I had just arrived back in Portland after a long day of travel, and would only be home for around 12 hours before I once again took to the skies. To put it mildly, I was not in a fantastic mood. Fortunately, I had a lovely metallic root-beer-colored Acura TLX waiting for me at the Portland Airport. While the TLX may not be perfect, it is ideally suited to easing a troubled brow.
When I drove the TLX at its release earlier this year, I didn’t get a chance to fully appreciate just what a relaxing influence the car have during a hard day’s commute. This doesn’t change the fact that for $46,000, the price of a fully loaded TLX, there are more exciting options in the luxury sedan market. However, for drivers looking to beat a tough day getting to and from work, there are few cars that will deliver the same peace of mind.
With an average urban commute of over an hour a day, drivers are going to get very familiar with their cars’ interiors. Acura seems to understand this. As a result, the TLX is a place where anyone should be happy to while away time stuck in traffic. Even during my 45-minute trek home from the airport, I couldn’t find much to complain about.
Even after a bad day at the office, sitting in a TLX is going to remind the driver that they are doing okay.
The interior of the TLX is modern, but essentially conservative, with the only interesting bits concentrated on the center console. Unfortunately, I don’t especially like the modern touches that the designers have added. On V6 TLX’s shifting is handled through a series of buttons on the center console. These look nice, and are sure to arouse the envy of anyone who has to move a lever like some sort of caveman, but in practice they are a bit frustrating. I am sure that long-term owners would be able to learn the position of various buttons from memory. Even after a week with the car, however, I was still fumbling.
The other modern aspect is one that I have already discussed at length: the two screen infotainment system. While this notion grew on me a bit during the week I spent with it, I still don’t care for it. It is nice to always have the navigation map open, but having to go back and forth between using a touch screen and a joystick is frustrating, especially because neither control system is as refined as it might have been if it were the sole focus.
Despite my complaints, there is a lot to like in the TLX’s interior. The seats are extremely comfortable, and the cabin is quiet even at speed. Most of all, the TLX gives an impression of quality and luxury missing from the TL and TSX it replaces. In fact, when compared with the stripped-down sedans the Germans sell at the same price, the TLX comes off as being the high end product. In short, even after a bad day at the office, sitting in a TLX is going to remind the driver that they are doing okay.
It’s not just the car’s tech-laden interior that gives the TLX a sense of presence. Acura’s designers have kept the TLX well within their design language, but – thankfully – have toned down some of that language’s most polarizing features.
The giant chrome parrot beaks of the TL and TSX have been toned down to the point where it is almost classy, especially when complemented with the jewel-eye LED headlights. In profile, the TLX is a bit hard to distinguish from a Honda Accord. Thanks to big wheels and a relatively wide stance, though, the car looks like it means business from front and rear three-quarter angles. Most importantly, the TLX’s design has enough luxury cues so that it fits in with the German performance crowd without looking like a copy of anyone else.
It doesn’t have the styling verve of the Cadillac ATS, but by the same token it won’t raise as many eyebrows at the local golf club.
The TLX truly excels in an area likely to be prized by avid golfers: smoothness. This is true whether the driver is stuck in traffic or going out for a Sunday cruise.
To really have fun in the TLX, customers need to look down market to the base model inline four-cylinder model.
Acura’s decision to prioritize smoothness is evident in the powertrain. My press demonstrator was fitted with the top of the line 3.5-liter V6, which produces 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This silky motor is mated to a brand new nine-speed automatic gearbox. While this transmission gets flustered when forced to handle aggressive driving, it offers seamless and immediate shifts under normal conditions. It also lets the V6 drop to a near idle at the highway, which translates to a respectable 21/31 mpg split.
Like most of the cars we test at Digital Trends, it doesn’t live up to this mileage in practice. However, the V6 does deliver on those power numbers. The sensation of acceleration isn’t especially dynamic, but like riding a wave, it just doesn’t stop.
By switching through Acura’s IDS system, it is possible to select one of four driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+. Only two of these make really radical changes, “Eco” throws a wet blanket onto the throttle response, and is intolerable for all but highway driving. “Sport+” makes the TLX very, very angry fettling with the all-wheel drive to allow more slip and having the transmission hold gears all the way up to the redline. It is fun when hammering along a twisty road, but the extremely aggressive shift points quickly wear thin otherwise.
Sticking with Sport mode for around town, the driver will be treated to a fair compromise between comfort and sportiness. With Acura’s torque vectoring Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) the car feels planted and responsive. Unlike some cars, the sporty handling hasn’t compromised the ride, which is firm enough to give the driver a sense of the road surface, but isn’t jarring or uncomfortable.
Sadly with the big, heavy V6, electric power steering, and a great many computers between the driver and the road, the TLX isn’t that fun when driven hard. It will do just about anything it’s asked, but feels heavy and prone to understeer at or near its limit. To really have fun in the TLX, customers need to look down market to the base model inline four-cylinder model. The 206-hp four-banger may be from an Accord, but it is fiery. And thanks to its lower curb weight, the car is freed up for livelier handling.
When it comes to people who love driving pure and simple, the Acura TLX is not going to win many hearts and minds – at least not while BMW continues to sell the gold standard 3 Series. Unfortunately, few people commute on the sort of ocean-side highways featured in car commercials. Real humans spend time stuck on urban freeways or at stop signs amid a sea of Olive Gardens and Foot Lockers. And for these not quite so interesting but far more common humans the Acura TLX makes a lot of sense.
The TLX has the sort of quality and comfort that buyers expect from Honda and Acura, but with a much more refined and upscale feel than the outgoing TL and TSX. Better than that, the TLX gives provides much more value than its German – and even Japanese – competitors.
- Silky smooth V6
- Upscale interior
- Grownup styling
- Excellent value, compared to the Germans
- Frustrating infotainment system
- Lifeless at “the edge” handling