2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite Road Test Review
A lot of car for the money
Are you aware of how well Acura's TLX sells compared to its competitors? It's one of the "compact" premium D-segment's most popular sport-luxury sedans, last year outselling every Japanese, Swedish and domestic U.S. competitor while coming very close to matching one of the three German brands.
The TLX' success has a lot to do with its great value proposition. Where some might point to more size for the money, it's only slightly longer than all of its peers with one of the largest trunks in the class at 405 litres. More importantly, base and fully loaded TLX pricing is most affordable in the class, and its standard and optional features set is even more impressive.
At $35,690 plus freight and dealer fees, the standard list includes a wonderfully rev-happy 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox with paddles, four-wheel steering, cornering enhancing Agile Handling Assist, amplitude reactive dampers, 17-inch alloys, auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlamps, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn indicators, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, an acoustic windshield with a de-icer, active noise cancellation and active sound control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door remote, a powered moonroof, a multi-information display within the gauge cluster, dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, SMS text message and email reading, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, satellite radio, a 10-way powered driver's seat with two-way powered lumbar and two-position memory, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, heatable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a capless fuel system, all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver's knee airbag, plus more. As you might expect the TLX achieves five stars in each NHTSA crash test category, which is as good as it gets.
That's a lot of kit for $35k. Most rivals don't even start anywhere near this range, while the $48,190 SH-AWD Elite model tested elevates things by a solid notch or three. Just moving up to SH-AWD trim replaces the four-wheel steering while adding a wonderfully refined and powerful 3.5-litre V6 capable of 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, a slightly smoother shifting conventional nine-speed automatic, and auto engine start/stop to keep fuel economy at a reasonable 11.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.6 combined compared to the base FWD model's 9.6 city, 6.6 highway and 8.3 combined rating.
Additional SH-AWD features include 18-inch alloys on 225/50 R18 all-seasons, a colour TFT multi-information display, and an eight-way power adjustable front passenger's seat, while the Technology package adds proximity access for the rear doors, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, perforated Milano leather upholstery, a heatable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, voice recognition, AcuraLink connectivity, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, upgraded Acura/ELS surround audio with Dolby Pro Logic II
and 10 speakers including a sub, heatable rear seats, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and more.
As-tested Elite trim takes things to a new level altogether, adding LED fog lights, auto-dimming side mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lights, ventilated front seats, automatic seatbelt pre-tensioners, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, front and rear parking sensors, collision mitigation braking with heads-up warning, lane departure warning with steering wheel haptic feedback, and road departure mitigation.
To put the TLX value proposition into context, many TLX rivals haven't been able to put together such a thorough list of leading tech features even though they charge thousands more, while Acura leaves little off the table when it comes to quality materials, refinement and comfort, whereas performance is certainly on par with its most popular rivals.
As noted the V6 performs strongly and Acura's justifiably named "Super-Handling" AWD combines with a stiff body structure for tremendous grip no matter the road condition. Standard paddle shifters make the automatic more engaging, holding a given gear when pushing hard, while the nine-speed is wonderfully linear in its power application and oh-so smooth during shift intervals. Those who lean towards pampering will also appreciate a truly compliant fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension that delivers a particularly comforting ride. It's extremely quiet too, thanks in part to soft touch surfacing in key areas and fabric-wrapped pillars all-round, not to mention plenty of sound deadening materials behind the scenes.
With respect to refinement, the TLX interior is very nicely crafted with loads of attractive metallic trim, woodgrain, leathers, high quality switchgear and colourful electronic interfaces, not to mention pliable premium surfaces applied across the upper half of the cabin plus the glove box lid, whereas the door inserts and armrests are beautifully done in contrast-stitched padded leatherette. A powered glass sunroof sits overhead, plus an overhead console gets filled with AcuraLink and Acura Assist features as well as a handy sunglasses holder.
The dual-screen infotainment system is bright, colourful, content rich and easy to use. I like that it offers multiple functions simultaneously, competitive systems splitting their screens to do likewise, the TLX' upper screen controlled by a large rotating knob and various buttons on the interface below, and the lower display controlled directly by touch, whereas the dual-zone auto HVAC system uses both the touchscreen and a row of buttons below. Additionally there's a colour multi-information display between the primary gauges that can be operated via a dial on the right steering wheel spoke. Also smart, Acura includes the button for heating the steering wheel rim under the left spoke for easy access, while the same area under the right spoke is occupied by the adaptive cruise control.
A TLX SH-AWD highlight is an unorthodox gear selector that uses a combination of push and pull buttons to select the usual PRND transmission choices, with the electromechanical parking brake built into the rear portion of the housing. It's impressively made from high quality materials, and provides a novel way to engage the transmission while freeing vertical space between the front seats. Speaking of space there's plenty in the TLX, it front seats roomy and rear passenger compartment quite good for the class. As noted the trunk is large and 60/40-split seatbacks allow stowage of longer items like skis if required.
Hopefully you can now appreciate why the TLX is such a strong seller in its highly competitive premium segment. It's an excellent sport-luxury sedan available for much less than key competitors, and therefore is worthy of serious consideration.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.