Upon entering Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit, the message was…
BY Bob Gritzinger, Contributor | @bobgritzinger
OK, so the center rear seat isn’t too comfortable, and taller folks may want to stay out of the back seat altogether. But that’s all we can find not to like when it comes to Acura’s all-new 2015 TLX sedan.
We put the premium sports sedan through its paces on a recent press drive that wound its way through northern Michigan and included an unscheduled run across the “Mighty” Mackinac Bridge.
The TLX replaces two sedans in the Acura lineup—the larger TL and the smaller and much-loved TSX—so the new car from Honda’s luxury division has a tough pair of hot shoes to fill.
Closer to the TSX in overall size, nevertheless the TLX still must meet the needs of TL buyers despite being 3.7 inches shorter, one inch narrower and slightly lower overall compared to the outgoing TL. It accomplishes that mission in part by maintaining the TL’s 109-inch wheelbase, combined with gorgeous, sleek and sporty styling, nimble performance and the kind of technical features and premium prowess buyers have come to love in their Acuras.
Two distinct powertrains are key: Traditional TL buyers will skew toward the 3.5-liter 290-hp, 267-lb-ft V-6 hooked to a nine-speed automatic in front- or all-wheel-drive; TSX buyers will likely prefer the 2.4-liter 206-hp, 182-lb-ft I-4 sending power to the front wheels through a responsive yet smooth eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Acura drills out the inherently jerky nature of the DCT by channeling power through a traditional torque converter. Fuel economy is tops in the I-4 (24 city/35 highway/28 combined), but the V-6 with Variable Cylinder Management which drops out three cylinders under low-power driving is no slouch (21/34/25). V-6 SH-AWD model adds Idle Stop to maintain fuel economy in urban driving (21/31/25).
The V-6 features unique push-button shifting on the center console, while the I-4 uses a traditional center shift lever. Both drivetrains come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and feature four operating modes: Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+.
Acura doesn’t divulge performance figures, but TLX project leader Mat Hargett says the I-4 model is 1.5 seconds quicker 0-60 mph compared to the TSX, and the V-6 is 0.5-seconds quicker than a V-6 TL, while fuel economy is up by 1 to 5 mpg overall. That’d be an impressive 6.0 seconds 0-60 mph for the I-4 and just under 6.0 seconds for the V-6.
Handling is super crisp in front-drive models (I-4 and V-6) thanks to Acura’s standard Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system, while top-end V6 models get Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive with torque vectoring left to right and front to rear. P-AWS adjusts the rear wheel toe angle up to 1.8 degrees in either direction, depending on speed.
At low speeds, P-AWS adjusts the rear wheels opposite the front wheel angle to create a tighter turning radius, easing parking maneuvers. At highway speeds, P-AWS adjusts the rear wheels in concert with the fronts to assure quick and stable lane changes and wide turns. And on twisty roads, an opposite rear wheel angle allows P-AWS to dial in extra yaw to increase agility. Braking is impressive and linear, using P-AWS to add toe-in to increase straight-line stopping stability.
No new Acura would be complete without superb audio, high-tech driver information systems, and innovative safety features. TLX offers such top-tier options as a 490-watt ELS sound system, Real-Time Traffic navigation and a new Lane Keeping Assist System that aids in keeping the car from straying out of the lines.
TLX is on sale now, starting at $30,995 for the I-4 and running up to $44,700 for a fully equipped V-6 with SH-AWD. Destination adds $895.
Can the TLX satisfy former TL and TSX buyers in sufficient numbers to make up for the sales posted by two models in the marketplace? And even more important for the brand: Does the TLX’s new proportions and performance give it enough prestige to pry luxury buyers out of the competition? Based on our test drives, the built-in-Ohio TLX has the best chance to do that of any Acura sedan in years.
Disclaimer: Acura paid for one contributor to attend and cover the launch of this vehicle. Travel, accommodations, meals, and branded gifts (“swag”) were provided as part of this event. While we appreciate all that manufacturers do to ensure our safe travels and creature comforts while participating in such a program, we remain committed to sharing our honest opinion on and evaluation of their vehicles.
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