotic versions of other manufacturer's sport sedans. Instead, Acura is aiming the TLX at buyers who want a solid, capable luxury sedan, not a disguised street racer.
But that does not mean the TLX is short on dazzle. The 2.4 comes standard with an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with four drive modes and Precision All Wheel Steering (P-AWS) for improved handling. The 3.5 comes standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission with four drive modes and Acura's excellent Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) for better traction. And both combinations are in addition to Acura's lengthy list of standard features and option packages that include some of the most advanced automotive technologies available.
Our test model was a fully loaded 2.4 version with all the bells and whistles. It proved to be a very comfortable and capable daily driver during a week of testing, with enough spirit to be entertaining on the weekend. Acceleration was adequate in the Comfort mode but more impressive in either of the Sport modes. The TLX also handled very well, especially on twisty roads, although it wasn't clear how much of that was the all-wheel-steering and how much was just its basic good design. The accident warning system also worked very well, flashing lights in the side mirrors when cars are in blind spot, and lighting up a bar in the gauge cluster when approaching slower or stopped cars too quickly.
The TLX also has a standard dual-screen infotainment setup that reduces the knobs and buttons on the dash. The lower screen is a touchscreen that handles functions like the climate controls and sound system, while the upper screen displays the navigation map or other status screens on demand. Figuring it out is pretty easy, although some functions, like having to use the lower screen to turn the heated from seats off and on, seemed more complicated than necessary. But the sleek look of the dash was definately appreciated.
With the TLX, Acura has taken a slightly different approach to the midsize luxury sports sedan that most manufacturers, offering the full range of premium features without being the biggest or fastest or most technologically advanced under the hood. But that also means the TLX is not the most expensive or hardest to maintain, either, while still delivering what most drivers expect from such vehicles.
2016 Acura TLX
Base price: $31,695
Price as tested: $42,600
Type: Midsize sedan
Engines: 4-liter inline 4 (206 hp, 182 lbs-ft), 3.5-liter V6 (290 hp, 267 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 8-speed dual clutch automatic - as tested; 9-speed automatic transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 20/28
Overall length: 190.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,960 to 4,319 pounds
Final assembly: Marysville, Ohio