Middleburg, VA ? New car introductions are especially fun and informative because you get to talk to the people responsible for bringing the car from a vision to the road. They are the planners, R&D staff, designers, engineers and executives that usher the creation process from stage to stage asking ?why not?, solving the challenges and making the tough decisions. Then after years of what would seem like blood, sweat and tears the new product rolls out to the public. They treat it with nearly the same passion as a new mother and father has for a new born child.
At what could have been a coming out party for the all new Acura TLX, Mike Accavitti, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Acura Division, told the first group of automotive journalists that the key elements of the TLX plan targeted Proportion, Performance and Prestige. After spending the day driving the 2015 Acura TLX, it was clear to me that those targets were met ? and exceeded. I think Accavitti described it right when he said the TLX was the ?King Daddy of Awesomeness.?
For the starting point, ?Proportion? was a major factor for this all-new Acura sedan ? after all it is replacing two existing models, the smaller TSX and larger TL. The goal was to have a car that better fit the gap between the smaller ILX and the flagship RDX. By the yardstick, the TLX is about four-inches shorter and one-inch narrower than the TL, but the wheelbase is the same. It was also nearly five-inches longer and one-inch wider than the TSX. So, it is about the same size as targeted luxury competitors like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS.
From a styling standpoint the Acura signature Jewel Eye? LED headlights, which first appeared on the latest MDX, steal the show producing not only one of the most stylish headlight treatments in the auto industry, but they also provide a long, bright look down the road at night. Actually the entire front fascia has a clean new aerodynamic treatment with smaller grille areas, and of course Acura?s signature metallic ?wing? that tops the grille. The sides are sculpted with interesting new character lines that give the car the look of forward motion. The rear end has a short deck, large wrap-around taillights with a three-dimensional LED pipe light and a clean horizontal look that makes the car look wider. Initially, the styling didn?t reach out and grab me; however, the more I looked at it, the more I liked the new styling.
On the other hand, the TLX interior, where owners spend most of their time, is outstanding. It?s filled with luxurious appointments, soft touch surfaces, excellent supportive seats and well thought-out controls. To make the occupants stay even more comfortable, it?s loaded with the latest technologies and an audiophile-quality entertainment system.
The center stack has a simple control system for inter-vehicle functions. It uses a two screen system with an upper eight-inch screen to provide data for the Navigation system, features like AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic and the backup camera. The screen is controlled by a large control knob mounted just below the lower touch screen. The lower screen is a seven-inch touch screen used to control the climate, audio and other vehicle functions.
The optional Tech Package includes the new AcuraWatch? system which is one of the most advanced suites of driver aids I?ve seen. It encompasses Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking, Forward Collision Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Blind Spot Information, Multi-View Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor.
There?s a big change on the center console of the 3.5-liter models where the traditional shifter is replaced by the advanced Electronic Gear Selector. It uses an instinctive push-button system to make the initial drive commands P-R-N-D and the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to manually shift. The console also houses an electronic parking brake with an Automatic Brake Hold button which retains brake pressure when the vehicle is stopped ? this gives the driver better control on hills and in heavy stop-and-go traffic.
The ?Performance? element of the new TLX is cemented with two significantly updated engine choices, but the big news is transmissions. Acura has been slow entering the ?gear wars? but the new eight- and nine-speed automatics make a major leap forward. Both new transmissions are outstanding, and they make a significant difference in performance and fuel economy.
The base engine is a 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC with direct injection producing 206 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque. On paper the naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine doesn?t excite, but on the road, my driving partner and I agreed that it was a ?gem? with strong acceleration and a smooth, spirited character. Teamed with the world?s first eight-speed double clutch transmission with a torque converter it seemed to have the perfect gear ratios to provide a combination of performance and excellent fuel economy ? 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 28 mpg combines. The shifts are quick, smooth and positive, and I liked the standard steering wheel mounted shift paddles. Acura doesn?t release acceleration figures, but I estimate the four-cylinder will make the 0 to 60 mph run in the low seven second range.
A 3.5-liter direct injection SOHC V-6 engine powers the two upper level Acura TLX models. The engine has a Variable Cylinder Management System which deactivates three cylinders during light load driving and it has an idle stop system that shuts the engine off at stop lights and other pauses. The 24-valve engine produces 290 horsepower and is mated with the new Acura nine-speed automatic transmission ? and what a difference 10 horsepower (over the previous TL engine) and 50 percent more gears make. The extra gear ratios allowed the engineers to tune the drive train for better acceleration using lower ratios in the bottom of the range and higher ratios for better fuel economy in the top of the range. The result is a significant improvement in fuel economy to 21/34/25 mpg for the front drive and 21/31/25 mpg for the SH-AWD. I?m estimating the V-6 models will accelerate to 60 mph in about six seconds.
All three TLX models have outstanding handling. The front drive models are equipped with Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) which improves handling agility both at low speeds. For example, in a parking lot by turning the rear wheels the opposite direction and at higher speeds by turning the rear wheels the same direction as the front wheels for better stability. The SH-AWD all-wheel drive system is all new and a much smaller unit than the original. It is also more refined for 2015 and building on the torque vectoring technology Acura pioneered.
Another interesting technology on all models is the Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) which is controlled by a button on the console. Cycling the button through four positions allows the driver to dramatically change the complexion of the cars handling and powertrain setting for better economy, or sportier driving like I did in the hills of Virginia and West Virginia on the drive.
The Acura TLX is available in three models, the 2.4L, 3.5L and 3.5L SH-AWD. Each model is also available with the Tech Package which adds Navigation with 3D View, Rain Sensing Wipers, ELS premium audio, GPS-Linked Climate Control and Sport Perforated Milano Leather seats in addition to all the features of the AcuraLink and Acura Watch. The V-6 models are also available with an Advance package that adds more convenience and technology features in addition to the tech package.
The 2015 Acura TLX 2.4L is priced at $31,890 ? that makes it one of the best entry luxury values available. The TLX 3.5L is priced $36,115. The Tech package adds $4,300 to both FWD models. The TLX 3.5L SH-AWD comes with the Tech package and is priced at $42,345 and the Advance Package adds $3,250 making the highest price TLX $45,595.
The ?Prestige? element of the 2015 Acura TLX is the overall package which looks good, drives great and gives the owner the cutting edge technology along with Acura dependability and value. It really is the ?King Daddy of Awesomeness.?