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Parks McCants's picture

First test drive 2015 Acura TLX: Auto industry giant killer

We believe that Acura TLX will not only elevate the brand to new hights, but change how you and the auto industry measure economy driven performance. TLX is a giant killer.
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Acura has ventured back into the auto industry's most popular sedan segment with something that’s so new Audi, BMW, MB, Lexus, Infiniti and others will be compelled to emulate the ergonomic driven driver and passenger accommodations, superior handling tech-rich safety and personal connectivity features of the 2015 TLX.

Replacing Acura’s outgoing TSX and TL, TLX puts a new spin on mid size driving performance via world class safety through electronic accident avoidance, superior road handling and braking.

We covered the comfort features of TLX in yesterday's article. We, were accused of writing a PR piece for Acura without “measurable” data. That comment was most likely from one of my fellow automotive journalist at Motor News, or one of the many dot comers covering the most exciting car to come out of Acura in decades. (Oops, there I go again.) You will find the specs here.

Today Torque news reports on the engine, drivetrain and technical side of the innovative 2015 Acura TLX 2.4L i_VTEC 4 cylinder with P-AWS, the TLX 3.5 liter SOHC normally aspirated V6, 9 speed transmission with P-AWS and the top of the line 3.5 liter V6, 9 speed with SH-AWD and full tech package.

2015 Acura TLX: Acura’s auto industry transformer. There’s nothing else like it on the road today. From the entry level 206 horsepower, double staged intake and direct fuel injected 4 cylinder, 8 speed, paddle shifted pocket rocket, to the very refined sport- luxury environment of the 290 horsepower, 9 speed, V6 sport touring SH-AWD, torque vectoring, 4 wheel steering Euro-sedan; Acura sets a new benchmark in the sport sedan segment.

Yes, I said Euro-sedan…

TLX is offered in 7 variants. We refer to it as an automotive transformer, simply because it’s effectively two cars in one. Hi- tech sport sedan meets refined entry level luxury cruiser.

The drive

Tuesday morning weather in West Virginia was perfect for pushing the TLX through its paces. Acura kindly provided Torque News with a 270 mile loop through Virginia horse and wine country over a road course consisting of country 2 lane, city and highway driving. We would rotate 3 pre -production variants of TLX between 2 drivers. Acura did an exceptional job of insuring that each driver was given adequate drive time in all three variants provided.

We begin our test drive in the 2015 TLX V6 SH-AWD with Tech Package.

Acura Acronyms: SH-AWD = Supper Handling All Wheel Drive. The story begins here, but we’ll ldigress a bit as we revisit the cabin of TLX. While the exterior of 2015 TLX is sized to slide between the exiting 2014 TL and 2014 TSX, Acura has retained exceptional class leading interior spaciousness, and ergonomic driven driver, passenger comfort in all trim levels of TLX.

When entering the car one realizes that nothing in the entry level premium sedan segment can touch the interior proportions, fit and finish of TLX. But enough already, let’s get to the road characteristics of Acura’s game changer.

Through the wizardry of Acura engineering, Project leader Mat Hargett, Brian Hourt, Chris Kipher and Dan Powderly have accomplished what other automotive development teams only aspire to do; they’ve reinvented the Acura sport sedan.

We could write a book on the upgrades and component changes that have lead to the exceptional driving experience afforded the keyless entry fob holder of the TLX, we don’t have enough cyberspace here to do so.

Automotive engineering drives it, but “form enables function” in the all new TLX.

Upon pushing the (keyless) ignition button on TLX, one is treated to a pleasant V6 emited melodic note, a promise of things to come. As with all Honda developed engines, the normally aspirated Acura aluminum block V6 is rev-happy. There’s no performance-lag based disappointment present in the TLX. Acura has installed a (modified) Mat tells us it’s a new block designed for Acura, 3.5 Liter SOHC i_VTEC direct injected V6, maried to an all new, lighter and smaller 9 speed automatic transmission, with paddle shifters.

Unlike our recent driving experience in the exiting 2014 TL, the paddle shifter worked flawlessly in the TLX. There’s no shift lever in the TLX. the driver selection is sent to the 9 speed transmission via buttons and toggles on the TLX V6 front or AWD variant, they work exceptionally well.

Leaving West Virginia's Salamander Resort we note the noise level in the TLX cabin to be bordering on nil. This car is so quiet in normal drive mode that one can hear their own heartbeat. While that can be a bit disconcerting at times,our test mule came equipped with a state of the art ELS premium audio system featuring exceptional sound through 10 speaker; the acoustics of the cabin is exceptional.

stereo? infinitely adjustable through strategically placed speakers. Rich sound, we turned it off, we were here to drive.

Keeping it simple

Acura engineering has incorporated all wheel steering and all wheel drive in a midsize sport sedan that blows the collective doors off of the competition. While BMW and Infiniti may offer more horsepower in this segment, the high performance, direct injected, normally aspirated V6, mated to the state of the art 9 speed transmission, all wheel steering and AWD of the TLX takes the overall advantage in performance and comfort. Note: Ergonomics and cabin space of the TLX is superior in its segment.

We discover athletic road manners via Acura TLX engineering.

Acura engineering hits a home run with the TLX. By reducing the overhang of this sedan(TL) by 3.5 inches, narrowing the width by 1 inch, tweaking the body line, thus bringing the car closer to the ground, Acura has accomplished the lowest wind resistance in the class for class leading fuel efficiency. While TLX may share pan and wheel base dimensions with Honda’s award winning Accord, that’s where the similarities end.

We’ve been assured by TLX senior project leader Mat Harget, that TLX is new from the ground up. Even the tire rubber has been compounded specifically for Acura TLX. Friction reduction and drag coefficient compliments the drivetrain superiority of Acura’s proprietary SH-AWD. Add to this coefficient state of the art multi phase suspension dampening and what Acura refers to as brake actuated torque vectoring (think manual transmission downshift with a twist,) you end up with a car that handles exceptionally well on the twisty downhills.

We pushed the TLX as hard as we could and didn’t lose it.

With apologies to Acura we must admit that we had the V6 TLX airbound more than once, this is not a small car. In sport mode the TLX takes on the personality of a race prepaid Acura TLX GT. This car is sticky, responsive and handles well when driven aggressively. We found ourselves backing off of the loud pedal more than once while grinning ear to ear. While TLX performs well in all drive modes(didn’t care much for economy) where it really shines is on a country two lane in sport mode.

You’ll find the driving mode toggle positioned below the drive button on the center console. We initially found the placement of the (IDS) to be a bit clumsy(eye’s off of the road) and distracting, but it worked well.

Acura SH-AWD enables dead- on tire tracking and engine torque transference through computer activated traction slip sensors. It’s a bit more complicated than that, you can watch the torque transfer via TLX’s dash mounted touchscreen monitor. But from the driver’s seat(the best in the industry) the shifting of torque is seamless.

Think Slot Car Track, that’s how well TLX tracks the road. For highway driving, simply transition from sport to normal or economy mode with the flip of a switch. In economy mode the TLX V6 is turning 1500 rpm @ 70 mph. That’s the same running speed of most turbo diesels.

How’s the mileage home boy? Frankly, it was so exceptional that we pulled out a calculator to confirm the dash reading.
24.7 mpg noted under real world, extreme driving conditions.

We pushed the TLX as hard as we could short of breaking it. Countless rabbit starts, hard downhill braking and acceleration. 6 second freeway on ramp blasts. We had our test mule approaching 110 mph on a two laner(not recommended,) and yet on this real-world road test we detected no brake fade, power lag, drive-by- wire delay or launch and landing corrective side sway or squirreliness.

Our confirmed average mpg indicates highway commute economy approaching 33 mpg. That’s in a performance V6. Acura claims an average mpg of 35 from the 2.4L TLX. We’ll share our views on that car Wednesday.

Edited for clarity of statement 11-03-2014. Thank you.


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Comments

All other reviews of this car claim that it is not very athletic, but a great cruiser. This review makes it sound like a Porsche. Acura PR perhaps?
Hey Troll. That's simply not true... It is a great freeway car that performs exceptionally well under aggressive driving conditions. It's a price point thing Trolly... Acura doesn't claim that this car will be all things to all people. But for $ spent, it's one hell of a value. Drive one and get back to me. As my uncle Chuck the used car sales manager used to say, " There's and ass for every seet. Your's may be perfect for the TLX. BTW. I will finish my 3 part review on Wednesday or Thursday. In it, we will explore the finer points of the car, technical data and compare the 2.4L FWD to the V6 FWD and SH-AWD. Thanks for dropping in.
"2015 Acura TLX: Acura’s auto industry transformer. There’s nothing else like it on the road today. From the entry level 206 horsepower, double staged intake and direct fuel injected 4 cylinder, 8 speed, paddle shifted pocket rocket, to the very refined sport- luxury environment of the 290 horsepower, 9 speed, V6 sport touring SH-AWD" On paper, this seems to match up almost exactly to the Chrysler 200C AWD, which is roughly 10k less fully loaded Vs. fully loaded. If you've driven it as well, can you compare the two? I'm in the market, and I'm curious if you can make a case for the higher priced Acura. Thank you.
Good day Jeff. The 200, while a good looking car with decent torque (V6) is compared by Chrysler to the Honda Accord Tour. While it does offer AWD( I have it on my Pacifica) It does not come standard with All Wheel Steering or in the case of the TLX V6, torque vectoring, SH-AWD. Also, the true value in the Acura will be its residual resale value( after 5 years,) and best in class fuel miliage. If both cars are in your budget, I would recomend that you test drive both cars. The C 200 may be the car for you. Best of luck in your search.
I wonder as well if there is a case to spend $10K more for the loaded TLX SH AWD over a loaded 200C AWD. Big discounts (which is good and bad) would indicate that the 200 is not selling well. The recycled 200 name and odd model line up designations likely do not help. Thats a shame as it is a nice looking car. Of course the resale of the TLX will be more as it costs a lot more. Reviews of the TLX seem to be all over the map. Reviews of the 200 seem to point out less than great driving dynamics, small back seat and more importantly a confused 9 speed which is the same one in the TLX (better tuned ?). Reliability is an unknown but expect domestic name brands are getting better as Japanese brands are not what they used to be.
Hey Bill, how ya doing? Here's the diff buddy...I don't believe the Chrysler system will match the handling characteristics of TLX. And then there's the interior. I don't know where you're located, but if you have the opportunity to set the cars side-by side and compare them, do so. Grab the Chrysler 200 on a test drive and head over to Acura. Despite what Chrysler wants you to believe, they're not the same animal. I'll be taking delivery of the V6 SH-AWD next week for an extended drive and review. Stay tuned and thanks...
I believe in the awesomeness of Acure engineering. I have bought 2 MDXs, one TL (manual) and one TSX (manual) in a decade and all 4 cars amaze me to this day. I don't see anything lacking in these cars.
I agree with you PJ, great car. Thanks for dropping in.
What the hell does this even mean? -> We discover athletic road manors via Acura TLX geometry. Last time I remember, manor meant a large house? I agree with Troll, this sounds like either Acura PR fluff or just asking what the car designer thinks should be written and then paraphrasing. A decent review it is not. And no, SH-AWD does not stand for "Smart Handling All Wheel Drive", the SH is for Super Handling.
Mom, is that you?( english professor.) Thank you Proofread Much? I truly appreciate you reading the entire article. Setting the two automated mis-corrections aside, what is your opinion of the TLX? F.Y.I.. Acura doesn't give a tinker's damn as to what I write about the TLX. This car will be a best seller based on msrp, performance and safety.(There I go again) This is an opinion generated automotive editorial based on my impressions of the engineering and driving experience. I like the car.( use the links for technical review.) Also, based on same day, hands on driving comparison of the competition, BMW, Infiniti and Lexus, I found the TLX to be a superior overall driving experience. Drop me an email and phone number. I'll give you a call the next time I require a second pair of eyes. Much appreciated.
I read that the V-6 engine uses the Honda system that shuts off one bank of the engine, three cylinders, at certain times. The FWD has that technology. I also read that the V-6 AWD not only has the variable cylinder management but also has engine shut-down at stops for fuel economy. In your driving of the V-6 AWD and FWD, did you notice these engine management systems working, for example a lag from a start on the AWD or a lag when accelerating from a low RPM? Do you know if the engine stop function on the AWD can be turned off, maybe in a sport mode like on some Mercedes? Thanks in advance. I am interested in the TLX but am leaning more towards the I-4 than the V-6 versions because of these topics.
Good evening Potential Buyer. The drive mode of all TLX varients is controlled by the driver through the use of a center consule mounted toggle. In the case of the SOHC direct injected i-VTEC V6, cylinder managemant is engaged in "econo mode" only. I engaged this mode for hiway only. The engine runs smooth in econo mode ( 3 cylinders @ 1500 rpm @ 70 mph,) but has no peddle. You will find that regular mode works very well on ths car, most drivers will leave it there. This is where the class leading fuel miliage comes to play. SH-AWD: Apsolutely seamless. there is no excelleration lag. However, the car does have a heavier feel than the TLX 4 ( weighes 200 lbs more) and has more systems running. The V6 FWD worked well but didn't have the road handling characteristics of the SH-AWD. I'm not a big fan of the engine stop function. This was implimented to increase fuel ratings. This system is actuated by the brake. Let off on the brake and the car re-starts. I found it to be anoying( personal prefference.) Yes, it can be turned off. No, the SH-AWD is a dedicated system invented by Honda/Acura in 2005. It transfers torque as directed by the cars road sensors, eliminating what's reffered to as" torque steer." Acura engineering has eliminated the drive by wire lag noted in 2013. This car's functions are seamless. For the buck $$$ I found the $31,000 TLX 4 cylinder, 8 spead duel clutch the most fun to drive. Acura has duel staged the intake on this direct fuel injected duel cam 4.. It's rev-happy I'll be writing a comprehensive review on the car Thursday.
Drove both the 4 cylinder and V6 FWD TLXs today, both mid-level Technology package equipped. That's the Canadian designation anyway - they had leather seats and nav. Being Hondas, they are of course idiosyncratic which is not necessarily bad. But the sun washed out the drive buttons on the V6 so I couldn't even see them to shift from P to D. Who sits down and invents crap like this? And in winter wearing gloves, those buttons are too small. Wake up, product planning! Extremely competent salesman, a first in my 2 years of looking for a half-decent new car to replace my 08 Legacy GT. Off to a good start, then. I've driven almost a dozen candidates, none as good as the LGT or I'd have bought it. $40K Cdn is my limit, so even a 328i is too much at $44K. The 4 cylinder TLX had electronic nannies that could not be entirely shut off, apparently. Tooted at me for an old woman who had actually already crossed the road. Why? Big orange light in dash, BRAKE, as you come to a stop. Groan. Noisy 4 cylinder engine sound, not unlike a pom-pom gun or pneumatic drill and kind of dull response to a bootful of gas, while the transmission dithered. No torque, just noisy revs. Leaned a lot going round a city street curve I'm used to. After just a mile downwind, I told the salesman: "Enough of this. I'm driving back to the dealership." Then, having to cut across two lanes of traffic to re-enter dealership, from a complete stop with wheels cut over - goosed it to get rolling - nothing. A feeling of a dozen squirrels frantically checking and trying to find a gear, any gear, and a full two second wait while the salesman cringed at oncoming traffic bearing down, before something caught and it moved. Then it upshifted three gears at ten to fifteen mph going up the steep slope to the showroom, lugging the engine down so low in rpm it shuddered, like a rookie driver in a manual who forgot to release the clutch. Er, no. Awful. Acceptable in this day and age? I don't think so. And not even Lanewatch as in Accord and Civic. Folks, you can have that model. NOT for me. Dangerous. Not a patch on the LGT in engine note or get up and go, or even basic nimbleness. The 20 inch tires the dealer had fitted to impress someone or other were also incredibly noisy, like driving a CLA with 18s - what a tin can that thing is, btw. So, off we went in the V6. More like it. At least Honda have integrated the ZF 9 speed properly, unlike the Chrysler 200 AWD V6's, which doesn't know which way is up at low city speeds going uphill, frenetically swapping ratios. Here's a big surprise - for 6 grand more than a fully-equipped 200 V6, the Acura is in another league entirely in every way. Except the infotainment, where U-Connect slaughters the totally lame Acura/Honda system. The FWD is inadequate to handle the V6 engine power, though. Howling tires when you're just trying to take-off smartly is a bit much. Guess I'm used to AWD, plus not such a low ratio first gear. Good luck to those FWD V6 owners in winter, you're going to need it. Also, using engine braking to slow down requires some determined chicken-pecking at the downshift paddle to get from 9th to 3rd or 2nd, just like the Chrysler. Too many gears. Lovely car, though. Proper feel, at least for me. Not some overachieving gerbil motor trying too hard. The AWD is not available till fall, and the cheap vinyl seat version (cloth would suit me) is $40K plus shipping. And minus the useless electronic doo-dads, thank goodness. Very nice indeed. No spare tire of course (Honda foam aerosol), interior a bit sparse, but not nasty, just not really premium which is fine by me. Now, if the AWD drives as well as the FWD, then I'd say it's the best out there for the money if you're not into flash or badges. Compared to a $30K WRX base crapmobile, the extra $10K is there for all the world to see. And they want $37K for a base AWD A3. I know, leatherette vs leather seats, but SH-AWD versus Haldex for just $3K more. And a really lovely V6 thrown in. No contest. The paint on all the TLXs had orange-peel, redolent of '80s Audis, and every single one I checked (4) had misalignment of the front to rear door, noticeable from the "chrome" strips at the top of each door. Honda at least makes them all the same! Who knows, they may actually sell me one. And it really isn't an Accord V6, quite a different feel and lacking that Accord hobby-horse bobblehead ride, which is its main demerit for me. No, you know you're in a really decent car. Just have to decide if the crap transmission selector buttons are livable. Yeah, it's ponderous compared to the LGT, but I need to slow down anyway. That V6 is what I like in a world where everyone will soon be pedalling 2 litre turbo fours. We'll just leave the 4 cylinder TLX for journalists to rhapsodize over. Then, when they drive it in regular traffic like me at some future date, they'll realize the poor throttle response, lugging, etc. Your review, well it's pretty awful. I'm a mechanical engineer, and you know, AWD doesn't alter geometry. You guys have more enthusiasm than knowledge.
How ya doing Billy,eh? Not sure what you were driving. In the U.S. the 2.4L 8 speed comes with a select stick shift and paddle shifters. Why the hell any dealership would change up the wheel size on a 2015 TLX is anybody's guess. The standard wheels, tires and tire ruber compound has been specifically engineered for the car to increase fuel efficiency and handling through reduced deadweight 11.5lb and less tire friction at the road. Please note grumpy Billy, all accident avoidence electronics can be disabled with the push of a toggle. What you've discribed, engine noise, brake sticking, etc, can be caused by the car's electronic ride stability setting, leaving the transmission in "Sport" mode( paddle shift to 2nd gear or lower) and, simply not having a sales person in the car that knows the car's systems. Take care and thanks for the lengthy(Book) consumer review.
Hey Parks, another good article. It's one thing to have differing opinions, quite another to be erroneously derogatory. E.G.; The geometry of the suspension in any car these days changes as the car moves, that's the entire point of the suspension, to change the geometry in accordance to road surface, going around curves and even during acceleration and braking. The complexity added by including Rear wheel steering, (which obviously changes the geometry), is pretty incredible to be offered at this price-point. If one is to look at it from an, "Engineering" standpoint, as you mention, 20's? That's just a bad idea all the way around, especially in a car that is so finely engineered and it's wheel sizing, weight and compound such an intricate part of the design. As far as speling, er, spellink, er, spelling goes, ,shame on you, (lol), you guys still are one of the Best in the business, I'm a fan. Be Well and keep writing, I'm reading AND LEARNING.
Thank you JeffS. Right you are, I'm learning as well. I appreiate your thought provoking add to the mix. Take care. Parks.
Yes, in fact, AWD vs 2WD in otherwise the same car, will change the geometry of the suspension over the same surface,(the difference in distribution of torque alone will do so) and is different in design. Also, seeing as how we are talking about AWD with 4 wheel steer, aka SH-AWD, even you must admit the geometry changes from that of the Models not equipped with such. Those 20 inchers didn't have you wondering, as an Engineer, certainly you realize what dynamic changes that brings to the loads and forces introduced to a suspension, or drivetrain that wasn't designed for such. In reading your response, I see at least a couple of grammatical errors, E.G. It is grammatically incorrect to start a sentence with, "And". Does that reduce the credibility of your comment one way or another? Neither does a spelling err, or more than likely a typo. Seeing as how prolific these fellows are in cranking out one article after another, I think they can be forgiven an err, such as this, from time to time. The pot should not be so quick to call the kettle black.
(AWS) All wheel steer is not available with the SH AWD option only on FWD.
Again, sorry. The point really being, 2WD, 4WD, AWD, AWS, each subsequent suspension is designed to change the geometry of such to compensate for road conditions, steering input, acceleration and alike. My guess is that the suspension, as with other 2WD vs AWD or 4WD in the same Model will be designed with, "Geometric" differences and a mite different suspension set up.
Thanks Jeff.
I do have to apologize to you, the comment I made dealing with spelling and grammar was not meant for you, it was meant for, "Proofread much" sorry MY bad. Would have modified my comment and removed the reference, but no way to do so, so again sorry. Comment regarding Geometry is apropos.
No worries...
The only indication that you may be an engineer would be your inability to write in paragraphs and express your ideas clearly. Certainly, as stream of consciousness rants go, this one was interesting. Next time, perhaps drop the excessive use of exaggeration to make your points. It substantially subtracts from the credibility of your post. I certainly get that you like 6 cylinders, it's a personal choice. However the manner in which you write off 4 cylinder engines is simply over the top. I should mention that most of the dozen or so reviews I have read for the TLX recommend the 4 cylinder as the best combination of driving dynamics and value. Usually, most car reviewers will automatically gravitate to the 6 over the four when reviewing models that offer both choices, so that speaks well of the TLX 2.4. Perhaps you believe it's your mission to educate the masses about what we should purchase, particularly when it comes to engine choice. I have only owned 4 cylinder cars in my life, haven't had an accident for over 40 years, so to suggest that 4 cylinders are "dangerous" is patently absurd….unless of course, you drive like an obnoxious "Look at me, I'm a performance driver" " donkey opening. Ah, there's the rub! By the way, I will be buying a new TLX 2.4 Tech shortly, have driven it extensively, and find that it has lots of power for any type of driving. If only there were fewer drivers like you on the road.
Hey there Richard, the 2.4 is a wonderful bulletproof engine. Put it in a car like the TLX and you have a very nice car with all the power one needs. Good luck with yours and I'm sure you'll be having years of trouble free driving.
Thanks Jeff, not sure where this cat is coming from.
Parks, I believe Richard is referring to Mr. Mcphee's comment, not your article. The threads in the blogs can get difficult to follow because the way they post and do not reference specifically to whom the comment is directed. Good evening guy.
How you doing Richard, I'm not sure what your reading. Take a deep breath and get back to me after you take a long step back from your monitor and re-read one of several articles I've penned on TLX.( i hope that's complete and concise enough for you) Nowhere will you find a remark directed at 4 cylinder engines being any more or less dangerous than the V 6 variant. Take care Rich, I'm confident that you will enjoy your TLX 2.4 liter i-4 for years to come. It is my personal favorite in the TLX line-up. http://www.torquenews.com/1574/2015-acura-tlx-i-4-stirs-fond-memories-integra-type-r
I was referring to our engineering friend's response to your article, not the article itself. In fact, i thought your review was thorough and refreshingly positive.
Richard, example of Engineering analysis; Engineer studying the jumping capabilities of a frog; Frog with 4 legs ; "Jump frog, jump" ; 5 feet Frog with 3 legs ; "Jump, frog jump" ; 4 feet Frog with 2 legs ; "Jump, frog jump" ; 3 feet Frog with 1 leg ; "Jump, frog jump" ; 2 feet Frog with no legs ; "Jump, frog jump. JUMP, frog jump, DAMN IT, JUMP you stupid frog!" Frog with no legs is deaf! Sorry, couldn't resist.
Question is how does the driving compares to the old first gen TSX? I am driving one and thinking about upgrading. Quiet and fast shift is good but not most important for me. I doubt the 6hp difference is going do much for the heavier car in compare. may be a V-6 is in my future. But I bet there will be handling cons...

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