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2016 Acura TLX: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2016

The 2016 Acura TLX has the dubious honor of replacing two sedans in the Acura lineup: the slow-selling TSX and the popular TL. As such, the TLX has many things going for it. Acura's dilemma arises not only from the fact that the TLX faces fierce competition from other luxury brands, but it must also deal with mainstream manufacturers whose family sedans continue to become more advanced.

From a styling standpoint, the TLX is rather bland, especially when compared to lesser cars such as the Chrysler 200, Kia Optima and Chevrolet Malibu. Things don't get much better on the road, where the 4-cylinder model fails to inspire. Moving to the V6 all-wheel-drive (AWD) version significantly improves the TLX's ability to impress enthusiast drivers, but it's still not a best-in-class performance by any means.

To be fair, we think the TLX will appeal to those who place safety, fuel economy, a comfortable ride and intuitive instrument controls over flashy good looks and high-tech gizmos. If, however, you feel a luxury car should do more, than you'll find much more to like in a BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50 or Audi A4.

What's New for 2016?

There are no changes for the 2016 Acura TLX.

What We Like

Excellent crash-test scores; quiet interior; roomy rear seat; uncomplicated dash design; impressive handling when equipped with SH-AWD; Acura's ELS Studio audio

What We Don't

Generic styling; uninspiring 4-cylinder engine; no manual transmission; collision-mitigation braking only available on V6

How Much?

$32,635-$46,000

Fuel Economy

The Acura TLX is powered by a choice of two engines. The base model is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. Power flows to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual shift mode. This transmission is unique in that it also includes a torque converter for smoother gear changes. Fuel economy for this model is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Optional on the TLX is a 3.5-liter V6 offered with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). This engine produces a robust 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and employs a 9-speed automatic with electronic Sequential SportShift mode. Fuel economy for the front-drive TLX V6 is rated at 21 mpg city/34 mpg hwy, while the SH-AWD model earns 21 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 TLX is offered as one model with a choice of engines and two significant options packages: Advanced and Technology. AWD and the Advanced package are only offered with the V6 engine.

The TLX 2.4 ($32,635) includes an advanced Precision All-Wheel Steer (or P-AWS) all-wheel steering system, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless access with push-button starting, a rearview monitor, dual-zone automatic climate control, jewel-eye LED headlights, Siri Eyes Free, imitation leather seating, heated front seats, an 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar and a 4-way power passenger seat, two LCD view screens (8 inches up top and 7 inches on the lower dash), Bluetooth capability, 7-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with app integration, and USB and auxiliary input jacks.

The TLX 2.4 with the Technology package ($36,690) adds forward-collision alert, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, voice activated 3-D navigation, leather seating and the 10-speaker Acura ELS audio system with HD Radio.

The TLX 3.5 ($36,260) includes all the same equipment as the base 2.4 but with the V6 engine and 9-speed automatic, an electronic push-button gear selector, an 8-way power passenger seat and 18-in wheels.

The TLX 3.5 with the Technology package ($40,315, FWD; $42,515, AWD) includes a V6 engine, plus all the equipment from the Technology package.

The TLX 3.5 with the Technology package ($43,540, FWD; $45,740, AWD) adds front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with collision-mitigation braking, heated and ventilated front seats, LED front fog lights and 18-in wheels.

Safety

The TLX comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability control, and seven airbags including front, front side-impact, side-curtain and driver's-knee airbags. Optional safety equipment can be found in the Technology and Advanced packages, including rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and assist, collision warning, collision-mitigation braking, and front and rear sonar warning sensors.

In government crash testing, the Acura TLX performs exceptionally well, earning five out of five stars in every category. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the TLX top marks in all but the small-overlap test, in which it earned a Marginal score.

Behind the Wheel

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 front-drive 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-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder right on up to the V6-powered TLX, which musters 290 horses and 267 lb-ft of torque. However, this engine combined with the SH-AWD setup produces a very different driving experience, one we think will probably satisfy all but the most die-hard driving enthusiasts.

Interestingly, the TLX's engine details help prove our larger 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 -- not at the expense of ride quality and adequate power -- but not enough to do serious damage to the sedan's fuel economy rating.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Cadillac ATS -- The ATS is a bit smaller than the TLX, but it offers superior ride and handling, a 272-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder or 333-hp V6 engine and, on some rear-drive models, a manual transmission.

2016 Infiniti Q50 -- The Q50's styling and interior layout is much more expressive than the TLX, plus its myriad of engine offerings include three turbocharged and one hybrid. The Q50's optional Sport packages make it much more fun to drive.

2016 Lexus IS -- The IS can match the TLX for quality, dependability and resale, plus it offers a more powerful base engine. Although the TLX has a more powerful V6 than the base IS 300, the IS 350 delivers 13 more hp and more interior amenities.

Used Lexus GS -- A 2011-2015 Lexus GS will give you more interior space, more power and more luxury, plus it's a better-known commodity in the luxury-car world. There's also a hybrid model.

Autotrader's Advice

If you're looking for luxury, power, safety and technology, then we suggest moving to the top-of-the-line TLX 3.5 SH-AWD with the Advanced package. Other than the Acura name, the base TLX just doesn't provide enough to convince us you couldn't spend the same money or less on a Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200 or Kia Optima and get more car for your money.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Acura TLX: New Car Review - Autotrader