Acura basically blends two of its fine sedans, the TL and TSX into one, now the mid-size TLX.
Beyond the alphabet scrambling, the tested dark blue TLX 3.5L SH-AWD Tech is a solid luxury sedan that will seat four in comfort, five if needed. This version comes too with all-wheel drive, a strong quiet V6 and all the tech features most folks expect at $40 grand and change.
Looks? Well, the TLX is pleasant, but certainly offers no standout styling. Instead, it goes all in for quiet interior comfort and smooth operation, doing everything well.
Power is silky with a 3.5-liter VTEC V6 that makes 290 horsepower hooked up with a nine-speed (you read that right) automatic transmission. That’s one more speed, by the way, than most of its key competitors. Drop the pedal and the Acura is quickly up to highway speeds in Normal mode, but becomes racier in Sport and Sport+ modes. Like many higher end cars the Acura offers you four driving modes. In all cases power is smooth and steady. You can hear the engine getting serious, but passengers won’t be disturbed by excessive grumbling.
In addition to the tranny offering nine gear choices, it’s a push-button system, which is not new to cars as our family’s 1963 Plymouth Valiant had this when I was a kid. But with electronics taking over all car functions, it’s likely to grow in usage, and will seem new. The buttons are on the console and only reverse requires more than a tap. For reverse you must pull back the R switch with a finger. There seemed a fair lag when you shift from reverse to drive.
Handling is fairly quick and steering effort moderate. The TLX corners well, with little lean in turns, and all that comes in the Normal mode. There’s also an Eco mode to save gas and muzzle acceleration, along with Sport and Sport+. Both of those firm up the steering considerably while also firming ride. None made the car so stiff as to disturb passengers though.
Ride in Normal mode is well controlled without seeming Grand Marquis soft and squishy. Most drivers and riders will be perfectly happy on this setting.
Braking is strong too, with vented discs up front and standard large discs in the rear, plus a stability system is standard. Acura uses what it calls Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, or SH-AWD, which helps aid car handling along with traction on wet roads. I tested this in light snow on city side streets, with icy patches present, and the TLX always kept its footing, never allowing any of its wheels to slip. I would recommend the SH-AWD in our climate.
Note too that the TLX features stop-start technology. That turns off the engine whenever the car comes to a stop in order to save fuel, allowing this AWD model to be rated 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. I got just 20.0 mpg, which is poor. And that figure came while driving in some of our milder fall weather and in about 70% city miles. I was surprised by the low figure, which was nearly dead-on what the trip computer registered.
Inside, the test car featured black over gray dash and door trim and gray perforated leather seats. There is a smidgen of wood trim on the doors and passenger side dash with a pewter-look trim, also wood and pewter trim on the console. Acura delivers a handsome interior that is heavy on quiet, as you’d expect in a luxury sedan.
Front seats are fairly flat with a little more contouring on the seat backs. All are comfy and easy to slide in and out of, plus power front seats with a power lumbar support for the driver along with two memory settings, with buttons on the door. The front seats also feature three heat levels, but oddly you must adjust the seats through the touchscreen that controls the radio and climate controls. I’m not a fan of this awkward setup, as it makes you wait for all the electronics to reboot every time you start the car, and then readjust the seat heat. Time’s a wastin’ man; it’s winter, I want to press the seat heat button ASAP!
Acura’s rear seat is comfortable and there are climate control ducts there to keep back seat passengers comfy. Two adults will fit easily in back, although headroom feels a little cramped. A fifth adult will fit if the other riders aren’t too wide. No matter the crowd, cargo room isn’t an issue, as the deep trunk seems bigger than its 13.2 cubic foot rating.
I like the TLX’s simple dash layout with two gauges directly in front of the driver and a digital trip computer display between. That’s adjusted via buttons on the tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub, where phone, cruise and radio functions also are located.
Acura also uses two large screens in the TLX, one atop the center stack focuses on navigation (with voice recognition and real-time traffic alerts) and information features. A lower touchscreen is for radio and climate controls, something you’ll be using more often. The system works well, with particularly large touchscreen buttons for the radio, so activating these while driving, and wearing gloves, is simple. Other makes could learn from this layout.
I like most of the technology touches too, starting with the SH-AWD, but including the rear back-up camera and blind-spot warning system that lights up in the side mirrors. Forward collision warning also is standard on this model and adaptive cruise control. I’m not enthralled with any lane departure warning systems, but this one works fine, and fortunately is easily disabled by the push of dash button.
The radio on this model also is HD, 355-watts and includes 10 speakers. A sunroof is standard too, along with 60/40 fold down rear seat, rain-sensing wipers, HomeLink, LED headlights, Bluetooth technology along with Zebra wood accents and the heated seats, dual-zone climate controls mentioned above.
All this comes at a handsome price, the test car listing at $41,450, plus $895 delivery fee. That’s lower than some competitors and considering how many electronic goodies are standard the total price of $42,345 seemed a bit of a bargain.
There are other models, of course. A base TLX with a 2.4-liter I4 engine that creates 206 horsepower, starts at a more manageable $31,915. However, that model is front-drive. Moving up to a front-drive TLX with the peppy 3.5-liter V6 pushes the starting price to $36,140. The top level TLX with SH-AWD and the Advance package lists at $45,620, about the same as a top level Audi A4, which features a smaller turbocharged engine.
I like the TLX with its AWD system. It’s an attractive luxury sedan option for folks who regularly deal with sloppy winter roads.
FAST STATS: 2015 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD Tech
Hits: Easy handling, good ride and power, plus AWD grip. Interior is comfy for four and includes heated front seats, rearview camera, blind-spot-warning, big touchscreen buttons.
Misses: Gas mileage is poor, heated seat controls inconvenient.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 3.5-liter VTEC V6, 290 hp
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 3,748 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 190.3 in.
Cargo: 13.2 cu.ft.
MPG: 21/31 (EPA)
MPG: 20.0 (tested)
Base Price: $41,450
Dealer’s Price: $39,764 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $42,345
Sources: Acura, www.kbb.com