Vehicle Review: the 2017 Acura TLX
Honda-Tech spent a week behind the wheel of the mid-range Acura TLX sedan, discovering it’s strengths and weaknesses.
Do you know what TLX stands for? As an acronym, it’s meaningless. It doesn’t stand for anything, according to a Honda rep I contacted. As a model name, TLX translates to the car that replaced the TSX and TL sedans. To be more specific, the letters T, L, and X mean “Performance Luxury Sedan” in Acura speak. Do those words translate into a driving experience, though? I found out over the course of a week behind the wheel of a 2017 Acura TLX with the Advance Package.
The TLX is available with either a 206-horsepower/182-lb-ft 2.4-liter I4 or 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 276 lb-ft. My $43,540 test vehicle had the latter power plant. Sure, it might have had less than 300 horsepower, but I didn’t mind that. It was an adequate dose of power for the amount of weight it had to handle. I wasn’t bent out of shape about averaging a little less than the EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined. What frustrated me about the TLX was its sluggish throttle response. I expected it to be relaxed when I had the Integrated Dynamics System in its Eco setting and mild mannered in Normal mode. Unfortunately, I still had to get deep into the right pedal in Sport and Sport+ to get the TLX to show any enthusiasm. Taking the TLX through the twisties of Austin, Texas’s City Park Road was like trying to have a conversation at an epic party with someone who’s clearly tired and just wants to go home.
Acura pairs the V6 with a 9-speed automatic. Shifts were smooth and on time whether I left the gearbox on its own or pulled back on one of the Sequential SportShift paddles behind the 3-spoke steering wheel. Initially, I was leary of the buttons-only main controls for the transmission. I was surprised to discover that using them to quickly get out of parking spots and on the move became second nature after one or two uses. However, I did miss being able to pull back on a shift lever to get to the next gear during a spirited drive. Acura’s tranny controls may save space, but they also lose a sense of engagement and fun.
The TLX puts its power to the road through either a torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system or the front-wheel drive/all-wheel steering setup that my media loaner had. On-center feel was solid. A little too solid. What was great for highway cruising to the DFW Auto Show was grating on my nerves when I attempted to hustle the TLX through a series of curves. Trying to get the TLX to change directions quickly was like trying to get that buzzkill friend I mentioned earlier to walk out to the dance floor and bust a move.
In case you couldn’t tell, I was underwhelmed by the TLX’s athleticism. Luckily, I don’t always feel the need to rocket the car I’m driving into a chicane. Sometimes it’s nice to just drive a road instead of attack it. Whenever I was in the mood to do that, the TLX did nothing to spoil it. The ride quality was firm without being harsh or punishing. The combination of the Advance and Technology Packages meant I had features such as a heated/ventilated seat under me and whoever rode shotgun, an 8-inch LED navigation screen in front of me, Adaptive Cruise Control at my fingertips, and a 10-speaker ELS Studio Premium Audio System all around me. Is the wood trim in the TLX real? No, but with its rich color and eye-pleasing mix of highs and lows, it’s some of the best fake forestry I’ve ever seen. Acura could teach other automakers a thing or two about how to do it right.
I drove a 1998 Acura Integra LS sedan for eight years. Cloth seats, 4-speed auto, 14-inch wheels – you get the picture. It wasn’t a particularly fast or attention-getting car. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was a good-looking vehicle, though. It was just understated – right up my alley. I felt the same way when I looked at the TLX. It was a well-proportioned collection of curves whose only real visually unavoidable flourish was its beautiful array of jewel-like LED headlights.
Second-row head- and legroom was enough to comfortably fit me (I’m 5’10”). I do not envy anyone who has to sit in the middle seat for more than a trip to the corner store – unless they’re a child. People that size are the only ones who would have enough space above and in front of them.
I had a sometimes pleasant, occasionally disappointing, constantly enlightening week with the 2017 Acura TLX. Those three letters may not be an acronym for anything, but I now know what the words “Performance Luxury Sedan” mean after they go from being groups of letters on a website to being an Acura.