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2015 TLX: Better Chops from Acura

By Sue Mead, September 13th, 2014

Acura calls its 2015 all-new TLX performance luxury sedan "a red-carpet athlete" and we find the comparison fitting after our recent drive.

The TLX joins the highly competitive premium luxury segment squaring off against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and Lexus IS. This midsize performance model replaces the Acura TSX and TL models and is engineered to be a composite of the two; the manufacturer has tagged it as the new "vanguard" of the Acura lineup.

Dimensionally, the TLX has a shorter front overhang, shorter rear deck, and a lower roofline versus the 2014 TL, however it maintains the same wheelbase and interior space and stiffness, while remaining closer in weight to the smaller TSX.

Although it's built on Acura's Global Midsize Platform that underpins the new Accord, "everything above the floorpan and everything you can see is new and unique," according to Acura.

The body comprises 47 percent high-strength steel and boasts 21 percent greater stiffness than the outgoing TL, which Acura says gives it a quicker handling response. Also upgraded is a 25-percent-greater mount rigidity that provides better ride isolation and reduces noise.

Engineers and designers worked together on the overall concept of a "magnetic" dynamic design, "engaging" driving experience, and an "intuitive" interactive experience, as well as top-level safety.

The TLX's high-performance looks start with a low, wide stance; long, low hood, and fast-looking rearward cabin shape, plus an aerodynamic design that Acura says give it best-in-class coefficient of drag. "jewel eye" LED headlamps are standard along with LED daytime running lights and a three-dimensional pipe-light; all are more energy efficient and provide more natural illumination and a signature look for both day and night.

The cockpit is designed to be both personal and spacious and allows easy ingress and egress. The interior is befitting of the class it competes in with tasteful trims and all the modern-day technologies you'd expect. The navigation system offers a 3D view and a multi-information display provides comprehensive performance and settings information.

Acura's next-generation AcuraLink technology brings a wide variety of content and smart phone integration, while a 10- (or seven-speaker) ELS Studio Premium Audio provides top-quality sound. The configurable glove box is 13 percent bigger than the TL; rear seats split and fold 60/40, and a collection of cubbies and thoughtful places for stowage of small items offer useful cargo capacity. Trunk space is wider and larger front to back, offering as much as 14.3 cubic feet of stowage.

Three variants are offered in both front- or all-wheel-drive versions. Pricing starts at $31,890 and tops out at $45,595 for a fully-contented V-6 SH-AWD.

Under the hood, a choice of two powerplants motivate the TLX. The entry-level 16-valve 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine makes 206 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque and is matched to a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that transfers power to all four wheels.

For more performance, step up to the 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 290 hp. and 267 lb.ft. of torque; this engine is matched to a new ZF nine-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting and is available in both two- or all-wheel-drive powertrains.

While we drove each of the new TLX variants over a course of 270 miles that started in Virginia and crossed into West Virginia, we concentrated most of our attention on the top-of-the-line SH-AWD. The first attribute we noticed was the superb level of quietness as a result of many efforts to decrease sound intrusion, including Acura's engineers pumping foam into the spaces behind the exterior body panels.

Of note, Acura has worked to broadcast engine noise into the cockpit when under full throttle for more high-performance experience. The TLX was engineered to "the will of the driver," meaning that it not only provides a greater connection to your throttle, steering, and braking input, but offers a response that feels immediate and direct.

The next most notable attribute is the high-end TLX's perfectly weighted steering, which reminds us of steering feel dialed into the high-end models of many German automakers. This car feels like a race car, with race-car-like throttle and exhaust notes, as well as telemetry and electronics that keep it agile, with precise maneuverability, even in very aggressive driving situations, like the tight and twisty country roads along our route.

We also enjoyed the lightning-quick response of the paddle shifters and a "blipping" rev/gear match under hard braking to keep the car composed. Computer-wizardry ultimately takes care of all controls, but leaves just the right amount of driver jurisdiction to make you feel at the helm.

Seldom do we make note of the audio system, but the ELS Studio Premium system with 10 speakers is one of the top stand-out options of this new model. Also of note are Acura's next-gen P-AWS, (precision all-wheel steer) which controls and steers the rear wheels for improved tracking in corners; AHA (agile handling assist) that engages an appropriate braking response to induce the right amount of yaw in cornering; and SH-AWD (super-handling all-wheel-drive) which distributes torque to each rear wheel via clutch packs on either side of the rear differential. These systems are controlled in concert by a new IDS (integrated dynamic system) that lets the driver select from four algorithms depending on desired performance.

Specifications

Base price $41,450 (as tested: $42,345)
Curb weight 3,748 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 17.2 gal.
Horsepower (net) 290 at 6200 rpm
Motor type 24-valve iVTEC V-6
Overall length 190.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 267 at 4500 rpm
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD compact sedan
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