Acura's all-new TLX is an entry-level luxury sedan designed to replace both the larger TL and smaller TSX sedans, which have been discontinued. In terms of size and price, it's in the same league as the BMW 3 Series sedan, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan and Cadillac's ATS sedan. In terms of feel, it's a capable handler with modest limits. Think of it as a luxury sedan with an edge, more so than a true sport sedan.
What Is It?
The Acura TLX is an all-new four-door luxury sedan that slots below the RLX and above the ILX in the brand's lineup. It effectively replaces both the TSX and the TL and rides on a wheelbase that is within an inch of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Cadillac ATS.
The base TLX comes with a 206-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automated dual-clutch transmission. V6-powered models are available in either front- or all-wheel drive and both come with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 290 hp, the TLX's 3.5-liter V6 makes slightly less power than most of its competitors' optional engines.
We tested two models: the base four cylinder and the full-zoot V6 with Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. The base car was equipped with the Technology package, which adds navigation, real-time traffic and premium audio as well as a blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning and a lane-keeping assist system among other features. At $35,920 including shipping, the base TLX offers good value at the cost of marginally reduced performance relative to some rivals.
Our V6 tester cost $45,595 with the Advance package, which adds adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking (autonomous braking), ventilated front seats and more.
How Does the TLX Handle?
Though both versions of the TLX have sporting intentions, it's the V6 SH-AWD model that has real chops when it comes to driving with purpose. Torque biasing, which routes power to the outside rear wheel during cornering, is the next step in making cars handle and fun to drive.
In the TLX, the system works seamlessly and is effective enough that we found ourselves getting on the gas earlier out of corners thanks to the car's ability to rotate and hold a line. Driven hard, the SH-AWD-equipped TLX offers an engaging (if low-limit) driving experience.
We say low limit because the handling is hampered by all-season tires that have both soft sidewalls and modest grip. On our skid pad the TLX only managed a pedestrian 0.85g , an average number for this class. More aggressive tires would likely make the TLX feel far more capable.
In addition to the optional all-wheel-drive system, the TLX also offers Acura's Precision All-Wheel-Steering system on front-wheel-drive models. It's optional on the four-cylinder and standard with the V6. It's designed to deliver a smaller turning radius at slow speeds and increased stability at higher speeds. The effects are subtle, though, and in most scenarios, the rear-wheel steering is barely noticeable.
How Well Does It Accelerate and Stop?
The top-trim TLX's V6 is rated at 290 hp, which is slightly less than its competitors' top engines. Our V6 tester hit 60 in 6.4 seconds, while the four-cylinder model took 7.4 seconds to complete the same test. Those numbers are slower than other six-cylinder competitors, but on par with comparable four-cylinder engines in the BMW, Cadillac and Lexus models the TLX competes with.
Both versions of the TLX offer shift paddles for changing gears and rev-matched downshifts for smoother braking. On V6 models, the transmission lever is replaced by a push-button setup on the center console. It's weird and unnecessary, but might add novelty for some drivers. We'd prefer a conventional shifter.
When it comes to slowing down in a hurry, the TLX shows some signs of weakness. Pedal feel is solid during normal driving but more aggressive use quickly changes the brakes' ability to deliver quick stops. Our four-cylinder tester showed signs of brake fade after the first stop, and its 60-0-mph distances were longer than average. The V6 model showed less fade, but its distances were also long for the class.
What Is the Interior Like?
Comfort and technology features abound inside the TLX. Its overall design isn't ground-breaking, but it is simple to use. A dual-screen layout allows you to view both a navigation map and the various climate and audio controls simultaneously.
Though navigation is standard on the top-spec V6 SH-AWD model, it's also available on both of the lesser trims. Multiple USB and 12-volt outlets are standard and well placed in both the center console and beneath the center stack.
Heated front seats are available across the line, and ventilated front seats are available on V6 models. We found the TLX's seats amply comfortable on multi-hour trips, and a 10-way-adjustable driver seat is standard on every model. Real leather is available on any trim and is standard on V6 SH-AWD trims.
Rear seat passenger room is solid for the class. Ample hip-, shoulder and legroom make it feel plenty spacious for average-size adults. Only the tallest passengers will notice that it's short about an inch on headroom when compared to its main competitors.
Trunk space, at 13.2 cubic feet, is better than most competitors, and the 60/40 split-folding rear seatback improves utility by folding nearly flat.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
Front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee airbags are all standard across the TLX line, as are antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. Every TLX is also fitted with a rearview camera with moving guidelines.
Available safety features include a forward collision warning system, collision mitigation braking system (autonomous braking), lane departure warning system, lane-keeping assist system, road departure mitigation system, blind-spot warning and a rear cross-traffic monitor.
We found Acura's lane-keeping system, which utilizes a camera to recognize the lane markings, to be highly effective in balancing the TLX's placement in the lane. It's not autonomous driving, but its subtle inputs are helpful.
Neither the federal government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crashed tested the TLX yet.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA rates the four-cylinder TLX at 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway) and the V6 SH-AWD version at 25 combined (21 city/31 highway). Front-drive V6 models are in between at 25 mpg combined (21 city/34 highway)
In combined driving, our four-cylinder test car delivered 26.3 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive V6 model only managed 20.9 mpg in mixed driving.
What Are Its Closest Competitors? BMW's 3 Series sedan is among the most popular and best-driving cars in the class. It's available with two different four-cylinder gas engines, a four-cylinder diesel and both standard and hybrid six-cylinder engines. All-wheel drive and a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission are available depending on the configuration.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan: Redesigned for 2015, the C-Class is also offered with turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive, though both are paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Striking styling and high-end interior bits coupled with solid performance allowed it to beat Audi's A4 in our recent comparison test.
2015 Cadillac ATS: Though its wheelbase is identical to the TLX's at 109.3 inches, the ATS is shorter and considerably narrower. It does, however, offer turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 powertrain options as well as all-wheel drive.
Why You Should Consider This Car
Value is the TLX's biggest strength. A BMW 3 Series sedan equipped with all-wheel drive and similar safety and technology features will cost as much as $10,000 more than the TLX SH-AWD. Base model TLXs offer a similar value equation at a lower price. The TLX is also extremely comfortable and quiet in day-to-day driving and will likely earn excellent crash test ratings.
Why You Should Think Twice About This Car
Although packed with plenty of high-tech hardware, the TLX falls short of its competitors when it comes to all-out performance. It also fails to match some of the German brands when it comes to luxurious interior materials.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.