By Yousef Alvi and Jonathan Wooley
In a way – this could be one of the most important cars that Acura has ever produced. I know I know – it’s not a new NSX; it’s not a Type R. But the TLX is the car that is going to pay for the NSX. You need a high-volume seller in order to pay for the expensive toys in a manufacturer’s lineup. That’s why Porsche makes SUVs.
To up the stakes – The TLX is also replacing two cars in their outgoing lineup: the much beloved TSX, AND the TL. So this car has the weight of the world on its shoulders. If it quivers… it could potentially ‘Saturn’ the entire brand.
Our first impressions? Acura got the design right. The car is a break away from the sharp angles that have plagued Acura for the lest few years. And it’s a return to smooth, styled, timeless lines. For the ‘average’ Acura buyer, 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 understated performance 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.
As far as technology goes, the TLX is loaded – especially considering the low 30’s starting price. Inside the cabin, newer cars at this price-point usually have a nav screen – 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 wide & spacious, with plenty of rear seat/legroom and trunk space.
Our test model had the K-series 2.4 4-cylinder with Honda’s new dual-clutch 8-speed (DCT) transmission. What Acura did here – was attach a torque converter to this DCT, which is a supreme act of genius. It gives you silky smooth shifts & makes the in-town characteristics glass smooth. Yet make no mistake – the DCT is lightning fast. The car is so quiet from the factory, that you almost can’t hear the transmission shift at all. While that’s perfect for most commuters… we’d REALLY like to open this car up & get an exhaust on it, and see what that transmission sounds like with less exhaust restrictions. Plus – having 8 gears is great for MPGs. Driving this car for a week, a little on the aggressive side, we were still averaging between 28-29 miles per gallon. We found that the key is to put the car in Sport or Sport+ mode, to keep the car fun & spry. But drive the transmission in manual, so that you can keep it in the tall gears for cruising MPGs. (If you have it in Sport+ with auto-shift, it will keep the car in higher RPMs all the time.) The only thing you have to get used to, is slapping the downshift paddle 5-6 times to rip a turn in 2nd gear haha (it’s a lot of downshifting). The DCT is only available with the 4-cylinder; the 6 uses a 9-speed automatic transmission. The 6-cylinder also has available all-wheel-drive.
Handling-wise this car is equipped with a rear-wheel steering system (P-AWS). Although this is not something you necessarily notice driving below the limits… the P-AWS system is always working for you in the ultimate name of handling. What’s more – the system will also toe-in both rear wheels under heavy braking to help you scrub off speed.
Now we got all that out of the way… what can you do with this car? Everything. If you want something that will carry you & your family safely & reliably for 200,000 – the TLX will do that. If you want something to stance, turbocharge, and take all your money- it’ll do that too haha. Bottom line: with the TLX, you get a whole lot of car for 32 grand-ish. And as a tuner, the TLX gives you what you need to get started. It’s doesn’t try and ‘finish’ it for you. After all – it’s a Honda at the end of the day!