by Roger Biermann
The Acura TLX is the Japanese brand’s most important competitor in the midsize sedan segment. Not only does the TLX have the job of distancing itself from the Honda Accord in terms of premium showroom appeal, but also has to fend off more advanced (and admittedly pricier) competition from the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That’s a big ask, but the TLX gives itself a fighting chance with far more appealing styling than when first introduced, the option of a powerful V6, a spacious cabin, and an appealing blend of great value and many standard features.
Two engines are available, a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder with 206 horsepower, and a 3.5-liter V6 with 290 hp. The four-cylinder is front-wheel-driven and uses an eight-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission), while the V6 uses a nine-speed automatic and is optionally available with Acura’s SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive). MSRP ranges from $33,000 for the base four-cylinder to $45,950 for the V6 equipped with the Advance Package.
The 2019 model brings with it the option to specify the A-Spec Appearance package on the four-cylinder models. A-Spec includes a raft of appealing exterior adornments such as a darkened chrome grille and rear diffuser, exclusive wheels, and a restyled front bumper. It also gives the interior a lift, with a sporty black headliner, metallic trim, and leather/Alcantara seat and door inserts. The only caveat? A-Spec can only be specified in combination with the Technology Package. The only other change is a new design for the 19-inch wheels on selected trims.
In standard form, the TLX is an attractive and well-proportioned sedan, although it doesn’t evoke the same sense of occasion as a C-Class or Alfa Romeo Giulia. The basic shape received its most significant freshen-up in 2018, with new bumpers and a larger five-sided grille. A-Spec injects a lot more personality into the design, however, with round LED fog lights compared to square fogs on the Advance model, a gloss black decklid spoiler, dual oval exhaust finishers, and black trim items among the package’s highlights. All models feature LED headlights and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof
The Acura is 190.7-inches long in most guises with the A-Spec measuring marginally longer at 191 inches, while all models measure 73-inches wide, and 57 inches in height. Overall dimensions see the TLX fitting in roughly between a BMW 3 Series and 5 Series. Like the bigger RLX, the TLX is longer than most competitors, outstretching the Lexus IS by eight inches and the new BMW 3 Series by 6.3 inches. The wheelbase maxes out at 109.3 inches. Curb weight for the base model is 3,505 lbs, which is about average for the segment, increasing to 3,812 lbs for the range-topping V6 AWD model.
Buyers can opt for a range of seven exterior colors, six of which are standard across the range, from the Platinum White Pearl to the flashier San Marino Red or Fathom Blue Pearl. For 2019, the Black Copper Pearl option of last year has been removed, while Platinum White Pearl is replaced by Bellanova White Pearl. If the A-Spec Appearance Package is selected, the striking Still Night Pearl shade becomes available, and it looks very good indeed. Unfortunately, the only way to specify this color is to add on both A-Spec ($2,900) and Technology ($3,700) packages.
The base model TLX, with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, delivers below-average performance and feels underpowered in the fairly large TLX’s body. Sending power to the front wheels only, it will hit 0-60 mph in a reasonable seven seconds but just doesn’t feel as energetic as turbocharged rivals. The V6 model, producing 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, also sends power to the front wheels but is optionally available with all-wheel drive. Most competitors are also available with AWD, but enthusiasts may prefer the standard RWD setup of the 3 Series, C-Class, and Lexus IS.
The V6-engined TLX completes the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. By comparison, Audi’s range-topping A4 with its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and the brand’s Quattro all-wheel drive system manages the same sprint in 5.2 seconds, but at a price premium of over $10,000. A price-equivalent A4 only manages 190 hp. In essence, rivals like the A4 and BMW 3 Series are superior performers, but you’ll have to pay for it.
Like the four-cylinder TLX, the V6 also needs to be revved harder than turbocharged competitors to extract good performance. This isn’t a great deal of effort considering the V6’s mechanical refinement, but it does require extra commitment from the driver when needing to get up to speed quickly. Overall, the TLX’s performance can be described as adequate but far from class-leading.
Two engine and transmission options are available for the TLX. The range starts with the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, which produces 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission). To eliminate the inherent second-order vibrations typical of four-cylinder units, this engine has an internal balancer unit comprising two chain-driven counter-rotating shafts. It works, because the 2.4-liter succeeds with smooth power delivery and a soundtrack that isn’t overly coarse, even if it struggles to generate the desired pace when executing overtaking maneuvers at higher speeds. The DCT shifts gears swiftly in Sport Mode and does inject a welcome degree of sportiness into the driving experience. The fast shifts are complemented by rev-matching for automatic downshifts. It is also the world’s first DCT to be combined with a torque converter, improving initial acceleration (the first 1.4 seconds) when accelerating aggressively from a standstill.
The 3.5-liter V6 produces a more muscular 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and is linked to a Sequential SportShift nine-speed automatic. It feels noticeably stronger than the 2.4, but the transmission can occasionally be slow to react when downshifting. The effect is perceptible regardless of the selected driving mode (Econ, Normal, Sport, and Sport+). On the plus side, the V6’s power delivery is instant and sounds superb, particularly considering that at its price point, many rivals offer four-cylinder turbocharged models that don’t sing the same joyful tune.
All models in the TLX range ride and handle competently, offering a composed and absorbent ride and confident handling, without delivering a knockout performance in either respect. With its Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system and lighter curb weight, the four-cylinder models feel agile and the steering responds keenly to driver inputs, with only a numb feeling in the center position detracting from the experience. P-AWS also provides a tighter turning circle, useful in city driving.
The V6 model is available with front-wheel drive and P-AWS as standard but can be specified with the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) drivetrain, the system being able to apportion power to individual wheels when required. In addition, by specifying the A-Spec Package on the V6, you’ll also get a specially tuned steering system and firmer suspension (A-Spec on the four-cylinder model doesn’t include these steering and suspension changes). Together, SH-AWD and A-Spec help the V6 model deliver a meatier steering feel, sharper handling, and resistance to understeer in corners, all while maintaining a composed ride that isn’t wallowy.
Braking performance is good and pedal feel is fair, with the only black mark being a snappy release that affects smooth modulation. Able to stop from 60 mph in 113 feet, the TLX’s braking performance is competitive in the segment.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is the model to choose if fuel economy ranks highly on your list of priorities. Its EPA-rated estimates are an impressive 23/33/27 mpg for the city/highway/combined cycles. This is on par with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and superior to the Genesis G70, each of which features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Gas tank size is 17.2 gallons, which will see the 2.4-liter manage a combined range of 465 miles in mixed city/highway driving.
The range-topping V6 model with all-wheel drive has an EPA-rated estimate of 20/29/23 mpg and a combined range of 395 miles from the same-sized 17.2-gallon tank. Although heavier than the base model, the V6 TLX’s economy figures are still better than what’s achieved by the similarly powerful Lexus IS 350, as well as the brawnier Genesis G70 with its 3.3-liter turbocharged engine. Opt for the front-wheel drive TLX V6, and fuel economy improves to 20/31/24 mpg, with most of the saving being felt on the highway. Premium unleaded is the recommended gas type for all TLX models.
There’s an air of quiet confidence about the TLX’s interior. The design doesn’t dazzle you when getting behind the wheel for the first time, but neither does it feel like it’s trying to. That said, there are just enough interesting shapes and textures to add some character. The seats are well bolstered and, with the Technology Package, trimmed in top grain Milano leather. Wood inserts on the doors, dash, and center console combine with soft-touch plastics for an appropriately luxurious feel. It’s only below elbow level that you’ll encounter some rougher plastics. Ergonomically, while many controls are sensibly presented and marked, both the dual-screen infotainment system and the lever-devoid shifter controls aren’t especially easy to operate. Barring rear seat width, the interior is otherwise spacious for all passengers, and the driving position provides a wide range of adjustability.
With comfortable room for four adults (but merely average room for five), the TLX provides a good level of seating comfort and space. Up front, there is enough leg- and headroom, and drivers of varying heights will enjoy the useful range of seat height adjustment available. Side bolstering on the front seats is ample, to the extent that wider-bodied drivers and passengers may feel a bit too pinched. The back seat offers above average knee room, although three larger adults abreast may find shoulder room at a premium. The center floor hump is also not the smallest, limiting foot space for the middle passenger. Lankier drivers will have to bend down a bit lower when getting inside the TLX, but otherwise, ingress and egress will be fine for most thanks to adequately sized door apertures.
The TLX’s selection of interior colors depends on the package selected. For the base model, just two colors are available: Ebony and Parchment, the latter’s two-tone treatment brightening up the interior somewhat. Select the Technology or Advance Packages, and you can also choose from the tasteful Espresso color scheme. Finally, the more overt A-Spec Package allows you to choose between ebony or red-trimmed interior. The latter is certainly the most eye-catching interior treatment you can get on the TLX. The Technology Pack includes premium Milano leather seats, while on the A-Spec, the Ebony treatment will get you seats trimmed in Alcantara - the red seats can only be specified with leather. We also prefer the metallic trim in the A-Spec over the rather old-school glossy wood in other models.
Trunk space in the TLX is competitive in this segment, with 14.3 cubic feet of space available, more than in an Audi A4, Lexus IS or Genesis G70. The trunk floor itself is both deep and low and is best for items that are long rather than wide in shape. A convenient compartment beneath the trunk floor has enough space to take about four grocery bags. Unlike the bigger RLX, the TLX thankfully offers the extra versatility of 60/40-split rear seats. When folded, they provide a decent amount of extra packing space, although the aperture isn’t the biggest.
Internal storage space amounts to a reasonably sized, covered compartment ahead of the gear selector, and a bigger storage area beneath the center armrest. A one-liter bottle can just about fit into the door pockets, which could have been larger. But overall, interior storage is decent for the segment.
All TLX models feature an array of convenience and driver assistive features. The base model, without any added package, still comes as standard with dual-zone climate control, a keyless access system, automatic dimming rearview mirror, and power adjustable, heated front seats: ten-way adjustable for the driver and four-way adjustable for the front passenger seat (eight-way on v6 models). Higher trims add extra driver adjustments, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a driver head-up display. The TLX stands out with a high level of driver assistive technologies. Included on all models is a multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines, a collision mitigation braking system, agile handling assist, adaptive cruise control (with low-speed follow), lane keeping assist system, and a road departure mitigation system, while higher trims get front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The TLX continues with Acura’s controversial dual-screen layout for the infotainment system. The lower seven-inch screen (capacitive touch screen) takes care of climate control, audio, and connectivity, while the slightly larger (eight-inch) screen above it displays navigation and driver information. The splitting of controls between the two screens sounds as if it may improve functionality, but it can be disorientating. For instance, while the upper screen displays smartphone integration information for either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, this is controlled with a knob positioned below the bottom screen, which feels unnatural. Standard audio system features include Aha and Pandora compatibility, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth streaming audio. Integration for smartphones is well catered for, with Android Auto, Apple Carplay, Siri Eyes Free, and a Bluetooth HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface.
The sound system uses seven speakers on the base model. Upgrade to any of the three available packages and the speaker count increases to ten, with further additions being HD radio and an upgraded ELS studio premium audio system. Sound reproduction is excellent on this sound system, with a good range of volume. Acura’s navigation system with 3D view, Real-Time Traffic, traffic rerouting, and a voice recognition system is also included with the Technology, A-Spec, and Advance packages.
For reliability, the 2015 model year stands out as a low point, when 171 problems were reported, the majority being for transmission faults. Reported problems dropped to just 22 in 2016, and since then there have been very few, with zero issues reported in 2019. However, the NHTSA has issued two recalls for the 2019 TLX. The first, in January 2019, was for reduced fuel pump performance which could result in an engine stall, affecting V6 models. The second recall involves teeth separation from the timing belt, also possibly leading to an engine stall. The recall begins in June 2019 and any damaged components will be replaced free of charge.
The TLX range comes with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty which compares favorably with competitors such as the Audi A4 and Lexus IS.
A strong crash structure helped the TLX achieve an overall five-star NHTSA safety rating. The IIHS safety rating saw the TLX achieve best available Good results in most aspects with Superior front crash prevention, maintaining Acura’s generally excellent safety record.
All TLX models are fitted with seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag and head airbags both front and rear. Other notable safety features across the range include Forward Collision Warning and a Collision Mitigation Braking System, the latter automatically applying the brakes to lessen the severity of a collision should the driver not act. Opting for any one of the Technology, Advance or A-Spec Packages will include Acura’s rear cross traffic monitoring system, which uses radar sensors to warn drivers of approaching vehicles when reverse gear is selected. Vehicles identified in the driver’s blind spot will then be indicated with arrows on the upper screen, along with an audible warning.
Acura’s TLX has been significantly improved since its 2014 launch and is now a well-rounded and attractive midsize luxury sedan with few serious vices. Value is a strong point, with the TLX generally offering more standard features than competitors at similar price points and an above-average array of driver aids with the Technology Package. The powertrains are competent, being both refined and reasonably frugal, although they could each do with an injection of extra power to really compete with more potent, turbocharged competition. Inside, the TLX is comfortable and space utilization is generally good, although we can’t say it pushes the envelope for either luxuriousness or technology. While not a staid interior, the rather clumsy operation of the infotainment system does hold it back. Acura’s three Package-style trim options and two engine choices make choosing a TLX fairly straightforward and eliminate the need to delve into a dizzying selection of standalone options. It’s this simplicity that’s at the heart of the TLX: while it may not get your blood pumping with raucous engines or outlandish design, it consistently delivers a satisfying, premium driving experience - and at a price many owners will find appealing.
The TLX range begins with the standard 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, front-wheel drive model at an MSRP of $33,000, excluding a destination charge of $995. The price is exclusive of tax, licensing registration, and incentives. The Technology Package costs $36,700 and the A-Spec is $39,400. The Advance Package is not available on four-cylinder models.
The standard 3.5-liter, V6-engined derivative starts at $36,200 and also sends power to the front wheels. Equipped with the Technology Package, it costs $40,100, rising to $42,800 for the A-Spec and $43,950 for the Advance. Acura’s SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) is available on all V6 variants for an additional $2,000. The fully loaded V6 with the Advance Package and SH-AWD therefore costs $45,950.
The TLX range is comprised of seven models. They are the base 2.4-liter, the base 3.5-liter V6, 2.4L with Technology Package, 2.4L A-Spec, V6 with Technology Package, V6 with A-Spec, and V6 with Advance Package. All V6 models are available with optional all-wheel drive. Four-cylinder models use an eight-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) with torque converter and sequential SportShift paddle shifters, while V6 models use a nine-speed automatic transmission, also with sequential SportShift paddle shifters.
The Technology Package includes a variety of tempting connectivity and infotainment features such as an upgraded ELS audio system and Acura’s navigation. A-Spec dresses up the exterior and interior with sporty add-ons such as black Alcantara or red leather seats, metallic trim inserts, rounded LED fog lights, and dual exhaust outlets. The Advance Package boasts heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, and white accent lighting. While the Technology Pack can be specified on its own, both the A-Spec and Advance Packages can only be added in conjunction with the Technology Pack.
|2.4L||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$31,343||$33,000|
|V6||3.5-liter V6 Gas||9-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$34,374||$36,200|
|2.4L with Technology Package||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$34,848||$36,700|
|2.4L A-Spec||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||8-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$37,406||$39,400|
|V6 with Technology Package||3.5-liter V6 Gas||9-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$38,069||$40,100|
Acura’s somewhat confusing ‘package’ nomenclature generally refers to what is typically considered a trim line for other brands. Acura still markets these as standalone packages, however, but it’s important to note they build upon one another rather than being truly standalone.
The Technology Package costs $3,700 and adds perforated Milano leather seats, an upgraded ELS premium audio system with ten speakers, Acura’s navigation system with 3D view, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and a rear cross traffic monitor. The V6 also gets unique seat styling with contrast stitching and piping. The A-Spec Package is $2,900 and can only be specified with the Technology Pack. It adds a host of aggressive interior and exterior styling embellishments to spruce up the appearance of the TLX. The Advance Package, also requiring the Technology Pack, adds another $3,850 and can only be specified on V6 models. It includes features such as a decklid spoiler, LED puddle lights, white ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear outboard seats.
Owing to the comprehensive packages available, there are few standalone extras. The most useful of these are the back-up parking assist sensors for $528.
At $36,700, it’s hard to discount the value proposition of the 2.4-liter model equipped with the Technology Package. This model also offers the more involving gearbox with its faster DCT. You’ll be getting a very well specified sedan, and as long as you don’t need the extra power of the V6, this is the version that should cater for the needs of most shoppers in this segment. Specifying a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 to the same level will quickly see the price approaching the $50k mark. A-Spec models are also appealing if you’re looking for a sportier edge, although it’s a pity they can’t be specified without the Technology Pack, and on four-cylinder derivatives, you don’t get the upgraded suspension of the V6 A-Spec. If you must have the V6 but are less concerned about the extra traction offered by the AWD versions, you can opt for the V6 front-wheel drive with P-AWS and save $2,000 over the equivalent SH-AWD model.
The Lexus IS has been around for some time, but its interesting mix of a prominent grille and sharp edges mean it is still a fairly distinctive sedan. MSRP ranges from $39,335 for the IS300 to $46,150 for the IS350 F. This means that at a base level, the TLX can be had for just under $6,000 less than the IS. However, the cheapest IS does outperform the base TLX thanks to a 241-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. TLX and IS V6 models are similarly powered. The Lexus also offers a luxurious interior, and the materials used feel slightly more polished than those in the TLX. However, it’s the Acura that feels more spacious, especially for rear seat legroom. The TLX also offers a larger trunk, with almost four cubic feet of extra space. Overall, the TLX surpasses the Lexus for standard convenience and safety features, making it a better value proposition. At a base level, the turbocharged IS does, however, offer a more potent driving experience.
The ILX is the TLX’s little brother, also aiming to offer a premium driving experience but in a more compact package. The ILX starts at an MSRP of $25,900 and all models are powered by the four-cylinder 2.4-liter engine which produces 201 hp. While the ILX’s smaller body appears visibly tauter than the TLX, it also means that trunk space drops to just 12.3 cu-ft, and the interior does feel noticeably less accommodating than the TLX’s. Material quality also takes a dive, the ILX lacking the attention to detail you’ll find in the TLX. Out on the road, the ILX’s lighter weight makes it easier to toss around corners and to squeeze into tight parking spots, but it doesn’t cruise with the same refinement as the TLX. For drivers who put an emphasis on sporty looks, the fully loaded ILX with the A-Spec Package still works out to less than the cheapest TLX. If, however, you require more space and a healthy dose of added refinement, you’ll prefer the extra polish of the TLX.
On the face of it, this comparison should be a victory for the TLX: after all, Acura represents Honda’s more upscale luxury division, so by definition, a TLX should dispose of the Accord. To assume so, however, would be to do the latest Accord a disservice. With an MSRP range of between $24,640 for the base LX (fitted with a sprightly 1.5-liter turbocharged engine) to the powerful EX-L at $33,040 (its 2.0-liter turbocharged unit delivers a strong 252 hp and 273 ft-lb of torque), all versions of the Accord are properly fun to drive and feature a smart, modern, and spacious interior. The Accord offers more cargo space and a significant 5.9 inches of additional rear legroom relative to the TLX, owing to its longer wheelbase. The Accord also has the more modern and intuitive infotainment system. However, there’s no denying the appeal of the V6-powered TLX, especially those equipped with one of Acura’s packages. Their interiors are far plusher than that of the Accord’s, and the softer ride quality stands out, too. While the Accord feels like the newer product, the TLX does just enough to feel like a step up in luxury.