Acura has spent the last decade or so as the little brand that could possibly once again. Long gone are the legendary years when buyers scooped up Acuras from dealer lots like they were the hottest things since sliced bread.
In the years since, Acura sedan models have lingered, often overlooked by buyers shopping for their larger SUV counterparts and enthusiasts drolling over a little something called the NSX. Luxury car shoppers started looking elsewhere as reliability among their luxury counterparts soared and German sportiness reined supreme.
Enter the TLX. The Marysville, Ohio-made sedan was first produced in 2014 as a 2015 model and signaled a step in what many would call the right direction for the Honda-owned manufacturer. The problem came in finding out where it would fit.
Audi and Infiniti see Acura as a direct competitor in the luxury sports sedan segment. Their starting prices are slightly above the TLX base model's $31,900 price tag but from there they differ greatly. The typical luxury-focused look, style, and feel of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even Kia won't be found in the TLX.
Even with its $43,540 price tag, the 3.5-liter model I drove with added Technology and Advance packages did not include seat warmers and its center stack touch and display screens had a less than premium look and feel. By far, however, the TLX's greatest asset is its strong engine, which is mated to a smooth-shifting nine-speed transmission giving the TLX more muscle than its exterior gives it the look of having.
The 2017 Acura TLX doesn't seem to be able to escape its Honda heritage, which, isn't to say it's not a good car. Soft touch materials throughout the cabin are nice and appear durable, much like what Honda offers in their top trims. It has the type of precise handling and sensible storage that has become a hallmark of Honda. Fit and finish are excellent.
Its push button transmission mode selector is the same as what is inside the 2017 Acura MDX and gives drivers a tactile way to select a gear that greatly differs from Lincoln's push-button system. It works, though I must admit that I'm partial to an actual shifter.
In the back seat, the TLX runs into serious trouble. Its stadium style second row seating is appreciated but it greatly takes away from the headroom of the car. As someone who is 5'6" I had maybe three inches of space between my head and the roof of the TLX. The legroom is okay though passengers riding behind front row sitters with long legs will find their space greatly compromised.
With the second row such an issue, it nearly slashes the possibility of the TLX being a family car, instead relegating it to couples and singletons. That's something its particularly up against, especially when lot shoppers are already in the same lot vicinity as a Honda Accord, which is priced considerably lower.
It's important to note that while this generation TLX may not have all the right equipment or seating to make it a strong competitor in its class, its future is very bright. Acura's Precision Concept debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 2016 showing off a new face of the brand, something that will be a welcome adjustment to the TLX's already outdated exterior. Any cabin redesign will likely take notes from Acura's Precision Cockpit concept and will begin to bring the marque back into its own.
The MDX and RDX are Acura's strongest assets, as they should be in a SUV-driven market. However, with a few tweaks, their car line could come along and be a true player in the sedan market.
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