Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD

Odometer (Legend):  532,599

532599

Odometer (ILX):  113,669

113669

Odometer (TLX):  3,177

3177

Trip Distance:  334 Miles

drive_route

tlx_driving

“It’s that kind of thrill.”  It was a pretty bold move on behalf of Acura’s marketing department to center the TLX launch campaign around the world “thrill.”

The car is, after all, just another midsize family sedan in a crowded market segment.  The majority of the 20,000 or so TLX models that have sold since the car went on sale last August are probably dutifully shuttling executives to work, hauling mom or dad to the grocery store, or basking in the sun at the mall parking lot.  But when called upon, can the TLX provide the driving excitement that Acura promised?

I’d been itching for a chance to do a full evaluation on the all-new Acura TLX since I saw the Prototype version debut in its glistening “Athletic Red” paint job at the Detroit Auto Show over a year ago.

tyson_tlx

Since then, I’ve been behind the wheel twice – once for an initial test-drive from my local dealership, and once during last October’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year event.  Both of those cars – as well as the one that I’ve been tooling around in for the last few days – were V6 models.  The TLX is also offered in 4-cylinder configuration, powered by the same 2.4 liter that’s now standard on the smaller 2016+ ILX model.

Let’s talk tech later.  How is this thing to drive?  Well, I was working from home the day that it was delivered, and the first place I needed to go was to get lunch.  It took me a minute to tell myself silently, “No clutch.  Just a brake pedal and pushing buttons.”  I’ve been kicking at a clutch pedal since I was 17 so every time I get into an automatic, it’s culture shock.  In the 3 miles from my house to the nearest Panda Express, though, I was already sold.  Perhaps it’s because I’m used to a 113,000-mile ILX suspension, but I couldn’t get over how smoothly the TLX carried itself.

front

tlx_badge

Where To?

To really put this new TLX to the test, I decided I needed introduce it to one of my favorite Arizona scenic byways:  Highway 77 through the Salt River Canyon.  I’ve blogged about the route a few times, most recently on my Christmas Day trip, but the place is cool enough that it deserved another look.  Our 300+ mile route offered a combination of freeways, two-lane twisties, and some good inclines for power evaluation.  As with most of my drives, the participating vehicles were assorted.  In the mix this time, we had a 2015 Lexus RC-F, a 1998 BMW M3, and the 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD.  The Lexus was piloted by friend and colleague James who authors Six Speed Blog.

three_amigos

It became quickly apparent that the TLX was definitely the preferred “cruiser” of the pack.  It plays in a different realm than the two door sports coupes, pampering its driver and passengers in creature comforts and a smooth ride.  A few spirited acceleration runs up the highway to redline with the paddles, though, taught us that the 3.5 liter V6 has a nice audible growl when pushed, and its 290 horses did a respectable job of keeping up with the Lexus’ 467.

queen_creek_tunnel

One place we got to hear those horses gallop was through the 1/4-mile-long Queen Creek Tunnel just east of Superior on US Highway 60.  There’s something about being inside a tunnel that makes every car fanatic want to roll down the windows, hammer down on the throttle, and listen to the symphony of intake & exhaust echoing off the walls.

I remember seeing an old Acura TV commercial awhile back that criticized some luxury automakers for making their cars too isolated.  The basic message was, “If you separate the driver too much from the road, a driving experience isn’t an experience at all.”  I feel like that’s where the TLX strikes a nice balance — it’s a car that you can drive cross-country without getting exhausted, but it doesn’t feel like a vault and there’s still a fun-factor when you want there to be.

tlx_passengers

left_rear

headlight

Exterior

On the outside, the TLX exhibits a conservative shift from the polarizing, angular design of the 4th generation TL.  Perhaps it’s even too conservative, some of the people in our group said.  My test car’s “Black Copper Pearl” paint gave off a nice brown sparkle in direct sunlight and looked pretty much black in every other lighting condition.

tlx_at_valley_ho

I’m of course a fan of the “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps, now standard across the entire Acura lineup as of the 2016 model year.  My test car was equipped with the Advance package, which means I got LED foglights as well.  Those two lighting systems make this the best car I’ve ever driven with regard to nighttime illumination.  Speaking of lighting, the Advance package also gave me “puddle” lights underneath each sideview mirror that turned on when approaching the car at night.

tail

My demo TLX was outfitted with 18″ wheels, but the accessory 19’s really make the TLX pop:

blue_TLX

front_left

right_side

Interior

Inside the cabin, my test car’s “Espresso” leather interior got a lot of positive feedback.  Finishes have a premium feel to them, and a few people commented on the stainless steel looking dash trim.  Interior designers have obviously gone to great lengths to make the TLX interior a nice place to spend time in.  Heated & cooled seats keep things comfortable, but I wish they could be activated via button or dial rather than the touch-screen interface.  Throughout the course of the day, I test-drove (test-sat?) every seat including the back.  Head & leg room are great, and I liked the HVAC vents for the rear seats.

interior

The center console has a handy rubberized platform/tray for your iPhone or iPod, and the plug-in jack is easily accessed underneath.  The gauges, as in every Acura I’ve driven, are perfectly laid out for at-a-glance feedback.  Driver visibility is excellent all the way around – made possible in part by that “frameless” rearview mirror attached to the windshield.  I loved that the sideview mirrors on the TLX dim at night just like that center mirror does.  It really helps keep the glare down.

The instrument panel is outfitted with Acura’s signature dual-screen layout, to which I’ve already become accustomed in the RLX and MDX on my reviews previously.  The lower touch-screen controls the climate and audio functions, while the upper screen is for display-only.  I usually left it on map view.  It does take some time to become acquainted with the controls, but the menus are intuitive, screen resolution good, and response time immediate.

I do find it odd that a $46k car doesn’t have an electronic tilt/telescoping steering wheel.  It’s repositioned via old-fashioned lever underneath it.  Even my 1994 Legend coupe has power controls for the wheel.  That being said, the TLX interior was still praised many times throughout the day (and week) as an extremely comfortable place to be.

tlx_legend_fronts

dash

Tech

From a tech perspective, the pieces are all there.  I played around with the ELS stereo system and pushed the bass and subwoofer all the way to the max.  It rocks nicely.  I recommend playing Metallica’s “Unforgiven II” at full volume to experience it like I did.

There are plenty of creature comforts like push-button start and auto-unlocking doors when you walk up to the car with the key in your pocket – these are much-appreciated standard fare on even the base TLX.

I’m not thrilled with the fact that the volume & track adjustment button are the same on the steering wheel (spinny up/down wheel for the volume, left/right toggle for the track).  My fat thumb accidentally changed the track a couple times when I was going for the volume.  Additionally, we were bummed to learn that the car doesn’t allow Bluetooth phone pairing while the vehicle is in motion.  I understand the logic, but even as a passenger that functionality is locked out.

jack_peter_in_tlx

The TLX’s driver-assistance tech is extensive, starting with a standard back-up camera.  I liked the blind spot detection system which illuminates an indicator on the A-pillar when a vehicle is positioned in the blind spot.  The TLX also has sensors all the way around it – and they’re ultra sensitive too.  Even if someone is walking along next to the front of the TLX, it displays “approaching object” on the screen and gives an audible beep.

warning

Finally, the adaptive cruise control is a handy feature that tells the car to keep a pre-set distance between itself and the vehicle ahead.  If you inadvertently ever hit something with the TLX, you really aren’t paying attention.

peter_driving_tlx

Quote of the day goes to Ryan who excitedly ran up to me and said, “Acura hasn’t lost their soul!”  He’d just discovered that the TLX has a feature, just like his 2006 Acura TL does, that will roll up/down all the windows & moonroof by sticking the key in the door lock and holding it left or right.  That discovery pretty much made his day.

Driving Experience

The TLX’s direct-injected 3.5 liter V6 engine is the star of the show.  It delivers 290 horses’ worth of usable power throughout the rev range, but really starts to come alive after about 5,000 RPM.  I can only imagine how nice it would sound with a sport-tuned exhaust system of some sort – perhaps as an option on an A-Spec TLX if there ever were such a thing.  Acura, are you listening?

tlx_front_2

I’m still waiting for the 9-speed automatic transmission to woo me since I’m first and foremost a “stick shift” guy, but I certainly realize what a minority that makes me.  Understandably, that number of gear selections does make for some pretty extensive gear-hunting while in motion.  When prompted via throttle input, there’s a pause of questioning before the TLX gives you forward momentum.  Using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters helps the situation, and “Sport” mode forces the car hold each gear a little longer.  That gives you an experience that’s about as close as you can get to a manual transmission without having a clutch pedal.

ids_modes

There are obvious benefits to having so many gears from an MPG perspective:  From Payson to Scottsdale on Highway 87, we cruised at 80 mph in 9th gear while the engine barely breathed – sitting at fewer than 2,000 RPM.  That bodes well for fuel economy, with the TLX getting 21 city & 31 highway.  The auto start/stop feature helps with that too, when idling at a stoplight – though I wish the system wouldn’t always default to ON each time the car is started if I’ve manually deactivated it.

I described the handling feel to a friend as compared to having super glue on the tires.  Equipped with Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD), the TLX is darn near impossible to break loose in any kind of cornering situation.  The car stays planted at speed.  Perhaps that “low center of gravity” was thanks in part to the fact that the car carried 4 occupants for most of our day, but it really did inspire a great deal of confidence on some of the technical parts of our drive.

fueling

Final Take

The TLX excels where its engineers wanted it to – it’s a competent cruiser that blends just the right amount of refinement with recreation.  Its few shortcomings are outweighed by its virtues, and it’s a car I would feel right at home putting 500,000 miles (or more) on.  It’s just too bad my fortune from Panda Express discouraged me from taking on another car payment.

fortune

Please enjoy the rest of the pics from our trip below!

21 year gap in automotive advancement:

tlx_legend

Getting ready to head out on our drive

pre_departure

Pit stop just east of the Queen Creek Tunnel on US 60

3_cars

Gotta love that “Dakar Yellow” E36!

tlx_m3

RC-F following TLX

rcf_following_tlx

Pit stop in the Salt River Canyon, with Jack and Peter

jack_peter_cars

Salt River as seen looking east from the base of the canyon

salt_river_canyon

James, Chris, Tyson, Ryan

james_chris_tyson_ryan

Taking a breather and enjoying the scenery

bridges

Back to the cars we go

rest_area_cars

Welcome to Show Low, Arizona

show_low_entrance

Lunch spot:  Licano’s Mexican food & steakhouse

licanos

Eight hungry roadtrippers

lunch_group

And a 9-story iPhone tower

iphone_tower

“Can you hear me now?”

tyson_on_9_iphones

Thanks for joining on the drive!

21 Responses to “Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD”

  1. autoscribe74 Says:

    I realize it’s lens perspective, but that first shot of the TLX and Legend together is disconcerting… the Coupe looks 6/10 size! Great shots, one and all.

    • Mark, I thought the exact same thing when I took a series of pictures with the Legend and the TLX. In its day, the Legend was the largest / flagship vehicle from the brand, and today it’s dwarfed by a “midsize.” Craziness ;). Thanks for reading!

  2. Nice write up! The pictures turned out pretty cool.

  3. Great writeup! I was actually intrigued to see what you think of the TLX, considering that you’re a diehard Acura enthusiast. And like others said, I can’t believe the TLX dwarfs the Legend Coupe in size. I hope they make a Type S version soon!

  4. Glad you enjoyed it! My grandmother is also a fan, but she thinks it could use more aggressive exterior styling and a bolder, richer interior ambiance. She might be right.

    • Sounds like grandma has weighed in with the verdict! I think the body lines are greatly accentuated by the available accessory underbody kit. As for the interior, I say, bring back Burlwood trim!

  5. Been waiting for this one. Nice stuff Tyson. The color almost looks a bit like GBP. I just wish a potential buyer could add a body kit or trunk spoiler!!

    • Agreed, Dave. Luckily there is an available Under Body kit and I believe a lip spoiler too. The car definitely looks nice with those add-ons. I didn’t make the connection to GBP but you are right!

  6. I didn’t see any body kit options on the acura.com webpage?

  7. okay. found the TLX accessory page.

  8. Tyson, great review on the TLX! Dang, I still need to get over and drive one of those just for kicks. I think this car looks the best in darker hues. That interior sure looks like a nice place to be. The 9-speed probably would become annoying at times for me. Would have loved to join you guys, but I can’t see how the 6 could keep up with the likes of all that newer HP! Chris’s Lexus is looking good. I’m so glad to see you kept the game going on the “iPhone stack!” Keep it up! lol.

    • Haha, you know it! It does us all some good to detach from electronic devices from time to time. Looks like it’s time for us to start thinking of dates & destinations for our next meet-up.

  9. I can defineitely see Acura’s reasoning for going the more conservative approach, but to me, it’s borderline bland. Don’t get me wrong, it is handsome vehicle, but it doesn’t really stand out. It would be nice if there were some exposed exhaust tips in the rear.

    • Agreed, it would be fun to see some exhaust tips, and Acura’s been hearing that kind of feedback from enthusiasts for a couple of years now but I don’t think anything is going to change. I guess the benefit of a conservative styling approach is that the TLX is less likely to become dated over time.

  10. Lance Phillips Says:

    Awesome review Hugie! I’m a huge fan of the TLX. I am digging that color combo and those LED headlamps. I certainly agree that for that price it should have a power tilt/telescoping sterring wheel. I’ve always wondered why Acura never had that option for the TL line.

    • Thanks, Lance! I’m sure the TLX doesn’t offer nearly as much tech as you’ve got in that fancy new Escalade ;). Hope you had a great weekend, my friend!

  11. I think Im in love with the new TLX. Love the color combo too! Its too bad Ive only seen two driving around as rentals in my area though.

    • I think if I was going to get a dark color, I’d go all the way to Crystal Black Pearl. The Copper was nice, though. I’m starting to see TLXs more and more frequently on the road here. In fact, I saw a white one on the way home from work yesterday with the full underbody kit. Definitely an eye catcher.

  12. White always looks good on an Acura for sure!

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