Warning: This is not going to go well. If you intend on reading this review expecting praise for a car that should have been good, then hit the back arrow and select a review on another car.
The problem is that much of what comes off assembly lines these day wearing the “H” or “A” logos is nowhere near attaining its true potential.
I’ll concentrate on the all-new Acura TLX for this review. To me, this car should have rocked my world without even trying. On paper, the detailed ingredients should have made the TLX the best, but I returned the car with the bitterest taste in my mouth.
I recently had a long discussion about the brand with someone on the inside and had a few suggestions about the luxury carmaker’s future. What I had to say wasn’t completely off the wall, but would involve really big changes, regardless.
That’s what I was expecting from the TLX. Actually, no; not change, but a proper and fitting evolution of what was best about the TSX and TL. Sadly, I was left wanting more, much as I have been when it comes to recent Acura cars.
I won’t go through my list of letdowns engendered by decisions made by those in power at Acura, but I truly had my heart set on wanting to love the TLX. #fail
The shape of things
The new 2015 TLX is right sized in its segment. It slots itself neatly among the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, and other compact/not-so-compact luxury cars.
The TLX’s tidy dimensions and short overhangs make the car look smaller than it actually is and that’s a huge pro. Its lines are conservative yet taut and dynamic enough to convey a message of Japanese class. The signature Acura headlights flank the fascia well and much praise goes to the shrunken grille that is no longer an eyesore.
The low swooping roofline deserves credit for the car’s youthful appearance, but is also equally deserving of a warning. I whacked my head multiple times getting in and out of the front and rear of the car. I’m nowhere near that tall and don’t recall (possibly because of the concussion) having had such an issue in the past. Be that as it may, the car looks good.
If nothing else, the new TLX’s cabin is exactly that: functional. It sports the latest evolution of the dashboard that is now standard across all nameplates within the brand and it’s a good one. I’ve finally acclimatized myself to the dual screens, although some of the redundancy still baffles me. In the end, it all works.
The seats are quite nice -- in Acura fashion -- and aid in the car’s interior ambiance chiefly if parchment or espresso leather shades are selected. It’ll liven up what is otherwise a dark however well assembled cabin. Four adults can take place aboard for a weekend’s adventure. Packing lightly would be advisable as the trunk is tight height-wise, making its 405 litres of space difficult to access.
4 and 6
The general trend still dictates that 4- and 6-cylinder engines are still the way to go where powertrains are concerned in this segment. One or both are typically boosted, however, both here are normally aspirated. The 2.4L is common across Honda’s line and develops a range of outputs. In the TLX, its 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque are tops. The other is also found throughout Honda’s product lines: the 3.5L V6. It too has various outputs, and in the TLX is good for 290 horsepower and 267 lbs of torque.
My tested SH-AWD Elite featured said V6 as well as Acura’s well-known AWD system. It is best known for its torque-vectoring abilities, which is now improved thanks to the fact that it is 25% lighter and is now hydraulically controlled.
Once underway, the V6 and SH-AWD combo makes things happen. The V6 is especially potent and pulls hard between the 4,500 and 6,000 rpm mark. I was actually surprised by how quick the car felt every time I pushed the throttle swiftly towards the firewall, and the AWD system is as clever as it is effective.
The pain of 9
Without a doubt, the 9-speed automatic transmission is the car’s most debilitating feature. First off, the 4-cylinder gets an 8-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox which is a far better operator than many automatics, and massively superior to this 9-speed. Secondly, all current 9-speed ‘boxes are rubbish. All.
Surprised at the car’s acceleration because the delay between throttle input and the transmission figuring itself out and moving was so long that most times I’d release the go-pedal accepting I wasn’t going anywhere…
At a steady 100km/h, the transmission settles into 9th, comfortably maintaining engine speeds and NVH at low levels. However, when passing, the ‘box must shuffle through possibly 6 (!) gears as the engine is best at high revolutions. And! This is while the drive mode is set in SPORT! In fact, there is little difference in the car’s behaviour whether in NORMAL or SPORT.
Then, there’s SPORT+ which keeps engine revs high, holds gears longer and over-sensitizes the throttle; utterly unpleasant. Using the paddle shifters is one way of working with the transmission, but the same song and dance (9-8-7-6-5-4-3) must be done if you want to pass. Sadly, the paddles are not that responsive either, further adding to the pain of 9. And don’t get me started on the push-button “shifter.”
If pricing were a selling point…
In base trim ($35k), it could be worth it, but it’s not. $1,000 more will get you a 2015 BMW 320i… Another $3,000 will land you an AWD Audi A4. Between the latter two, a freakin’ fast, sexy, and RWD Infiniti Q50 can be had. Over a 36-month lease, there is but little difference.
Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum, my $45,990 loaded example lines up with a BMW 328i xDrive and is $1,500 away from a Q50 Sport AWD. Still no dice…
The case for the TLX is not great based on numbers and spending time behind the wheel will only hurt it more.
I am ever more frustrated at Acura. The TLX should have been great. Instead, it would make a sweet Accord, expressly with AWD.