- Cabin does a good job of filtering out unwanted noise
- Rear seat offers more legroom than many competitors
- Loads of features for the money
- Accelerates sluggishly compared to others in the class
- Doesn't stop as quickly, either
- Real-world fuel economy not as impressive as advertised
The Acura TLX cruises into 2016 with essentially the same scouting report as last year, when it made its world debut. Based on the Honda Accord, it shares that car's 109.3-inch wheelbase but is slightly shorter and wider overall for a more athletic stance. The TLX has upscale styling all its own, of course, and it also offers a number of upgrades to earn its keep as a luxury-badged vehicle.
In the engine bay, the TLX offers evolved versions of both the Accord's 2.4-liter inline-4 and its 3.5-liter V6, with the former whipping up a rev-happy 206 horsepower and the latter providing 290 ponies. While the four is perfectly fine for family-sedan duty, it pales in comparison with the turbocharged fours offered by most luxury-brand competitors. The V6 is certainly much more muscular, but you still have to get the revs up for serious acceleration. Here again, rivals offering turbo- or supercharged six-cylinder engines have a distinct advantage when you just need a quick burst of speed, as opposed to full pedal-to-the-metal theatrics. Perhaps in part because the TLX's engines need to work harder to deliver the goods, they also performed relatively poorly in our real-world fuel economy testing despite boasting strong EPA estimates.
Acceleration is underwhelming, but the 2016 Acura TLX has other positive attributes to keep it in our good graces.
But you don't buy a TLX because it's the fastest or even the most fuel-efficient luxury sedan in its class. You buy it because it's an Acura, which means it's well-rounded, nicely furnished for the money and unlikely to let you down over the long haul. Comparably equipped European rivals carry significantly higher price tags, and they also tend to depreciate more quickly and cost more to repair when the warranty expires. In other words, the TLX is arguably a smart choice, and being smart in this segment can save you a lot of money, both now and in the future.
If you're not sold on prudence just yet, we definitely recommend checking out the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The BMW gives you a sublime blend of handling, comfort, technology and diverse turbocharged engine choices, while the Mercedes mostly matches its Bavarian counterpart on these counts and adds alluring baby-S-Class styling. There's also the oldie-but-goodie Audi A4, the upstart Lexus IS and the Volvo S60, with the Swede coming closest to the TLX in terms of purpose and pricing. But if you'd rather stick with the tried and true, the Edmunds "B" rated 2016 Acura TLX is close to a can't-miss prospect.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
The 2016 Acura TLX is unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2016 Acura TLX is a midsize luxury sedan offered in three main trim levels: base, Technology and Advance. Technology and Advance are essentially options packages that are available on both front- and all-wheel-drive TLX models, though Advance requires the V6 engine.
The base TLX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, all-wheel steering, LED headlights and taillights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, vinyl (leatherette) upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, a four-way power front passenger seat (eight-way with the V6), 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, Siri Eyes Free functionality, two display screens (an upper 8-inch display and a lower 7-inch touchscreen) and a 7-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, smartphone app integration (Aha and Pandora), an auxiliary input jack and a USB audio interface.
Even if you pick a base level TLX, you'll enjoy a number of standard convenience and luxury features.
Upgrade to the Technology package and you get a handful of electronic safety features (lane-departure warning and lane-departure intervention, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision alert) plus automatic wipers, leather upholstery, a color trip computer, voice controls, a navigation system and an Acura/ELS 10-speaker audio system with HD radio.
The Advance package adds 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, remote ignition, LED foglights, auto-dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The TLX's cabin is similar in appearance to that of the flagship RLX sedan or MDX crossover, featuring a sleek dashboard with dynamic lines that flow attractively into the door panels. While materials quality is generally good, a few of the trim pieces aren't quite as rich as what you'll find in an A4, for instance. The front seats in the TLX have thick, supple padding and decent lateral support, creating a sporty, intimate feel. The rear seat is quite plush, too, with a comfortable seatback angle and relatively generous legroom, though headroom may be at a premium for tall passengers.
The dual display screen tech setup is standard on every TLX, but it's not as easy to use as other rival interfaces.
The TLX's standard dual-screen infotainment setup is an oddity in this segment. The lower screen is a touchscreen that handles functions like radio and climate controls, while the upper screen displays the navigation map or other status screens on demand. The learning curve for this interface isn't that steep, but some of the touchscreen controls are tedious to use, and the control knob below the touchscreen can be challenging to reach and manipulate on the move. The graphics are also underwhelming compared to class standouts like BMW's iDrive and Audi's MMI. We do like the impressively balanced sound of the upgrade ELS audio system, though. It's almost reason enough to go with the Technology package.
Trunk space, at 13.2 cubic feet, is about average for this class.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Acura TLX include antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control, a rearview camera, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and active front head restraints.
During testing of both a TLX 2.4 and an all-wheel-drive TLX 3.5, we recorded identical stopping distances from 60 mph of 129 feet. That's considerably longer than average for this segment and frankly disappointing for a luxury sport sedan. Oddly, a subsequent TLX 3.5 AWD stopped in a much more respectable 120 feet despite wearing the same all-season tires as the previous car.
Optional safety equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system, lane-departure warning and lane-departure intervention, forward collision alert and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
In government crash tests, the TLX received the top rating of five stars overall, including five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side impact safety.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2016 Acura TLX gives you a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6. The 2.4-liter engine generates 206 hp and 182 pound-feet of torque. It's offered only with front-wheel drive and is paired with a specialized eight-speed automated manual transmission. (It's an automated dual-clutch manual, much like VW's DSG or Porsche's PDK, but Acura has also fitted a conventional automatic's torque converter to it for claimed smoother operation at low speeds.)
In Edmunds track testing, a TLX 2.4 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, a slow performance for this segment. EPA estimated fuel economy with the 2.4-liter engine is a strong 28 mpg combined (24 city/35 highway); however, on our mixed-driving evaluation route, where fuel economy typically matches or exceeds the EPA combined figure, we observed an unusually low 23.6 mpg.
As for the 3.5-liter V6, it's rated at 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a conventional nine-speed automatic. The V6 is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive.
We've tested two V6-powered TLX models with all-wheel drive. One sprinted to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, while the other needed 6.1 seconds. That's generally fairly brisk, but still well behind the segment speedsters with upgrade engines.
Fuel economy for the V6 is EPA-estimated at 25 mpg combined (21/34) with front-wheel drive. Going with all-wheel drive reduces highway efficiency but still gets you 25 mpg combined (21/31). When we drove an all-wheel-drive TLX 3.5 on our evaluation route, observed fuel economy was again below expectations, checking in at 21.2 mpg.
The four-cylinder TLX may appeal if you're looking for a reliable and reasonably priced luxury sedan, but judged by its performance, it comes up short. Unlike most entry-level cars in this class, the TLX 2.4 isn't turbocharged, which explains its lethargic response from a standstill. The transmission's "Sport +" mode helps matters once you're underway, as downshifts come swiftly and lower gears are held longer, but acceleration remains below par by luxury sedan standards.
As for the TLX 3.5, the big V6 delivers the goods when you plant your right foot. Passing power is ample once the tachometer needle swings past 4,000 rpm, and the engine sounds zesty, too. In our long-term test of a 2015 all-wheel-drive TLX 3.5, however, we've noted that the nine-speed automatic transmission sometimes shifts abruptly, so that's something to keep in mind on your test-drive.
Pick the V6 if you want the best handling and acceleration from the TLX lineup.
Whichever engine you choose, you'll enjoy the TLX's comfortable and discernibly premium ride. Shoppers who still associate Acura products with elevated road noise will find a counterpoint in this sedan, as there's little wind or tire roar to interfere with conversations or music. There's also respectable handling prowess on tap, whether you're talking about the front-wheel-drive models with their rear-wheel steering system or the all-wheel-drive TLX V6, which can apply engine torque to individual wheels to help the car quickly power out of turns. Acura doesn't offer summer tires as an option, so if you find yourself running up against the limits of the all-season tires, replacing them with summer rubber will further improve the TLX's sport-sedan credentials.
Looking for a midsize sedan with sporty handling, a roomy interior and luxury features, all within your budget? Consider the 2016 Acura TLX. It not only checks those items on your list, it also offers a smart all-wheel-drive system that helps keep you safe on both wet and dry roads. Plus, it has one of the best-sounding stereos around. If that's your kind of luxury sedan, the 2016 Acura TLX could be your next car.