Overview: Acura's TLX was introduced for the 2015 model year as a single, ostensibly right-size replacement for both the smaller TSX and the slightly larger TL sedans, with the mission to take on highbrow sport/luxury four-doors such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Jaguar XE, and Mercedes-Benz C-class. With relatively affordable pricing along with plenty of standard and available features, the TLX tries to bridge the gap between those cars and mainstream mid-size four-doors. Think of it as the Japanese answer to the Buick Regal, and you'd not be far off the mark.
What's New: Nothing changes for 2017, but the price of most trims of the TLX have gone up slightly. (The prices for the 3.5-liter V-6s with the Advance package remain the same.) As before, the powertrain lineup is simple enough, with two engine options?a 206-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6, each with its own distinct automatic transmission?and the availability of Acura's torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system on the V-6. The four-cylinder TLX is available in base "Standard" or uplevel "Technology package" guises, while the front-drive V-6 offers an additional choice of an even richer "Advance package" option (each package essentially represents a trim level). The all-wheel-drive TLX V-6 is available only in Technology and Advance forms.
What We Like: The Acura is a fairly roomy small sedan and can be equipped with the latest active-safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and more, for thousands of dollars less than its German competitors. The interior is solidly built using nice materials, and the body feels stiff and does an appropriately good job of keeping road and wind noise at bay.
For this review, we drove both a four-cylinder TLX with the Technology package and an all-wheel-drive V-6 model with the Advance package. Thanks to its lower price, the four-cylinder TLX continues to make its case as the most compelling choice, provided you don't desire all-wheel drive. The four-cylinder engine is refined, in the typical Honda way, and places less weight on the TLX's nose, making the car feel lighter on its feet and more fun. The front-drive TLX with the V-6 feels front-heavy and is fairly dull to drive?and also suffers some torque steer?while the all-wheel-drive V-6 is quick, and its torque vectoring helps manage the extra mass and scoot the car around corners. The SH-AWD system is effective at quelling understeer, but the driver must have the wit to stomp on the gas midcorner, at which point the computers take care of the rest, figuring out which wheels get torque. Call it capable if not outright fun. The four-cylinder model and the front-drive V-6 come with a nifty rear-steering feature called P-AWS that turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds to enhance stability when, say, changing lanes on the highway, or in the opposite direction of the fronts at parking-lot speeds for greater maneuverability. It also sharpens turn-in response.
The four-cylinder TLX's clever eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission incorporates a torque converter between it and the engine, as in a conventional planetary-gear automatic, to give the Acura smooth takeoff performance from a stop. It works, as none of the clutch chatter found in competitors' dual-clutch gearboxes is present here, and the torque-converter clutch locks up almost instantly; shifts are as quick and well executed as in the best dual-clutches out there. The aggressiveness of the shift strategy can be dialed up or down via the TLX's IDS drive-mode selector (or the driver can take over with the shift paddles), and the transmission seems both smoother and quicker-witted in the sportier settings. The same IDS button is found in the V-6 model, where it governs the behavior of the conventional nine-speed automatic transmission, which isn't as crisp as the dual-clutch.
What We Don't Like: Our key quibble with the TLX centers around the rather pointless dual dashboard displays, which can be configured to show identical information but with differing graphics and pixel counts. The bottom display is a touchscreen unit, while the top screen is controlled by a rotary knob and hard buttons located below the lower touchscreen. It isn't terribly responsive or intuitive?thank goodness there are buttons on the steering wheel?and the only major function unique to the upper screen is navigation (on models so equipped). Plus, it's a generation behind the latest Honda infotainment, which means it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, but at least the TLX has a real volume knob instead of the finicky touch control common to those newer Honda setups.
Despite Acura's history of building sporty, fun-to-drive cars?including the TSX that the TLX replaced and the NSX supercar?the TLX is let down by its low-grip tires and conservative suspension tuning that prioritizes comfort over responsiveness. Of greater consequence, the TLX is hobbled by its ho-hum appearance and its in-between position in the marketplace. The Acura fails to distinguish itself not only among its primary competition, but also relative to more affordable mainstream mid-size sedans including the Honda Accord to which it's closely related. The TLX feels somewhat more refined and quieter, but even with its fancy dual-clutch gearbox, four-wheel steering, and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, it fails to move the needle relative to mainstream family sedans and luxury players alike.
Verdict: Automotive wallpaper from the same company that sells the NSX supercar.
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