The mid-sized sedan market is loaded with good choices. Head up the price scale as Acura has with the TLX, and a car will need a compelling reason for buyers to trade up.
The TLX has one in the form of the test car’s SH-AWD handling package: it gives the TLX an uncommonly competent feeling.
The TLX is new for 2015, and the prices are middle-high in its market, starting at $32K for a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 206 horsepower; jump to just over $36K, and you’ll get the 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horses. The SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) with Technology Package checks in at mid-$42K, and the tested Advance Package was $45,620.
So the SH-AWD ends up adding $2,200 to the bottom line and about 150 pounds to the curb weight (3,774 pounds claimed for the test car).
Interestingly, the SH-AWD’s steering ratio is the slowest of the TLX bunch at 16.0 (others are 14.6-15.0), and unfortunately its turning circle is the widest at 39.5 feet.
City fuel mileage of 21 mpg is about what you’d expect from a high-revving V6, and the SH-AWD slices off three mpg from the TLX V6’s 34 mpg rating. Premium fuel only, please.
TLX styling is fresh for 2015 and adopts a rakish stance.
Maybe you’ve become accustomed to the (bucktooth? guillotine?) grille, and maybe not.
TLX joins other Acuras in adopting another Acura signature, the “Jewel Eye” sideways-stacked headlights. More striking than beautiful, they’re standard on all trims.
Looks aside, the tested TLX SH-AWD was a solid performer. Acceleration was smooth and swift with the V6 and nine-speed automatic; part-throttle speed-ups can sometimes catch a many-geared tranny snoozing, but the TLX’s typically fell right into place.
Handling with the SH-AWD was sparkling. The TLX was slick and sure, with tight steering response and a feeling of unobstructed turn-in as you bent into corners. The SH-AWD goes the standard P-AWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer) by spreading torque to the rear wheels to minimize understeer.
In comparing notes with another journalist, I found we both could point a moment where the SH-AWD stepped in to correct what it saw as dodgy behavior; in my case, it happened downhill in a bumpy and off-camber turn. I got about halfway through, pretty much at the point where I’m accustomed to other front-drivers starting to slide, and the TLX pushed out its back wheels just enough for the front to tuck in.
With the bumpy terrain, the body did a weird wiggle as the SH-AWD was adding its two cents, but it was more “wow” than “whoa”. There’s still plenty of room for enthusiasts to enjoy themselves, and it can occur to you that every teenager’s ride should have the SH-AWD’s safety capabilities.
Inside, the TLX is typical Acura, with plenty of comfort and tech.
The electronic transmission selector required some adaptation, and there was a hint of lag as the gears got the message. That along with the wide turning circle shaved off a bit of sharpness from the TLX’s in-town agility.
Front seats are nicely firm and supportive, though we beg Acura to please make the power lumbar support adjustable up-and-down as well as in-and-out. It was too low for me and thus poked into my femur.
Quality befit the mid-$40K price. Acura never tires of designing seats that look like the throne of some evil cartoon character.
Things in back are a little tighter than other mid-sized sedans, with less than 35 inches of legroom (most are in the 35-37-inch range). But you’re not buying a TLX to get the roomiest car, and some concessions are made to get to its level of performance.
Still, the TLX is pleasantly tall and broad, which is clear when you park it next to an earlier TL generation, birthed when parent company Honda was still embracing a leaner look…
…and a lower hoodline.
There’s some neat added utility in the trunk…
…where a wagon-like rear bin can swallow up some gear or stand up a couple of grocery bags.
The TLX SH-AWD is unique it because clears the way for you to explore the limits, but it is also there at the ragged edge to keep things on track. As driving becomes more electronically enforced, it is nice to drive a car that wasn’t programmed to simply shut everything down when the going gets rough; SH-AWD is more of a skilled assistant, the one who knows you as a hard driver and supports your mission.
Sales have been flat for Acura sedans at a time when other near-luxury sedans are surging, and fortunately the TLX has the goods to make it a beacon for the drivers among those buyers. We’ll see if Acura can make the case for the uncommon experience the TLX SH-AWD provides.
2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD with Advance
Base Price: $45,620 (including delivery)
Price as Tested: $45,620
– no optional equipment on test car –
Strong and smooth V6 + nine-speed auto combo
Limited lumbar adjustment
Smallish rear legroom
Glittery styling flourishes