It was welcome relief after time with the beast. It took me to and from where I wanted to go and did so comfortably, efficiently, quietly and safely. It was attractive in a friendly sort of way. People, including law enforcement officers, smiled at it. I finished my week in the 2015 Acura TLX 2.4 sedan with no speeding tickets.
That is what I wanted after a noisy (“varroomm, pop-pop-pop!”), costly ($160 in speeding fines) run a week earlier in the more-macho-than-thou 2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS sports coupe. I wanted peace, motorized anonymity — the ability to move from one place to another without attracting much attention. The Acura TLX sedan gave me that peace.
The TLX is all new for 2015. It replaces Acura’s TSX and TL models. Appropriately, it fits between those two — a bit longer than the TSX, but nearly four inches shorter than the TL. It is a compromise in exterior length without sacrifice of interior space. The TLX has the same wheelbase — the center-line distance between the front and rear wheels — as the larger TL. The result is a passenger cabin large enough to seat five adults in maximum comfort.
I like this one, albeit partly because it provided a pleasant retreat from the raucous Camaro SS. But the TLX also makes good sense, especially the 2.4-liter Technology Package version equipped with a direct-injection four-cylinder gasoline engine (206 horsepower, 182 pound-feet of torque).
You can get a speeding ticket in that one, too. It’s plenty fast when it has to be. But it’s not a catch-me-if-you-can show mobile. It is an exceedingly well-crafted family sedan presumably for gainfully employed adult buyers — folks who want quality minus flash. That does not mean they want an automotive appliance. They want a nice car — appealing, reliable — but not something that sends signals more akin to recalcitrant youth.
Buyers desirous of more power and refined handling in the TLX can opt for the model equipped with the 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 (290 horsepower, 267 pound-feet of torque). The V-6 TLX also offers all-wheel drive as an option, which might make sense to buyers concerned about winter driving.
The V-6 also offers Variable Cylinder Management, which allows the engine to smoothly switch from six to three cylinders depending on car speed and load. Also included in the V-6 package is a selectable-mode drive system — Economy, Normal, Sport and Sport+ — designed to adjust steering, gas-pedal response and shift timing at the push of a button. The result is what some engineers at Honda, maker of all things Acura, call a “maximum best” ride, handling and fuel economy depending on the drive mode chosen.
But even without the 3.5-liter V-6’s options, the 2.4-liter Acura TLX driven for this column is a darn good deal. Build quality, again, is easily among best in class. The car is a competent highway cruiser. And my hunch is that, even with front-wheel drive, it will move confidently in moderate snowfalls, thanks largely to Honda’s Precision All-Wheel Steer (appropriately, “PAWS”) system.
PAWS, as the acronym implies, helps the car grip the road by allowing the rear wheels to turn slightly in the direction of, or counter to, the front wheels depending on vehicle speed and direction. At parking-lot speeds, PAWS helps reduce the car’s turning radius. At highway speeds, it allows the rear wheels to slightly turn in tandem with the front wheels, increasing the car’s stability and assisting in quick turns and lane changes. During braking, PAWS seems to magically increase tire friction, thereby decreasing stopping distances.
I was floored by the intelligent engineering of the 2.4-liter TLX and found myself wondering why most manufacturers weren’t moving in Honda/Acura’s direction — offering world-class engineering and build quality and the most advanced safety and environmental technology available at a reasonable price.
I didn’t have to wonder for long. The answer arrived in my driveway in the form of a 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T coupe with a nearly 500-horsepower gasoline engine and a deep, growling, truly fierce exhaust note — a car more menacing in sound, appearance and performance than even the Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Interesting: The Northern Virginia middle school and high school students who blithely walked past the Acura crowded around the black-on-black, gray-racing-striped Challenger yelping in approbation and celebration.
No automobile manufacturer is willing to ignore that kind of adulation, no matter how adolescent. There are future sales and maximum profits in those pre-teen and teenage yelps.
Bottom line: The 2015 Acura TLX 2.4-liter with Technology Package is a very good fit for families shopping for an upscale sedan that’s thoroughly updated in terms of safety and environmental engineering. But they might also find similar engineering — certainly identical build quality — at a lower price in the Honda EX-L V-6 with satellite-linked navigation. A fully equipped Hyundai Sonata would also be worth a look.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Very good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: Adult-attractive. You can drive it to church, school or the office without a police escort.
Body style/layout: The new Acura TLX is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive mid-size family sedan based on the Acura TL wheelbase. The V-6 TLX is also available with all-wheel drive.
Engine/transmission: The TLX 2.4-liter comes standard with a 2.4-liter, 16-valve, gasoline-direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (206 horsepower, 182 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually via paddle shifters mounted beneath the steering wheel.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo room with all seats in place is 13.2 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 17.2 gallons of gasoline (premium grade is “recommended for best performance”).
Mileage: I averaged 34 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving — not bad considering the car’s excellent on-road performance.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; traction and stability control; ACE body structure, designed to channel crash energy away from the car’s occupants; light-emitting-diode headlamps; and front, side and head air bags.
Pricing: The 2015 Acura TLX 2.4-liter sedan with Technology Package, eight-speed automatic transmission, onboard navigation and rearview backup camera starts at $35,025, with a dealer’s invoice price of $32,898. Price as tested is $35,920 including an $895 shipping charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $33,793.