2015 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD AdvancePosted on March 12th, 2015
Sport sedan debuts new engine/transmission technology
By Nina Russin
Both Honda and Acura have accrued loyal followings by their conservative approach to product, with understated styling and a focus on safety. But where competitors have fallen into the appliance-on-wheels trap, Acura’s driver-focused technology has earned the automaker high marks among car enthusiasts. While the TLX’s elegant styling functions well in a suit-and-tie world, the sedan is a bit of racecar in its heart.
The all-new 2015 model features two brand new engines and two new transmissions. The front-wheel drive car is available with a choice of the 206-horsepower 2.4-liter direct injection block mated to a dual-clutch eight speed automatic transmission or the 390-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, paired with a nine-speed automatic. The super-handling all-wheel drive car comes exclusively with the V-6.
Base price for the all-wheel drive test car, equipped with technology and advance option packages, is $44,700. The technology option adds navigation with voice recognition and rearview camera, AcuraLink telematics with real-time traffic and weather updates, HD radio, leather upholstery, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic monitoring.
The advance package includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, remote engine start, LED fog lamps, road departure mitigation, and ventilated front seats. Final MSRP including the $895 destination charge is $45,595.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
My week-long test drive included surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as some roads through the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. At the end of the day, the new TLX earns its Acura badge with aplomb, delivering precise handling and satisfying power, while at the same time offering buyers the safety and versatility required of cars that live in the workaday world.
Direct injection gives the new V-6 engine instantaneous throttle response, while variable valve timing enhances both power and fuel economy. It’s interesting that engineers chose to use a chain drive for the new four-cylinder block and belt drive on the V-6. Chain drives can be noisier, but they also have the advantage of not wearing out, saving the owner an expensive maintenance procedure during the car’s lifetime.
Both engines have high compression ratios requiring the use of premium fuel. To Acura’s credit, product planners spent the money on equipping the blocks with high strength steel crankshafts that are essentially bulletproof. Both blocks are also drive by wire, eliminated mechanical linkages that add weight to the powertrain.
The nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the former six-speed unit. Additional gears enabled engineers to extend the overdrive range for better gas mileage during steady state cruising and also space the gears more closely for better performance when the car is driven hard.
The driver operates the transmission using pushbuttons on the center console. Operation is fairly intuitive and removing the gearshift lever eliminates clutter in valuable real estate. Formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable the driver to manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
An auto stop/start feature automatically cuts the ignition when the vehicle stops at a light to enhance gas mileage. Variable cylinder management on the V-6 block cuts fuel to half the cylinders when engine loads are low.
The fact that the sedan in its all-wheel drive form can deliver 31-mpg highway fuel economy is impressive. Average fuel economy, according to the EPA, is 25 miles-per-gallon.
Steering response from the electric power steering system is good at all speeds. There is a very slight hesitation in on-center response: something that would not be noticeable to most drivers. A 39.5-foot turning circle permits the occasional U-turn on wider surface roads.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-links in the rear with stabilizer bars on both axles to keep the car flat in the corners. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
The sedan’s front-to-rear weight balance is 60/40: quite good for a transaxle car. The all-wheel drive system can vary engine torque between front and rear axles as well as the left and right wheels to maximize traction on wet or snow-covered roads.
The available blind spot detection system illuminates LED signals in the car’s A-pillars when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back eliminating blind spots in the rear corners and beneath the back glass.
The Acura TLX seats five passengers. Second-row seats also fold flat to extend the cargo floor for larger items. Remote start enables the driver to pre-heat or pre-cool the car in temperature extremes. Keyless entry and start saves him from fumbling for the key fob after dark.
Temperature and infotainment controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction.
I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view with ample lower lumbar support for my two-hour test drive. Seat position memory enables multiple family members to share the driving.
Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.
The trunk has plenty of room for luggage, groceries, golf bags and small camping equipment. Fold flat rear seats make it possible to load in larger items such as skis and snowboards. Cyclists will be better served with either the MDX or RDX crossover, both of which have taller, more spacious cargo bays.
The Acura TLX comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps.
Acura builds the TLX at its Marysville, Ohio assembly plant.
Like: An attractive sport sedan with advanced active safety features and excellent performance from the new V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission.
Dislike: Premium fuel is required, increasing the cost of ownership.
Model: TLX 3.5L SH-AWD Advance
Base price: $44,700
As tested: $45,595
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 267 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/31 mpg city/highway
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