While sales of the Acura RDX and MDX SUVs were encouraging, the numbers for the TSX and TL sedans were down. In an attempt to solve this delicate problem—and to better position itself to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti G50 and Cadillac ATS— Acura decided to combine the best of the TSX and TL to create the TLX.
On the surface this seems like an absurd decision, but Acura simply discontinued the TSX, whose sales were modest anyway, and kept the TL under a new moniker while making some corrections and improvements to it. The platform and body are new, but the wheelbase is identical to that of the TL. The overhangs, however, are smaller to give the TLX a more compact look. What’s more, this newcomer is wider than the old TSX but narrower than the TL. Basically, Acura tried to find a happy medium.
Keep in mind that the TLX is replacing the TSX, whose silhouette was anonymous, and the TL, which had a controversial look. In fact, if it wasn’t for the LED headlamps surrounding the brand’s traditional grille, the TLX would also be anonymous, even trite. On the other hand, with the balanced shapes and conservative approach, this car shouldn’t go out of style too quickly from a visual point of view.
In the passenger compartment, the presentation is excellent and the central console is dominated by a nicely-sized screen that displays navigation system directions and the like. A second screen is located directly below and is surrounded by the air vents. These two screens promise a lot, but using them turns out to be more annoying than anything else. And why the heck did they complicate things by making you use the screen to adjust the seat heat? In fact, you’re forced to use the screens to manage a multitude of controls and settings, all of which creates an additional distraction. However, it should be noted that the quality of the assembly and materials is very good and the driving position is great.
While the stylists opted for a very sensible silhouette, the engineers went wild with technology, the engines notwithstanding. In fact, they brought back the TL’s engines, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They are sophisticated and include, as they should, direct fuel injection and a bunch of other internal refinements. The 3.5-litre V6 that powered our test car produces 290 horsepower and 267 ft.-lbs. of torque. That’s an increase of ten horsepower compared to last year’s TL. The TLX’s engine has a cylinder deactivation system that allows the engine to use only three cylinders in easier situations. This mechanism is smooth and helped us record an average fuel consumption of 10.5 L/100 km. Note that the SH-AWD all-wheel drive offers a stop-start system and uses engine torque selectively to offer better traction in turns. It was one of the first to use torque vectoring to maximize handling on slippery surfaces. It returns lighter and more efficient in the TLX.
The other available engine is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder that develops 206 horsepower. It’s paired with an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission that also happens to be the first of its kind to be equipped with a torque converter.
The front-wheel drive versions are equipped with the P-AWS system, meaning the rear wheels steer to optimize handling in turns. But that’s not all: the engineers added another layer to it with the IDS (Integrated Dynamic System) that lets you choose from four driving modes that influence handling and performance. With the push of a button on the central console, the driver can choose between, Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport + modes.
Obviously, Econ mode promotes fuel economy, while the Normal setting would be the logical choice to drive in town or on the highway. Select Sport mode and shifting will be optimized to obtain better performance. Last, but not least, Sport + mode is the most radical. The steering becomes much more firm, the engine revs higher in each gear and, when you downshift using the wheel-mounted paddles, the system makes the obligatory “blip” when shifting to the lower gear. This setting seems to want to control everything and the driver can sometimes feel unnecessary.
You undoubtedly know people who have a lot of excellent qualities: educated, refined, well dressed, familiar with major trends and interested in the latest technology. What they lack, however, is that je ne sais quoi to help them stand out. Well, this new Acura is a little like them. Although its silhouette isn’t extraordinary, you have to admit it has a certain amount of elegance. While it’s no ultra-sporty performance car, the ride and output (a 0-100 km/hr sprint in a little less than six seconds with the V6 is better than decent) are good and it does enough to satisfy most drivers.
Acura dedicated a lot of effort to refining the TLX and making it more balanced, but it has not yet found a way to give us that touch of individuality that characterizes some of its competitors. And believe you me, the shifting buttons mounted on the console and V6 engine won’t convince anyone.
Having said that, the TLX is a model to consider if you intend to choose a car in this category and sportiness is not your priority.