2015 Acura TLX Review

Middleburg, Virginia -- We're tearing up a ribbon of Virginia road in a 2015 Acura TLX, its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine zinging rapidly through the gears of an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Even as we enjoy this new Acura, we can't help but be distracted by all the old Acuras along our route. Integras, Legends, and RSXs. They're everywhere.

A brand spokesperson later admits this is no coincidence—we're near the largest Acura dealer in the country. Nevertheless, it drives home the fact that Acura was, at some point, a very popular brand. Emphasis on "was." Last year Acura sold fewer than 45,000 sedans; BMW sold about 120,000 3 and 4 Series in the same period. If it weren't for the success of its crossovers, the MDX and RDX, we might be discussing the end of the brand.

Instead, we're talking about a new beginning. The 2015 Acura TLX replaces both the TL and the TSX, which tripped over each other in the showroom. The TLX basically covers their territory in terms of pricing and powertrains. A 206-hp four-cylinder, a higher-compression version of the direct-injected engine we know and like from the Honda Accord, is standard. A 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6, also direct injected, is optional and can be equipped with all-wheel drive. The dimensions for the TLX, naturally, fall between the two old models, but there's strangely less interior room than in even the TSX.

From Battlestar Galactica to Leave It to Beaver

Although the model overlap certainly didn't help sales, something else hurt more. When we ask TLX project leader Mat Hargett why sales for the TL dropped off so precariously in the last generation, he answers with one word: "Styling." Acura introduced a robotic new design language with the 2009 TL. Gutsy move, but not a particularly smart one, as sedan buyers in this price range are a notoriously conservative bunch. Even Chris Bangle, at his flame-surfacing zenith, dared not fuss with the lines of the BMW 3 Series. Not only did the edgy design fail to attract a new audience, as Acura had hoped, but it also turned off brand loyalists, who either bought something else or held onto their old TLs.

The TLX, therefore, doesn't mess around with avant-garde. Sure, the designers talk about gaining inspiration from horses and "red carpet athletes," but the sheetmetal is as clean cut and conservative as Ward Cleaver. The nicely shaped, jeweled headlamps and toned-down grille suggest Acura is learning how to establish brand identity without clubbing people over the head. The aggressive stance and lean body sides announce the TLX's sporting intentions, although the long front overhang lets slip that it's front-wheel drive.

The interior similarly plays it safe. There aren't any experimental interior materials or wild colors, just nicely grained plastics, wood and silver trim, and muted leather (leatherette is standard). Acura did gamble a bit by replacing the shifter on six-cylinder models with buttons for park, reverse, neutral, and drive. Some common sense ergonomics—the button for drive is angled so you push forward, the one for reverse inset so you have to pull back -- make it a cinch to use.

We can't say the same for the TLX's infotainment system. Two large color screens dominate the center stack, along with a multifunction controller. They look like three different systems thrown into one car, and sometimes work like that, too. We spent a lot of time deciphering which control directs what function on what screen.

Honda engineers earning their lab coats

The 2.4-liter TLX pairs with Honda's all-new, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 3.5-liter comes with a nine-speed automatic developed with ZF. Get your Kleenex out: no manual transmission will be offered. Hargett, who drives a TL SH-AWD with a stick shift, cries along with us but says there simply aren't enough buyers, pegging the take rate at about 2 percent for both the TL and TSX. It's hard to argue with numbers like those, but we protest nonetheless. The slick manuals in the TSX and TL were the last living links to the era when Acura offered some of the most engaging drivers' cars on the market.

That's not to take anything away from the new automatics. The eight-speed, in particular, proves that Honda engineers haven't lost their creativity. Unlike other dual-clutch automatics, Honda's transmission incorporates a torque converter to smooth out the launches. Once moving, it provides the blistering quick shifts that perfectly complement the quick-revving four-cylinder. Christopher Kipfer, the assistant large project leader in charge of powertrains for the TLX, says the torque converter takes the place of a dual-mass flywheel and thus doesn't add too much weight or complexity.

Why not offer it with both engines? Kipfer says a conventional nine-speed still offers more of the refinement that V-6 buyers want. Indeed, the nine-speed shifts with the creaminess we've come to expect of ZF transmissions. He also admits that the eight-speed dual-clutch, in its current form, won't stand up to the six-cylinder's torque. More problematic, it is not yet engineered to work with all-wheel drive. That means you'll have to opt for the V-6 if you want all-wheel traction, at a cost of $42,345, which is some ten grand more than the base model. To its credit, it's a very good system -- smaller, lighter, and even faster acting than what was offered on the TL SH-AWD. Dive into a corner too fast, add throttle, and you can actually feel the torque-vectoring rear differential tuck the car back into line.

A New Deal for front-wheel drive

Still, Acura once again brings what is essentially a front-wheel-drive car to a fight that's now dominated by rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive offerings like the Audi A4 2.0T Quattro, the BMW 320i xDrive, and the Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD. To compensate for this, the TLX comes loaded with driving aids: rear-wheel steering (Precision All-Wheel Steer, or P-AWS) and brake-based torque vectoring (Agile Handling Assist, or AHA). The acronyms would trip up the Roosevelt administration, but the technologies work really well. Even the front-wheel-drive V-6 model has surprisingly neutral handling, despite its miserable 61/39 percent weight distribution.

That said, the four-cylinder TLX may be the most engaging to drive in the twisties. With its brilliant transmission, excellent body control, and relatively low, 3492-lb curb weight, it reminds us that a front-wheel-drive car can dance if taught the proper steps. What the engine lacks in peak power compared with some turbocharged competitors, it makes up for in flexibility and sound. Acura did cheat a little on the latter -- some of the engine's growl is piped in through the speakers when the car is in its most aggressive, sport-plus mode (this mode also delivers heavier steering and more frequent downshifts). The rest of the time, active sound deadening and liberal amounts of conventional insulation make this one of the quietest Acuras we've driven.

Considering the effort and resources that went into high-tech suspension aids, Acura could have put a little more thought into the tires. The relatively tall all-seasons -- seventeens for the four-cylinder, eighteens with the V-6 -- start howling early and also sap steering feel, although the wheel is precise and nicely weighted. No summer tire package will be offered.

Conclusion: Back in the game without changing it

Despite the new name and some advanced features, the 2015 Acura TLX doesn't revolutionize anything. It's a nicely equipped, well-built, and conservatively styled front-/all-wheel-drive sedan -- just like the Legends, TLs, and TSXs we spotted tooling around Virginia's Loudoun County. Those waiting for Acura to "get serious" and develop a rear-wheel-drive sedan like Cadillac, Lexus, and Infiniti have will be kept waiting—perhaps indefinitely. However, we suspect many buyers will be just fine with an Acura that once again looks, feels, and drives like an Acura. It's also priced like a traditional Acura, offering tons of content at a discount compared with European competitors. The 2015 Acura TLX thus should have no problem finding its way into driveways here in Virginia and beyond.

2015 Acura TLX Specifications

Base price $31,890–$45,595
Engine 2.4L I-4; 3.5L V-6
Power 206 hp; 290 hp
Torque 182 lb-ft; 267 lb-ft
Transmission 8- or 9-speed automatic
Drive Front- or all-wheel
Fuel economy 24/35 mpg (city/highway, four-cylinder), 21/34 mpg (city/highway; V-6, FWD), 21/31 mpg (city/highway; V-6, AWD)
On sale Now
oldgeek143
The TLX is an excellent car. I needed to see it and drive it (for myself) rather than rely on other reviewers opinion and glad that I did.  If you want a car to stroke your ego and make a statement there are other premium brands that do that better than the TLX   The TLX distinguishes itself in how it drives and rides and the array of comfort options it provides on the inside.   It takes a bit to become familiar with the controls but it is not overwhelming. By the way it now takes a salesperson 3 hours plus to explain all the features of a C,E and S class mercedes, with features comes complexity.
The TLX drove and rode like a refined car, comfortable, responsive and quiet.  How you feel about its looks is a matter of personal taste, I liked it!
I know that the only reasonable way to evaluate a car is to spend time driving it and then sort out what is important to you.  I am glad we went through the selection process carefully and decided what was important to us. BTW we liked the TLX more than the other usual suspects and know that down the road if something goes wrong it will not cost us and arm and leg to fix and expect that given the TLX DNA it will be highly reliable.
PiperC82
I just took a test drive in the 4 cylinder model and I'm afraid to admit that I actually liked this car! I agree with most of the reviewer's observations. The infotainment center is truly a mess but the sound system is great.I currently own a 2013 Audi S4 which I truly love.  
Mark Senz
Why do Acura insist in making ugly cars? I liked acura, but I wouldn't buy this model. The nose is definitely ugly and why did they hide the exhaust tips? Isn't it a sport sedan? Hiding the exhaust tips doesn't make it more environmental friendly, it still burns fuel! I would not buy another bmw. I got bored of it and its not a reliable car. Lexus are ugly as hell too. Benz aren't that great either. Maybe the new Infiniti Q50, but the design is still not that great. It looks just like a boring slow family sedan with just a nice front end, but thats it. Geez! I guess I there will be a couple years until someone pulls out a nice sport sedan that looks good.
John Engelman
Ugly as Mortal sin. I frankly, can't see what people like about Acura. ALL are FWD, and V6. To me, nothing more than glorified Hondas. It's amazing how people will buy a car for a gizmo, or gadget. In this case, 5 LED headlights......
andyoo
Should I get rid of my 2004 TSX and get this one...really not sure...more electronic but drive much worse and look just like before the old gen like mine....It could be another 10 yr in this old look...just the thought of that makes me want another brand.
VeeDub4LF
What a disappointment of a car, does anyone at Acura have a clue anymore?  Bring the guys back out of retirement that gave us the Integra and the RSX....don't be afraid to hand out some pink slips.
Rahul Damania
When's this brand coming to india
jmccool6969
Sounds like it's an OK car. No more. No less.
Enrique Jackson
ACURA on its way slowly to the pasture to keal over!
Truc Mai
Nope
Craig Jackson
My TL will out class, out handle any Accord on the road. Not the same car. You can say that until you drive both and you will change your mind.
Craig Jackson
I LOVE my 2013 Acura TL SHAWD. One of the best cars on the road. All it needs is dual turbos, 305 hp isnt bad.
John Ceragioli
What is with the parrot nose? Fugly!
Sameer Maurya
Old is gold style nt bad yar...
Doug Pratt
It's boring and it' a HONDA for a higher price. Sort of like a Lincoln is "Ford luxury at a Lincoln price". FAIL!
Aminul Choudhury
Loll it's funny make looks Like copy as Honda acord I think
mfrohlich007
I actually like it, but rear leg room looks tight. 
Darrell King
It still handles like a front drive car.
Leonard Hanson
Nope. Sticking with the 2015 Audi A3.
Michael Scott
Acura's are just fancy accords and civics.
Michael Scott
Why don't they make a rwd based sedan with a V8
Avi NeimaTov
Toyota camry ???
Michael Anderson
Why do they insist on two screens in the console?
Robert May
After reading the article, it seems like the TLX is a side step of improvement, rather than a step forward. Acura seems to be, no pun intended, spinning its wheels in evolving their car line. They have really been in a downward slope for the last 5-8 years now. First of all, while the TLX's styling might not be as in-your-face ugly as the TL was, Acura seems lost as a car company. What once was a small but exciting car line in the late 90's, is now a bland afterthought of mundane offerings compared to their european rivals. No RWD sport sedan, no manual (except in the Civic Si....I mean ILX), no real brand identity, no true flagship luxury sedan that can compete with an E-Class, S-Class, 5 Series, 7 Series, or even the A6 and 8. And for the love of the god, bring back the Integra GS-R and Type-R!!!
Joe Lussier
They were on track before?
Matthew Molus
Yeah, let the stupid grill go...Make a car that has a WOW factor. The TLX looks too much like the lack luster RLX...Get with the program Acura or go away.
Richard Edwards
It seems the corresponding Honda models are better looking. Does this even make sense? "No summer tire package will be offered." I for one cannot afford to maintain a seasonal tire inventory. Do the writers of Automobile Magazine think before they write?
John Lopez
I agree with the styling comment, but perception is the problem with your comment about rwd. The Acura SH-AWD system is superior to RWD alone in every way except weight. Add the AWS feature and it stands out in this segment.
Ben Zim
paint the grill black ...
Muhammad Suryo
Berapa harganya
Marc Hamady
No
Justin Taylor
Yes
Darrell King
Drop ugly grille, use inventive styling and until they offer REAR WHEEL DRIVE, it will never be considered a competent sports sedan.
Ko Aung
All right
James Nelson
Same old same old. Get some new stylists, guys
Ryan Mangila
Is it gonna catch fire like the NSX? Lol...too soon?
Lee Klein
Why can't they let that grill go?
Alex Marks
when they going to ditch that stupid grill design and go back to 2000-2006?
Anthony Rodriguez
No
Danny Baker
Boring
CarNut2014
It may not be RWD, but I bet you can get a nicely equipped FWD 2.5L model for mid $30's. BMW really offers nothing at that price level that would have the same content you would get in the Acura. The new 8 speed sounds like a slick transmission. I wonder if they will eventually offer it in Honda products like the Accord. 
andyoo
all the angles and folding line in the middle like a stealth fighter (the boxy ones) or cadillac....it might drive well compare to a 10K cheaper accord, but not better than infinity, lexus, bmw, audi or MBs in the price range.And I doubt the heavy head TL drives better than old TSX.
andyoo
it's higher price because you got better leather, dash, better equiptment , more horse power, more quiet and better parts that last longer. why would that be fail?Just becase some parts are shared or the metal shell is the same?So a larger cup of starbuck that cost more is a FAIL compare to a small cup that you got less?
andyoo
FD might not be a bad thing. as least it won't spin 360 on a rainy day fast U turn.Get the AWD one then.
andyoo
stick with the famous Audi dealer repair service too. you will need a lot of them.My last VW was a junk lemon and it was brand new at 30K mile.
andyoo
you don't like fancy?
andyoo
why v8? waste gas? you already got 300 hp...more than enought to get speeding ticket and police car chase. V8 car front is so heavy, it's not a F150 weight like a ton that need that torque to pull a boat.
CollegeGuyj2
It's going, shortly.
CollegeGuyj2
Yeah, all those Audi's that don't have RWD aren't really considered competent sport sedans...  Are you serious?
CollegeGuyj2
It's going, soon.

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