New Car Review
2015 Acura TLX: First Drive Review
The Acura TSX is no more. Same goes for the Acura TL, which was, not long ago, the brand's most popular model. Both have been replaced for the 2015 model year by one all-new Acura designed to bridge the size gap between those two sedans. It's called the 2015 Acura TLX, and we recently collected our thoughts after spending a long day behind the wheel getting acclimated to the new ride.
Anonymous Styling Inside and Out
The first thing that struck us -- and, we suspect, will strike you -- about the all-new TLX is its styling. Although many people -- drivers and journalists alike -- poked fun at the outgoing TL for its unusual beak nose, the TLX goes in the opposite direction: It's handsome but surprisingly bland. In fact, aside from Acura's signature LED headlights and the automaker's (now smaller) silver grille, we think that most car shoppers would have trouble telling apart the TLX from rival luxury sedans or even traditional midsize models such as the Subaru Legacy and Honda Accord.
Unfortunately, the same is true on the inside. There's no doubt that the controls are well designed. Everything is laid out perfectly, buttons are well marked, and we never found ourselves frustrated with any aspect of the TLX's interior. We also didn't find that the cabin stood out from rival-car interiors: Instead, this is a nice place to spend time, rather than a particularly exciting one.
Anonymous on the Road, Too
Although some of the TLX's rivals truly distinguish themselves on the road -- due to sharp handling or especially impressive acceleration -- we can't say the same thing about the TLX.
Similar to the bland-but-nice exterior styling and the derivative-but-acceptable interior, the driving dynamics never left us wanting more: The TLX always has enough power for any situation, and steering feel is appropriately responsive. The TLX's driving experience, however, doesn't stand out from the pack in terms of sportiness -- a reality that's true from the base model, which uses a 206-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, right on up to the V6-powered TLX, which musters 290 horses and 267 lb-ft of torque.
Interestingly, the TLX's engine details help prove our point. Given its size, the 4-cylinder TLX includes one of the least powerful engines in its segment, and the V6 model is overpowered by virtually every competitor from the BMW 335i to the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes-Benz C350. In fact, it seems like the TLX was engineered to be a compromise: one that offers acceptable handling but not at the expense of ride quality and adequate power but not enough to do serious damage to the sedan's fuel economy rating.
Fortunately, the flip side of the TLX's compromise is that it offers better-than-average performance in certain key areas -- with ride quality and fuel economy being two especially important ones. In fact, the TLX offers a far smoother ride than most of its high-strung, sporty rivals. Gas mileage, says Acura, is an impressive 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with the 2.4-liter engine or 21 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the V6 -- far ahead of rivals such as the Q50 (20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy) and the Lexus IS 350 (19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy).
Additionally, the TLX's simple interior is a welcome departure from many modern cars. It may not win any awards for thinking outside the box, but we like how the TLX's cabin doesn't confuse or annoy with any strangely labeled buttons or counterintuitive menus. The simple cabin is especially impressive when you consider the wide array of technology in the TLX, which -- in upscale models -- even includes items such as Acura's Road Departure Mitigation System, which can help steer the TLX when lane lines are clear. It's hard to present features like that in an easy, clear-cut way, but with the TLX, Acura has managed to do just that.
With the TLX, Acura seems to have its focus in a different place than most rivals. While Lexus, Infiniti, BMW and others go after hp, Acura fights for fuel economy. While those challengers fight over handling supremacy, the TLX goes after ride quality. And while other automakers struggle to cram gadgets into their vehicles, the TLX searches for simplicity.
As a result, we wouldn't call the 2015 Acura TLX a driver's car, but we think that it's an excellent luxury car for shoppers who prioritize comfort, convenience and value over performance driving and sharp handling. If the success of Acura's RDX and MDX SUVs -- which follow the same strategy -- is anything to go by, we suspect that the Acura has a hit on its hands with the TLX.