Everything You Need To Know
It’s an all-new car, but is Acura’s TLX sedan fresh enough to trouble the best-in-class?
Acura’s had a fickle history in the compact sedan segment. No matter what it does, the firm just can’t bring the best cars in this segment to their knees. It can be perfectly summed up by the now-discontinued TL and TSX sedans: the former was closer in size to a BMW 5 Series than a 3 Series, and the latter was pinching sales away from the smaller TSX. In response to this predicament, Acura’s ditched those two four-door cars and replaced them with the TLX. For all intents and purposes, it meets the middle ground between its pair of predecessors – so Acura finally has a compact executive car that competes size-wise. The real question, though, is whether the TLX gets anything else spot on...
Nicely practical, but is that Honda Accord switchgear we can see?
Yes, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class still feature the plushest cabins in this class, but the Acura won’t leave you feeling shortchanged per se.
One of the Acura TLX’s biggest selling points is that it’s a fair whack cheaper than many of its more upmarket rivals – and you can see where Acura’s managed to justify that price undercut in the switchgear. Quite a few of the buttons on the center console are pinched from the Honda Accord, and the two infotainment displays will be eerily familiar to buyers upgrading from a Honda to an Acura. Granted, they’re not deal breakers, and the controls themselves aren’t too fiddly to use (well, bar the rotary dial that controls the top multimedia screen...), but they do take away from the premium sheen that a car in this class should ideally have. Thankfully, Acura hasn’t cut corners when it comes to build quality. Not only does the cabin feel very solid and well assembled, but the materials themselves are also of the standard you’d expect from a compact executive sedan. You’ll have to pay extra on the base models to get leather upholstery, but those who do go for an entry-level Acura TLX will still get a cabin dominated by soft-touch plastics and premium-feeling trim pieces – namely the gloss black and aluminum accents. Yes, the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class still feature the plushest cabins in this class, but the Acura won’t leave you feeling shortchanged per se. Likewise, overall practicality is pretty good, if again not amazing when cross examined with the finest examples in the executive sedan segment. Leg and head room is pretty good all-round, with the rear seats in particular (bar the narrow center space) being far more commodious and accommodating than the Jaguar XE and Cadillac ATS. Trunk room is also admirable, with the 13.2 cubic feet capacity putting the Acura TLX in the center ground of compact sedan space – which can be further extended by the 60:40 split-folding rear seats that fold down completely flat.
Who Buys Acura TLX?Calculations are based on data from KKF, NHTSA and Department of Motor Vehicles using CarBuzz's proprietary algorithm.
81% men vs 19% women
Acura TLX Owners vs. US Average
African American +5%
A pleasant steer, if you don’t crave outright precision
Being a rival to the eternally dominant BMW 3 Series, the Acura TLX did need to be engaging to drive at some level. It’s almost become an in-all-but-name requirement for compact sedans nowadays, with several makers attempting to take on the Beemer at its own game. To an extent, the Acura TLX does fare fairly well with regards to handling precision. It’s no sports car, but the steering is light and responsive, and body lean is fairly well contained, so this sedan doesn’t lollop about in the bends. Furthermore, the Acura does a decent job of ironing out the bumps in the road, with all but the harshest of road surfaces reverberating their way into the car’s cabin. We have admittedly experienced more comfortable cars in this class, but the ride/handling balance that Acura’s found here is more than good enough for a majority of buyers’ needs.
It also helps that the Acura TLX is as suited to life as a highway cruiser in more ways than just ride quality. Refinement levels are pretty good, with only the faint murmur of wind and tyre noise encroaching into the cabin (perhaps surprising, given the Acura’s angular body shape and can be fitted with 20inch wheels), and the smooth automatic transmissions that we’ll discuss in detail later on all suit the more relaxing traits of the TLX impressively well. We should also point out the all-wheel steering system, which does a pretty good job at making the Acura TLX surprisingly manoeuvrable for a car of this size. It doesn’t completely change how the car drives, but you do notice that extra agility during tight cornering situations in city centers or more abrupt lane changes on highways – especially if you’ve driven one of the TLX’s predecessors. Plus, it’s a feature on all models apart from the flagship with the active all-wheel drive system, which compensates for this by being able to shuffle power and torque between all four systems. Regardless of which Acura TLX you go for, you’ll have a sedan with a very impressive chassis tech spec.
Two completely different engines with eerily similar economy figures
Both engines are quite similar when it comes to fuel economy.
Usually in executive sedan ranges, the engine lineup has a very defined pecking order. You either go for one of the entry-level options (usually a four-cylinder gasoline of some description), or decide to spend more money on a punchier six-cylinder engine at the expense of a higher list price and worse fuel consumption. Acura, though, has really muddied the waters with the TLX. You still get the baby four-cylinder and the pricier flagship six-cylinder to choose from, but that’s where the on paper differences start to trickle away. Both engines, for instance, are quite similar when it comes to fuel economy: the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is claimed to return 24mpg and 35mpg in the city and highway respectively, whereas the 3.5-liter six-cylinder choice can return up to 21mpg and 24mpg in the same categories. Factor in the 3.5-liter’s superior outputs over the 2.4-liter (290hp and 267lb/ft, versus 206hp and 180lb/ft), and you’re left with a rather flexible engine that’s almost as efficient on paper. Indeed, if you regularly rack up miles on open stretches of road, the 3.5-liter does make sense. But that doesn’t mean you should make a beeline for the six-cylinder option.
For starters, those humble power and torque figures for the 2.4-liter belie the fact it isn’t actually overwhelmed by the Acura ILX’s bulk. Sure, it’s not brilliantly quick, and you do have to work this engine a bit under hard acceleration, but there’s enough of a torque spread to make this engine a good all-rounder – even if it is admittedly some way off the turbocharged equivalents in rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo S60. Plus, it has the better of the two automatic transmissions: whereas the 3.5-liter gets a nine-speed automatic, the 2.4-liter Acura TLX gets an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic that we feel make faster and smoother gear changes than the more conventional automatic, regardless of whether you use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel or leave the system to swap cogs for you. That’s not to say the nine-speed is a bad automatic transmission (it’s actually quite a good one), but we’d be lying if we said the eight-speed was the lesser of the two. It’s also worth pointing out that fitting the impressive all-wheel drive system onto the Acura TLX with the 3.5-liter engine (it’s front-wheel-drive-only for the 2.4-liter) does reduce highway fuel consumption down to 31mpg, with city mpg staying the same.
The best value car you’ll find in this class?
Deep down, Acura knows it can’t really compete with the truly premium marques in terms of pricing. Most people shopping around in this class would, when presented with a choice of an Acura and a BMW that retailed for the same MSRP, would likely choose the offering from Germany. As a result, Acura’s position the TLX as a more cost-effective alternative to the competition – and the end result is perhaps one of the best value cars in this class. With prices starting at $32,635 is incredible value for money – for reference, the most basic Audi A3 sedan (a much smaller car than the Acura, no less) on sale today has a starting price of $30,900. Yet you don’t make do without useful fripperies in the TLX, as you may do in some other compact executive cars on the market – all TLX models get dual-zone climate control, electrically-operated seats with heating controls, Bluetooth compatibility, cruise control, hill start assist, split-folding rear seats, a rear view camera and a satellite radio system as standard.
Our recommendation, though, would be to opt for the Technology Package. It is admittedly a pricey extra, at $4,055, but you do get a fair amount of features with it – ranging from full leather upholstery and built-in satellite navigation, to a whole bevy of safety features like a lane keeping assist that prevents the car from drifting out of its lane. An added bonus is that, with a price of $36,690, the Acura TLX in this specification still undercuts quite a few rivals (the most basic Audi A4 you can buy, for example, will set you back $37,300). However, that’s not to say you can’t spend an arm and a leg on an Acura TLX: the most expensive we could configure ourselves (a TLX with the 3.5-liter V6 and every optional extra we could throw at it) would hypothetically set us back over $55,000. Though that is admittedly a hunk of dollars less than what the same money-no-object approach to a BMW 3 Series would cost you (at time of writing, a staggering $71,480!), no one is ever going to specify an Acura TLX that way. Residual values aren’t too bad either, and are probably helped by the Acura TLX’s good standard equipment levels and impressive safety rating (it scored the full five stars in the NHTSA crash tests). Whilst you admittedly won’t get as much back in return for a similarly-specified competitor ( most notably the Lexus IS, which has historically done very well in the used car market), it is worth pointing out that you’re more likely to spend less money on the Acura as a whole – especially if you compare it with rival cars specified to the same level as the TLX.
Not the best, but certainly one of the most affordable
Acura’s hopes of producing a class leader in the TLX didn’t quite work out. Though there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this compact executive sedan, it would be incredibly dishonest of us to say it’s brilliant in every single area. There are much better cars in this segment, and especially so if you place practicality, outright fuel economy and an as-perfectly-judged-as-possible ride/handling balance are right up there at the top of your priority list. What the Acura does have going for it, though, is its status as a value-for-money proposition. For buyers looking to get as much car as possible for the least amount of dollars spent, the TLX is a very appealing ownership prospect, given comparably-specified rivals can often be more expensive by thousands of dollars.
As a result, we still recommend you check the Acura TLX out. It’s not objectively the best car in this class, but it’s the one we’d probably advise on getting if you’re keeping a watchful eye on your expenditure.