First Drive: 2015 Acura TLX


It has been a long time, more than a decade, since you could put “Acura” and “fun to drive” in the same sentence. But the Japanese automaker unleashed its engineers and let them create a car that is indeed a watershed.

The 2015 Acura TLX replaces the Acura TSX and TL. Neither midsize sedan could be called a rousing success. Worse, the TL grew to be almost as big as Acura’s flagship RL sedan, throwing the automaker’s lineup out of whack.

The premium and luxury car markets used to be mannerly, almost sedate, but not anymore. Though it was the first Asian luxury brand in the U.S. market, Acura got left at the gate by Infiniti and Lexus. Now, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have risen to their challenge, and from Acura’s standpoint, there is a resurgent Audi and a rejuvenated Cadillac too compete with as well.

In short, you’ve got to have a great product to even call yourself a premium or luxury brand these days. It seems that Acura’s head honchos have gotten that message and allowed some of the best engineers around to develop the all new TLX. The midsize luxury sedan’s overall length has been shortened from the old TL, but the wheelbase length remained. That means the back seats of the TLX are spacious, comfortable and can carry two full-sized adults with no problem. But the real story here is under the TLX’s hood.

First, there’s a 2015 Acura TLX with a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine with an eight-speed dual clutch transmission and P-AWS. This engine makes 206 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. There’s also a TLX with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a nine-speed automatic. The model comes with either P-AWS or Acura’s SH-AWD.

This is where the fun starts. Both engines are normally aspirated. In other words, neither is equipped with a blower. Acura uses gearing to get the most horsepower out of both powerplants. A blower of any type produces more horsepower, but it also burns more fuel than a normally aspirated engine. Thus, the normally aspirated 2.4-liter engine gets 24 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. The non-blown V6 with two-wheel-drive gets 21 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined, while the all-wheel-drive version gets 21 mpg in the city, 31, mpg in the city and 25 mpg combined.


We think more fun comes with Acura’s P-AWS system. It stands for Precision All-Wheel Steer. In other words, the back wheels turn slightly in the same direction or in the opposite direction as the front wheels turn depending on speed. During emergency braking, they will also pinch inwards. This system gives the TLX similar driving attributes as rear-wheel-drive luxury sport sedans. Traveling on the twisting, turning state highways in Northern Michigan, we had the six-cylinder with P-AWS. It was like a fly caught on flypaper the way the car stuck to the road under aggressive driving. It took extreme speed in the curves to get the tires to squeal. It was fun to drive.

Acura’s SH-AWD system is available only on the V6 TLX. It is what Acura calls “super handling all-wheel-drive.” In a nutshell, not only will the system send torque fore or aft as needed, but it will all also send it from the left to right wheels.

Yes, luxury is about design, engineering and technology. But where it is conveyed most is in the interior. The TLX’s interior looked good and it felt good. It had a soft touch, a one-piece instrument panel upper cover and alloy with wood grain trim along with leather seat trim. In a phrase, the interior of the TLX matched its stylish exterior. Plus, it featured all the bells and whistles: heated front seats, Bluetooth, voice command, a smart key, a navigation system with touch screen, satellite radio and a 455-watt, 10-speaker audio system.

There was more optional equipment, but the absence of a gear shift lever on the column or in the center console was most intriguing. The Acura TLX has digital buttons on the center console to shift the gears, or what Acura calls an electronic gear selector. It takes a while to get used to, but it was easily learned.

The 2015 TLX qualifies as an entry-level luxury sports sedan. Its styling is smart, its interior sumptuous, handling was sports-car like, power was ample, driving was fun and the car was comfortable. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder starts at $30,995 and the 3.5 cylinder V6 starts at $35,220.