Acura TLX


Debut: 2014
Maker: Honda
Predecessor: Acura TL (2008)



 Published on 8 Aug 2014 All rights reserved. 


30 years have passed since Honda America created Acura as its premium brand. Ironically, its most successful product was still the very first one, Legend. Fast forward to 2013, Acura sold only 45,000 TSX, TL and RL/RLX combined on the US soil. The majority of them was the mid-range TL, which was not available anywhere else, including Japan. Apparently, such a low volume failed to make money. To stop bleeding, Honda decided to combine both TSX and TL to be one new model, TLX.

The TLX is “right-sized” to somewhere between TSX and TL. While it retains the 2775 mm wheelbase of TL (and its platform donor, Accord, of course), it gets significantly shorter and narrower. This, in addition to using higher percentage of high-strength steel to construct its monocoque, cuts about 100 kg from the TL. That said, engine by engine, it is still easily heavier than the comparable BMW 3-Series, which is the benchmark of the class. A fully-loaded top model with V6 power and 4-wheel-drive tips the scale at over 1700 kg, while a base four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model still weighs some 1580 kg. By any measures it is not a good model for lightweight construction.



The new exterior design is a little more pleasing than the old one. It is less strange and less bulky, but you won’t call it stylish either, even though the slim LED headlights look quite sophisticated. A strong character is something Acura usually lacks.

Worse still is the interior. It has a few problems: 1) Smaller than its exterior suggested. In fact, no roomier than a 3-Series, which is hardly forgivable considering its extra size and the FF layout. The boot is also quite small; 2) The dash design is really outdated. The quality of materials and switchgears are more Accord than BMW; 3) The dual-screen center console is confusing to use, especially when its menus are illogically designed.

On the plus side, this cabin is very well insulated from the engine compartment, suspensions and the outside world. Further helped by the company’s renowned active noise-cancelling technology, which plays 180-degree out-of-phase noises through speakers, you can hear little wind, tire and engine noise. It has to be rated as one of the most refined cars in the class. Now you think the weight penalty is perhaps worth paying for.



More interesting are the powertrains, although they are mix and match from the parts pool of Accord and RLX. The entry-level model employs a direct-injection 2.4-liter twin-cam i-VTEC (with VTEC + intake variable cam phasing). Unlike the one serving Accord, it gets a 2-stage intake manifolds and higher compression ratio (which necessitates higher octane fuel) to hike output to 206 horsepower. As you would expect for a Honda four-cylinder, it is responsive and sweet revving. Moreover, it mates with a new in-house-designed 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox that provides quick and sweet gearshifts. Interestingly, this DCT employs an additional torque converter to smooth out take off. Once on way and it is locked up, leaving the duty to the two clutches.

Less interesting but still a credible choice is the direct-injection 3.5-liter SOHC V6. It employs traditional VTEC and Honda’s VCM cylinder deactivation to save fuel. It produces 290 hp and 267 lbft of torque, again more than the case of Accord, but slightly less than the same motor on flagship RLX. Unfortunately, its greater output exceeds the torque capacity of the DCT, so it has to stick with a conventional automatic. The latter is also a new development – a 9-speed automatic based on an ZF design. While it works better than the versions serving Chrysler, it is not as seamless as the ZF 8HP on its rear-drive rivals. Manual override is also painfully slow. Not the choice for enthusiasts.

Neither engines are powerful enough to give the TLX a chance to challenge BMW in straight line, but at least they are refined enough to please comfort sleekers.



Regarding handling, it depends on which drivetrain you opt for. The 2.4 model is mandatory with FWD and P-AWS active rear-wheel steering. This combo feels lighter and more lively in corners. The rear-wheel steering does minimize understeer, but its intervention is inconsistent and laggy, thus is no replacement for a proper FR layout. The V6 model with FWD is the worst car to steer unquestionably. Tick the optional SH-AWD – an updated version of the last RL / Legend – and its rear-axle torque vectoring will sharpen the handling considerably. It is almost fun to drive, if not ruined by the low-rolling resistance tires. As it is, the TLX runs out of grip easily and is destined to terminal understeer. 

Perhaps Honda should rethink what it messages it wants the TLX to bring, and what target audiences it wants to capture. If it is all about comfort and refinement, it has to do more on space and interior quality to match Lexus ES. If it wants to take the fight to the established German, then it has to lift its game in the chassis design and tuning. Disappointingly, history always repeats on the Acura. This doesn’t change with a new name.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
TLX 2.4
2014
Front-engined, FWD, 4WS
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4835 / 1855 / 1448 mm
2775 mm
Inline-4
2354 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
VIM
DI
206 hp
182 lbft
8-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
Mechanical adaptive dampers
225/55R17
1580 kg
140 mph (est)
6.8*
17.9*
TLX 3.5 V6
2014
Front-engined, FWD, 4WS
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4835 / 1855 / 1448 mm
2775 mm
V6, 60-degree
3471 cc
SOHC 24 valves, VVT+L
-
DI, cylinder deactivation
290 hp
267 lbft
9-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Mechanical adaptive dampers
225/50R18
1630 kg
155 mph (est)
5.7*
13.3*
TLX 3.5 V6 SH-AWD
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4835 / 1855 / 1448 mm
2775 mm
V6, 60-degree
3471 cc
SOHC 24 valves, VVT+L
-
DI, cylinder deactivation
290 hp
267 lbft
9-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
Mechanical adaptive dampers
225/50R18
1712 kg
155 mph (est)
5.8*
14.1*




Performance tested by: *C&D





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