Can the Acura TLX Hold Its Own in the Midsize Luxury Segment?
When the 2015 Acura TLX showed up in my driveway last week, I really didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, I remember the third generation Acura TL quite fondly. A fraternity brother in college drove a TL Type-S, and it was just an excellent car. On the other hand, the TLX shares a platform with the Honda Accord. Would it feel like it was just a family sedan in a suit, or would it feel like something better than that?
The TLX certainly looks better than the Accord, as well as both the TL and TSX that it replaces. I’ve been critical of Acura’s design language in the past, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. In person, the TLX is a handsome car. It won’t grab your attention quite like the Lexus IS does, but then again, it isn’t trying to. It’s a little bit understated, but it grew on me over time, and I think it’s going to age well.
Inside, you won’t mistake the TLX for a midsize family sedan. The interior isn’t quite as nice as the Mercedes C-Class, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still luxurious. No one wants to buy a luxury car and feel like the manufacturer cheaped out on materials, and here, I felt like Acura delivered a suitable level of luxury, especially for the price.
Acura’s always done a great job with steering wheels, and the one in the TLX is no different. It felt great in my hands, and the controls were both intuitive and easy to understand. The materials in the rest of the cabin all felt high quality, well built, and up to Acura’s standards. Overall, the inside of the TLX felt like it was built with a purpose and not like Acura was trying to cut corners to keep the price down.
I’m not really one to read the directions when I first drive a car, partly because I’m stubborn, but also because executing basic functions should be straightforward. Drivers really shouldn’t need to read an instruction manual to turn up the volume, adjust the air conditioning, or use cruise control. Even with a two-screen infotainment system, Acura hasn’t completely done away with buttons, and that made those basic tasks straightforward and intuitive.
For more complicated tasks, like using the GPS, the two-screen setup took some time to get used to, but I picked it up quickly enough. I know that Acura has received some criticism for going with two screens, but the benefit is that you can leave the GPS up on the top screen while still being able to control the radio from the touch screen beneath it. For navigating a city like Boston where the street layout looks like someone spilled a plate of spaghetti, constant access to the GPS can be a necessity.
The Acura TLX also comes loaded with features, especially if you spring for the $4,000 Technology package. Trust me, you want the Technology package. That gets you higher quality leather, eight-way adjustable power seats, GPS navigation, a 10-speaker premium audio system, and rain-sensing wipers. It also includes forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic monitoring. Other than adaptive cruise control, which is available on the V6 TLX, the Technology package gets you nearly every luxury feature that you could want, which is quite a lot for the price.
Under the hood, you get Honda’s 2.4 liter four-cylinder, an engine that makes 206 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. For getting that power to the wheels, Honda uses an eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. To complete the package, there’s also an adaptive suspension and Honda’s all-wheel steering system that it calls P-AWS.
When all that comes together, what you get is a car that’s actually quite a lot of fun to drive. If you want to do an on-paper comparison of performance figures, you might come to the conclusion that the TLX is slow and boring, but you would be wrong. The eight-speed transmission works to get the best out of the engine, making the car feel quicker than it is. Shifts are fast, but even under hard acceleration, they’re still smooth.
For highway commuting and daily driving, Econ mode keeps things nice, quiet, and comfortable, but when you really want to have fun, Sport+ mode gets the TLX ready to play. The suspension firms up, the throttle response quickens, the transmission holds gears longer, and the exhaust opens up. It’s a surprisingly sporty exhaust note, too. I really didn’t expect it to sound as aggressive as it did, but especially in Sport+ mode, it really did sound good.
The TLX may not be rear-wheel-drive like the competition, but Acura has years of experience when it comes to taking front-wheel drive cars and making them incredibly fun to drive. If you spring for the more powerful V6, you can get Acura’s excellent SH-AWD system, but even with the four-cylinder engine and power only going to the front wheels, the TLX was still a heck of a lot of fun. Compared to the Lexus IS 250 or the BMW 328i, the Acura TLX might not be quite as fast or handle quite as sharply, but it’s certainly no average family sedan.
Where the TLX really makes a case for itself is the price tag. Even with all the features that come with the Technology package, the car that I had cost just barely over $35,000. Getting into a Mercedes-Benz C-Class with no additional options is going to cost you $38,400. A base model Infiniti Q50 will cost you $37,150. Even the standard for the class, the BMW 328i, will cost you $37,500. If you really want a BMW 3 Series, you can buy a 320i for $32,950, but that $33,000 won’t get you much in terms of features. If you want to option one of the TLX’s competitors up to its level, that’s going to take at least $45,000, and for that price, you could buy a fully loaded V6 TLX with all-wheel drive.
The savings will likely continue for the life of the car as well. Better reliability and lower maintenance costs on the Acura will make the ownership experience a lot less painless after the warranty expires. To put some hard numbers on it, Cars.com estimates that the five-year cost to own a TLX is a little over $43,000, while a Mercedes C-Class will cost a little over $51,000 over that same time period. That extra $8,000 in your pocket at the end of five years is some serious cash.
For drivers who really want the fastest or best handling car in the segment, the Acura TLX probably isn’t the right car for them. For drivers who want a car that’s still fun to drive but also value having loads of luxury features and technology though, the Acura TLX is definitely worth a look. Considering how much content it delivers for the price, it’s a serious bargain, and the expected reliability is just the icing on the cake. If you’re in the market for a midsize luxury sedan, you may be surprised how much you like the TLX. I know I sure was.
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