By: Yousef Alvi and Jonathan Wooley
I know that a lot of top-tier reviews on the new Acura TLX point to the 4-cylinder as the ‘one to buy’ for drivers & enthusiasts. We have to go out on a limb and respectfully disagree.
S3 comes from an experienced import tuning background – we’re not just ‘new’ car reviewers… rather we tend to live with them as they age. We’ve grown up immersed in the Honda brand, and the Honda aftermarket. We know that the K24 is a great motor. It’s a rev-happy, epic engine, and we love it!! We especially love it swapped into 1800lb modified Honda hatchbacks. But strictly from an enthusiast perspective – when you put it in a new 3,500lb 4-door sedan, there’s only so much it can do to thrill you.
Yeah – a lot of other manufacturers are putting 4-cylinders into their sedans, but those other motors tend to have turbochargers on board. The 4-cylinder TLX would definitely be eyebrow-raising with an aftermarket turbo stuffed in the bay. And it would also be interesting to see what a lean 4-banger could do in N/A fashion with a stripped down (weight reduced) chassis. If those are more of your goals, then by all means, go get that 4. Or – if you want a nice, reliable car with great amenities, and power numbers are of little value/importance to you, then go get that 4.
But if you’re somewhere in the middle (like most people are)… and you consider yourself a ‘driver’… but you DON’T want to void warranties & dump anther un-financed/aftermarket 6-grand in the engine bay of your new luxury sport sedan… then the TLX SH-AWD is the way to go.
1) The TLX aesthetics & interior are essentially the same car between the 4 and 6… with the same great design, engineering, and comfort advantages. (See design notes below.)
2) But the SH-AWD just feels vastly more ‘complete’ to us. A car like this just deserves the extra grunt. Go to a dealership and drive both back-to-back, and you’ll see what we mean. The V6 was torquier, throatier, more solid, more satisfying, and more in sync with the feel & sound of a luxury brand. Plus it has a sleek push-button gear selector on the center console – also more definitive of an innovative luxury brand. Unfortunately, the V6 does NOT come with that new Honda dual-clutch transmission (DCT), as that is only available in the 4-cylinder… and we are very interested in that transmission from an aftermarket perspective. But – the 6-cylinder does get an impressive 9-speed automatic (yes, 9!).
3) And – the V6 TLX has an option for all-wheel-drive in the SH-AWD model! All-wheel-drive (AWD) is perhaps the most significant feature, because the new AWD system from Honda/Acura really gives the TLX a leg up against other brands in it’s class. This system treats each wheel/tire of the car independently. It moves the torque, not only from front-to-back, but ALSO from side-to-side as well… maximizing traction in any given scenario. You can look at this as a performance feature, AND as a safety feature. But don’t look at it as a gimmick. As weight & grip transition during more aggressive cornering (or wet cornering), you can feel the all-wheel-drive TLX instantaneously find traction, dig it’s way out, & accelerate. The AWD setup on this car is the next-generation system engineered for the new NSX. Drivers can monitor corner-application of the AWD system in real time using the multifunction display on the dash – where you can see the power-application flowing from wheel to wheel. I by no means consider myself to be a snooty tire snob, but I’ve gotta say that the factory tires on the TLX are awful. Put any other tire on there, and the AWD system will only get better.
Going from the 4-cylinder TLX to the bigger V6 shaves over 1.3 seconds off the 0-60 time (7.0 in the 4-cylinder –> 5.7 in the V6). Adding AWD slows the V6 to a 6.4 0-60 time, but obviously has it’s return benefits in cornering/traction.
The new TLX is a break away from the sharp angles that have (arguably) plagued Acura for the lest few years. And it’s a return to smooth, styled, timeless lines. The TLX is distinguishable, without being obnoxious.
American buyers trend towards bold front ends, and this car delivers with Acura’s new bejeweled multi-LED headlight design. For the enthusiast buyer, the car has elegant performance-inspired styling… that’s really going to be accentuated with aftermarket wheels, ride height adjustments, spoilers, lips, etc. In other words, the car has got some hips… you just have to put her in the right dress.
Inside the cabin, newer cars at this price-point usually have one navigation screen – only one. But that screen has to simultaneously perform more tasks than one screen can handle at a time (satellite radio, navigation, AC, bluetooth/phonebook, etc). If the system is not well designed, you end up losing access to one function, just to get to the other. Acura has solved this dilemma by using TWO screens. The bottom touch-screen controls your radio, HVAC, seat warmers… and the top screen can toggle between dedicated navigation, phonebook, or radio-info display. This adds to the allure of the cabin. The interior overall feels impressively wide & spacious, with plenty of rear seat/legroom and trunk space.
Oh – and there’s this: The TLX can literally drive itself. Adaptive cruise control is nothing super new in luxury brands – slowing & accelerating the car automatically to flow with traffic while cruise control is active. However, the TLX takes it one step further. Press the ‘steering wheel’ button on the steering wheel, and the TLX will actually maintain its lane without having to hold the steering wheel. It’s freaky. And it can only be trusted for momentary needs (meaning – don’t bring your favorite new book). But it’s a great pair of 2nd eyes if you have to MOMENTARILY glance down at a text, change the satellite radio station, or calm a crying baby in the back seat. Do not, however, trust it to take on a sweeper at 70mph while you climb in the backseat, because you will be disappointed. But it’s amazing to see & experience the capabilities of emerging technology.