2015 Acura TLX: First Drive

2015 Acura TLX

For years the TL sedan was Acura's bread-and-butter sedan. It was a strong seller until a radical redesign in 2009. The brand has been trying to recover ever since and hopes an all-new version with an all-new name will return the brand to luxury-sedan success.

Related: 2015 Acura TLX: First Look

The TLX not only replaces the TL, but also the smaller TSX sedan — which was less controversial but didn't fit properly in the brand's lineup, which also now includes the even smaller ILX.

After spending a day driving the TLX in northern Michigan at an Acura event, the TLX might indeed cover all those bases and runs gamut with an entry-level four-cylinder to a fully loaded all-wheel-drive V-6.

2015 Acura TLX

The previous TL placed a respectable third in Cars.com's $46,000 Sports Sedan Challenge out of six luxury sedans. What we recorded as the TL's weakest areas have mostly been addressed in the TLX, like a hefty curb weight, the compromised cargo area of the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) trim level and a dated multimedia system. At the same time, Acura amplifies the outgoing TL's strongest characteristics with a more refined ride quality while the beastly handling SH-AWD V-6 is as agile as ever.

How It Drives

Perhaps most intriguing is the feisty, new direct-injected 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission included in the entry-level $31,890 TLX (all prices include destination). At 243 pounds lighter than the previous-generation front-wheel-drive TL V-6, the new four-cylinder doesn't strain pulling the TLX and does so with an exciting vigor when those revs are above 5,000 rpm. The audible i-VTEC changes the engine's tone into a racier experience. Even outside of full throttle there's surprising amounts of pulling power in the middle of the rev range for a naturally aspirated four-cylinder.

The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is an important piece of the puzzle, smartly keeping the four-cylinder in its sweet spot so there's no waiting for power after a gear change. The expected crisp and fast shifts of a dual-clutch transmission don't come at the sacrifice of routine driving, as happens with many dual-clutch transmissions, thanks to the use of a traditional torque converter to provide a smooth start from a stop. The end result is a car TLX's chief engineer Mat Hargett says is 1.5 seconds faster at zero to 60 mph than the outgoing TSX four-cylinder. Combine that performance with EPA ratings of 24/35/28 mpg city/highway/combined — identical to the most-efficient non-hybrid ILX — and it's an impressive combo.

2015 Acura TLX

Driving enthusiasts looking for a balanced handling machine might actually be inclined to lean toward the four-cylinder over the other front-wheel-drive option with the 290-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (also directed-injected). The V-6, starting at $36,115, is a potent engine but front-wheel-drive models exhibit undesirable understeer when driving aggressively on twisty roads compared to the four-cylinder.

All TLX trims have selectable driving modes of Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+, which vary power steering effort, throttle and transmission responsiveness, plus Acura's all-wheel steering system (front-wheel drive only) that increases low-speed agility and high-speed stability.

The V-6 comes in two flavors, front- or all-wheel drive, both of which use cylinder deactivation to achieve EPA-rated fuel economy of 25 mpg combined — 21/34/25 mpg for front-wheel drive and 21/31/25 for all-wheel drive. Six-cylinder TLXs use a conventional nine-speed automatic transmission — one of only a handful on the market — which works fine enough and is significantly lighter than the outgoing six-speed automatic, but doesn't have the crispness of the four-cylinder's eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Did I mention how much I like that eight-speed dual-clutch?

2015 Acura TLX

Acura uses a next-generation torque vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive in the TLX SH-AWD with big results. The TL's SH-AWD has always rotated the car around a corner with precision, and now the system does so in the TLX with even more aptitude and agility than before as the TLX SH-AWD digs and digs into a corner. The more compact all-wheel drive doesn't intrude into trunk space anymore and allows the backseat to fold for increased cargo capacity; the TL's SH-AWD had a smaller trunk and no folding backseat.

The car excels in comfort too with an extremely quiet interior, spacious front seats and smooth ride quality. The TLX manages to ride docilely on rough roads but it's rewarding when those roads curve even without the use of an electronically adjustable suspension. The roughest pavement and torn-up roads couldn't upset the TLX's refined interior experience.

2015 Acura TLX

Exterior

There really aren't many significant styling differences between a base TLX 2.5L and loaded TLX 3.5L SH-AWD. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, styling is subjective, yadda yadda yadda. One thing's for sure, the TLX is better proportioned than the outgoing TL. Is it ground breaking? Not really, but at least it's not awkward anymore.

I'd like to see more playful wheel and exterior color options bring out the TLX's beautifully sculpted rear and great profile curves, which are hard to find in the current color palette. Let's see a bright blue or striking crimson exterior paired with more daring wheel options as well as more visual separation between the base and TLX SH-AWD models. The TLX's driving experience is done very well, but a little more flavor to turn heads wouldn't hurt.

2015 Acura TLX

Interior

On the inside, the TLX's dual-screen multimedia system hosts numerous connectivity features, but is a bit overwhelming at first to navigate with the split usability of a touch-screen and a center control knob — most luxury cars use one or the other. The interface is a considerably simplified visual experience, however, compared to the button-heavy spaceship command center of the previous TL.

TLX SH-AWD models are a little pricier for 2015 as they now all include the Technology Package as part of the $42,345 price. Optional on the other models, the tech package includes navigation, a premium sound system, leather sport seats (leatherette is standard), lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, cross-traffic alert and more. A 2.4L with Technology Package is $35,920, while on the 3.5L is $40,145.

2015 Acura TLX

Standard multimedia features include the Siri Eyes Free interface, satellite radio, Pandora and Aha compatibility, USB input with iPod integration, Bluetooth streaming audio and more. Those sound like pretty standard features, but good luck finding a USB port in an entry-level Audi A4 or satellite radio in a bare-bones BMW 3 Series.

Overall, the interior is ... well very Acura-like. There are nice materials with a tech-savvy style, though nothing oozes style or opulence like the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But the TLX is trying to bridge the gap between two cars, with prices ranging from $31,890 for a base 2.4L to $45,595 for a loaded SH-AWD.

Cars.com photos by Joe Bruzek

Comments 

Audi

The TSX was a strong sales performer always. especially the 2.4 sedan. Also it was a proper car. its odd they would replace both those cars with one vehicle.

jyd

Acura will continue to be the "other" luxury brand until they figure out their styling direction. They have stubbornly stuck with the beak for years and the new jewel headlights are hideous.

tr6

This is about as generic looking as a $46,000 sedan can get, but I can see where this would appeal to rich people who think the three pointed star is a bit over the top. I like the quality of the interior, especially the red seats. If it drives well and displays typical Japanese reliability, it's probably an okay choice for the luxury seeker.

4CHN8

I think some of you are missing the point with this car. Acura will snag a lot of buyers who want more than an Accord or Camry but have no desire to spend BMW or MB or Audi money or deal with all the options. I would guess Acura does pretty well with the 4cyl with Tech package.

Geek

Over the years Acura (read that Honda) let the premium market slip away. At one time the Legend owned the non German market. As Honda focused on its bread and butter cars, clearly Acura was ignored.

Fast forward and today the premium market is important to every companies bottom line and Honda decided to get back in the game and I suspect will build upon the new foundation it is building.

The TLX is a sweet car, Premium, styled priced to attract customers who forgot Acura was a player.

Acura actually did too good a job with the I-4 version with no real need or motivation to step up to the V6 or AWD version.

I do think Acura could have softened the beak a little more but now I am just nitpicking. In the same vein I thought Mercedes should have down played its star in the front grill.

I have no idea how well the TLX will sell but we bought one.

TSX

"Acura actually did too good a job with the I-4 version with no real need or motivation to step up to the V6 or AWD version"

This is simply incorrect. I had the I-4 VTEC in a TSX for 7 years, and it did not have the grunt to make a quick move in traffic even at 6000 rpm. It was a quick car for sure but not fast. The TLX is a dog with the I-4. Also for those 4 season locations will want the AWD. It's not only a performance upgrade, it adds a layer of safety while driving in inclement weather.

Geek

I stand by my statement regarding migration from the I-4 to the V6. The I4 engine is different as is the transmission. You cannot reasonably compare the drivetrains of today to that of what is now your old car.

Regarding AWD. I have a C-class 4 and my other car is FWD with a weight ratio similar to the Acura and have never had a problem in the winter and we receive about 100" a year.

Bottom line - buy what you want

TLNow

@TSX..are you being serious?..Please read the article.

Donnie

'TSX' clearly didn't read the article and just went straight to posting an ignorant statement.

Bill Malcolm

Drove both the I-4 and V6 FWD. Dearie me, the I4 drove me nuts. Even lost throttle when I tried to cut left across oncoming traffic from a stop. What in hell is up with that? Dangerous. Must be some stability control "feature". Scratch that model and its little engine that could, ha, ha. Driving up the steep dealer's driveway after nearly being killed, the thing upshifted to third by about 20 kph, then refused to downshift, causing the engine to shudder like a novice learning to drive a manual and forgetting to push in the clutch.

You never read this stuff in reviews do you? Hell no, it's all sweetness and light.

The 9 speed in the V6 is horrible. Too many gears, and trying to use the paddle shifters to actually make it shift down and do so something, you get lost. Too many gears. Push buttons for gear selection that gloved hands in winter will hate. Also sunlight washed out the console on my drive, so all buttons were invisible. You never read this stuff in reviews.

Underthought, underdeveloped, not very sporty, not fun. Buy a V6 Accord and save.

Geek

Truth in packaging, I bought the TLX 4 with the technology package, so I am now have a bias, I would strongly advise anyone to test drive any car and formulate their own opinion. Price for me was an independent variable and I made my decision base on how the car drove and how comfortable it was in the City and on the highway.

The value proposition was only important in the context of how the car drove and handled and being an older guy, I no longer desire or have to settle.

I thought the article and review was fair and reasonable.

geek

This is a follow up review after driving my new car on lengthy trips on the highway and backroads. First, the car performs like a champ. I cannot imagine a reasonable person suggesting the TLX does not have enough power to accelerate, merge and cruise with the best of them!

I suspect those who lust after a turbo are truly inexperienced or just desire a high performance sports car, that is not the TLX. The car manages windy roads, curves and straight aways with a high level of competency and ease. We decided and own the I4 and not once have we thought the V6 would have been a better choice.

The car is silky smooth and going through the gears hardly noticeable and if someone claims otherwise I am puzzled.

I thought the 2 displays would drive me crazy but it works quite well and all of the controls are at your fingertips and easy to use. The GPS in all cars drives me nuts but that is just the nature of the beast.

The seats are comfortable and the fit and finish on the interior flawless.

I thought the wheels would annoy me but they blend with the car attractively.

The TLX is nimble and a pleasure.

BTW the gas mileage is exactly as advertised.

hybrit

You have to hand it to Acura for engineering an entertaining four cylinder with plenty of power. And they did it without following the current trend of slapping a turbocharger on a mediocre four to get performance. That's taking the easy way out, but not for the buyer, who will face a worn out turbo somewhere down the road, hopefully after the last loan payment has been made. If I needed a new, efficient luxury sedan, this would be near the top of my list. Mr. Geek's comments confirm my impressions of the TLX.

nice review of a car. you cover all point of a review thanks for sharing this article

boe

A shame they didn't make something comparable to the Accord Hybrid, I'd buy the Acura just to get better seats.

BUYER BEWARE!!
review from a current 2015 TLX owner:

having problems with a steering wheel vibration on the 4 cylinder. Dealer Tech and Dealer General Manager acknowledged the problem. They compared it with two other 4 cylinder models and felt similar vibration to an extent (one worse, one better). Brought in a Acura Rep to look at it and he determined: "normal operation at this time"
(if there isn't a problem, why would the dealer bring in outside help?)

so beware: you may not feel the vibration on a test drive, but after driving on the highway for an hour, you may want to cut your hands off! extremely annoying

if anyone else has the 4 cylinder model, do you feel this also?

steve

I have a 2015 TLX base with 1500 miles now. The car has difficulty shifting gears from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3. Its very rough and jarring. After 3rd its smooth as silk. Anybody experience this or know why. Thanks

2015 base TLX

After test driving all available models at the time(Base4, Tech4, base6), base4 was the best option in my opinion. Tech package gives you lane departure/assist (annoying-I turned it off after five minutes of driving, blind spot monitoring (with those huge mirrors not needed, didn't even notice when was ON ) and Navigation that everyone complains (all cars and models except cars with google maps). Save 5k and use $200 tom-tom, Garmin, etc or hook your smartphone and listen voice command directions. Comfort is excellent, wind noise minimized to not noticeable, seats are comfortable and good for long distances tested (I’m 6’3” and my purchasing point was comfort, quietness and quality drivetrain). Car is quiet even with those crappy but expensive Goodyear tires, so I’m planning to replace them with Michelin Premier A/S. This is answer for Mr.S, get rid of crappy tires and vibration will go away.

Joe Mac

Its a dual clutch? Keep it they suck

Joe Mac

A DUAL CLUTCH? FORGET IT!

Todd Hixenbaugh

2015 TLX AWD Tech.

Drove 4 cylinder first, but decided upon my location that AWD was necessary. On the ride home from the dealership, I noticed a vibration at highway speeds. Drives me crazy, not how a luxury auto should ride. Brought back to dealership, they had it 9 days and replaced drive shaft, 1 tire & wheel, lug nuts and wheel studs. Problem remains. Called Acura rep, they are going to work with dealer as well. Taking it back to dealer tomorrow. At this point, another car or a full refund and my 2010 Ford Fusion Sport AWD with 100k miles on it back would be sufficient. This is my first Acura/Honda purchase, so far not impressed. I am wondering if it is the lousy Goodyear tires. Had them on my Fusion and Corvette, hated them. Replaced with Michelin on Ford, Kuhmo on Corvette. Felt like totally different vehicles.

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