2015 Acura TLX: Kicks Yosemite's Big Snowy Butt
by Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor on January 22, 2016
It was to be my last hurrah in the 2015 Acura TLX and I wanted it to be a good one. A chance for the sedan to redeem itself from having three gears too many and a transmission calibration that makes me want a cup of Dramamine. We were going to Yosemite and I needed a car — not a truck — to tackle the winding roads into the park and all-wheel drive to manage the snow we'd encounter once there.
The TLX was my choice. And it was the right one.
I genuinely dislike the TLX's nine-speed gearbox. It responds too slow, even in Sport mode. It slips too much. It shifts too frequently. It's indecisive. I haven't been vocal about it, but until last weekend, I figured it needed to improve just to suck.
Then I used it like it's supposed to be used.
Turns out, I was doing it wrong. Despite obvious sporting intensions in the car's marketing and legacy, it's not a machine that should ever be driven near its limits. And that's perfectly OK. I'll admit to overdriving almost everything. That's just what I do.
So when I loaded the TLX with my wife and kids and headed up State Route 140 out of Mariposa, California, on a Sunday morning, I was impressed with the car's capabilities. Filling the car with my family set the appropriate stage for the sedan to present its strengths.
This was to be smooth driving, but not slow driving. None of the late braking, heavy throttle stuff that I tend toward, but also not wasting time. I nursed the brakes subtly into each bend, carefully coddling the throttle at corner exit. Sport Plus mode and the shift paddles went into action. And somehow I never upset the precarious balance between my enthusiasm for the throttle and my wife's distaste for scopolamine dosing (look it up).
It would be easy to say I hated all the shifting. It would be easy to say everyone got car sick. It would be easy to belittle the TLX for lack of focus. But that would all be nonsense.
Because it wholly redeemed itself. This is a new era for Acura. One that's marginally less focused, but still involving. This is smooth and quick, but responsible. It's family fast. Perfect, in fact.
Then we hit the snow.
Snow, in California, is such a novelty that most folks prefer to think it doesn't exist. Even when faced with the cold, frozen reality of a parking lot covered in the stuff. After 30 minutes in the park, I'd already climbed out of the TLX twice to dislodge a Prius and Passat from the results of their driver's climate denial.
The TLX, for its part, was utterly indifferent. It drove through frozen ruts, crusty chunk and ankle-deep puddles, occasionally dragging its undercarriage noisily along. At one point, I watched a Jeep Wrangler dig a foot-deep hole with one rear tire while the driver puzzled inside about how to handle the situation. We motored past confident they'd sort it out. Then we did some big, slushy powerslides to celebrate my coming of age, Acura's newfound glory, and the TLX's subtle, but substantial ability.
Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor