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22 minute read
My TLX review, be warned long post
Compliments of KeithL @ https://acurazine.com
Sit back, relax and here we go.....
First let me say I am glad to be back to the Acura family. I had a string of 6 TLs from 2004-2010 and the spouse has had 4 in the same time frame. I left in 2010 because I hated the Palladium Metallic color and beak on my 4G 09 TL AWD. I did love the ride and quality of that car. Since then I had an Infiniti 2011 M37S from 2010 until 2013 and then an Audi 2014 A6 the last 2 years. I did stop here from time to time and was at the dealership when the RLX arrived to test drive it hoping to come back then. That is an entire different story and I wish Acura would get its flagship story straightened out. Recently I decided that I was tired of making the high payment on my A6 for what essentially became a commuter car. I went from 17K miles a year of driving back in 2012 to putting less than 10K on the A6 each year. I decided to get practical and pocket a few $$$. I was all over the place trying to figure out what I wanted to accomplish, I like the TLX styling, but was put off but Acura once again screwing with basic silver colors. I decided to look at a few options.
First was the 16 Accord. I wanted to check out the 16 Accord Touring. I was skeptical that I would be happy with moving down scale so much. Then I looked at the Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50 and Hyundai Genesis Sedan. All optioned up near or at max options. I won’t spend much time talking about the other cars, but will make a few comments. The Accord Touring is an excellent car, and if Honda would dump Lane Watch for real BSI and offered a better sound system I might have been swayed (hell even the 16 Civic has a 400+ watt sound system). The Genesis Sedan Ultimate is also a very nice ride, but it is too heavy and rides like it is, plowing into turns and just not great in handling, but does have a noce planted ride if you drive straight lines. The Ultimate trim has about everything you can want shy of all around cameras and LED DRLs. The Hyundai tech is really very competitive and I like that Infotainment system. The Q50 (non-Sport) rode well is a nice evolution to the G37 and has a very good infotainment system and some very good tech. It handled well, but the 3.7 is old and even with updates still lacks the refinement of a modern engine. The surprise for me was the Cadillac ATS. Maybe because I had no expectation from the car, but it was a very good car. Plenty of space, rode well, except for the crappy run-flats, and lack of spare. It has decent tech and the overall quality of the car was good, but not as good as the competition. If it were a few thousand less and offered a spare it would be an interesting choice. The Caddy V6 felt better than the Q50, but that could have been better sound cabin isolation, but it did feel to have better low end torque.
I had been watching local Acura inventory for a while waiting to see if a Silver Slate AWD Advance would hit that might be entice me. Finally I emailed the sales person that almost sold me my 09, but did sell us our 14 RDX and told him to let me know when a 16 TLX AWD Advance in silver/ebony was inbound and we could talk. Well he waste no time telling me he could get me a 15 at a good price. They looked at my trade and offered me what CarMax was offering and then took $6300 off the TLX. Add to that there is .38% leasing rate right now with first payment on the dealer and it was hard to refuse. All done via email (except 10 minutes to look over my trade) and they trucked the car in with 15 miles on the odometer and a 9/15 build date! This must have been one of the last 15’s to roll off the line. 2 days later I am in my TLX. As a side story we wound up trading the spouse’s 14 RDX AWD Tech for a 16 RDX AWD Advance for at invoice the next day (all done via email without even seeing her trade). I will comment on that in the RDX thread, short anser on that is a very nice ride and good improvements over the pre-MMC 2G RDX.
Now onto my impressions. I will make comparisons to my A6 and a few to the faint memory of my 09 AWD TL and Infiniti, and I do understand the TLX and A6 are over $20K apart in price, but I think you’ll see that the Acura has a lot to brag about here. For reference my A6 was a 2014 Prestige with a few options, (LEDs, BSI, LKAS, ACC, etc) and had a 3.0 Super Charged V6.
Engine - No shock here the Audi takes this one mostly. There is no comparison to the off the line torque of the A6 that with little pedal the car just pulled effortlessly. The TLX is good for its class, but the future will be boosted smaller displacement engines. At one point in my commute I make a right turn that goes up a steep hill, the A6 was not breaking a sweat, the TLX needs to really get the RPMs way up there to get up that hill without a strain. Clearly the TLX 3.5 out classes the 3.7 in the Infiniti because it is far more refined and smooth. Honda is first and foremost an engine company and it shows, the engine is great for a non-boosted engine.
Tranny – The 8 speed in the A6 was a well-crafted and engineered machine. I never knew it was an 8 speed from the way it drove as it nailed shifts and never once hunted in 21K miles. So far the 9 speed in the TLX has been fine. I am trying the IDS in normal, but do find it stays in the taller gears more than I would like and will try Sport and Sport + once car is more broken in. I know many say it hunts, but so far I am seeing decent results. The 7 speed in the Infiniti would on rare occasion hunt for what gear it wanted, so at this point the TLX is very good and so far I find it more refined than Infiniti’s 7 speed AT.
AWD – I won’t get into the Quattro vs. SH-AWD debate, but will say this. I like Quattro as I liked the full time 40/60 split, the car always pulled evenly. I do realize that standard Quattro is not as good as SH-AWD, but I prefer the full time split, it has disadvantages as it is finicky about tires being within a few mm of the other tire on same axle, etc. It performed great in Snowmagedden here in ATL last year. SH-AWD is awesome, it is there when you need it and gone when you don’t. The TLX still feels like a FWD in some regards. After driving a RWD then a true AWD the TLX SH-AWD while it never has any torque steer, it still rides like a FWD. Clearly Acura has tuned it very well as it is engaged more often, but does not incur a huge penalty in powertrain loss or MPG. The Acura advantage is clearly the fact that SH-AWD come into play only when it will derive benefits, thus it has virtually no parasitic loss to the drivetrain and shows in the phenomenal MPGs I am seeing and how much I can feel the car coasting with no drivetrain drag.
MPG – The TLX so far is crushing the A6 in the MPG department. Again only a short time and mostly commuting, but my A6 over the life averaged 20.8 over 21K mile on Premium. On a typical commute to work the A6 might see 22MPG (actual), the TLX so far is seeing 24-28MPG (based on MID) on same drive. The first tank was 23.6MPG (actual). Some of this is Honda’s awesome engineering and tuning on the V6, the low loss of SH-AWD, and the A6 weighed about 500lbs more.
Suspension is a little tougher to compare. On its own the TLX is very well set up. It is fairly maneuverable and nimble for its size. It soaks up road irregularities very well. I can throw it into turns fairly well, but PLEASE Acura get back to Michelin tires, these Goodyear’s are awful! How is it possible to break a tire free on dry pavement with a decent tire and SH-AWD, only Goodyear knows. hese tires loose grip if you look at them funny! While the TLX suspension is excellent I think Audi has a very well-engineered and refined suspension. I did not have the Sport suspension in the A6 so the car tended to plow into turns due to the weight, but considering I had low profile UHP 20’s on the car and kept them 4-5 PSI over inflated the suspension handled like a dream. It truly was an excellent ride and never did the suspension have an issue dealing with any irregularity it dealt with, truly an amazing suspension. The A6 had a an extremely planted solid feel that never felt too heavy or big, just a secure ride regardless of the pavement. The 09 TL AWD was truly like a magnet on rails and while every road irregularity was felt I just loved driving that car. The M37S also handled very well for its length and height. The TLX suspension holds its own very well with the competition and has nothing to be ashamed of. It does get a little jittery on some rough pavement, but considering the cost cutting done to the 5G suspension it holds up very well. I do think if I live with very rough roads the A6 or even Infiniti would be more noticeable advantage. On the decent roads of metro Atlanta the TLX actually drives very well with a great balance of comfort and handling mix that is balanced just right. Of course a Type-S with improved suspension and 19-20 inch lower profile wider tires would be ideal, but I suspect it would show more of the compromises made in the 5G suspension.
Overall the TLX takes this category very well. My M37S did not have any real tech and the 09 TL AWD Tech did not have all the features that the TLX or my A6 had. Let me break this into a few sub-categaories:
Audio – Slam dunk Acura all the way. ELS is just that good compared to the competition. Lexus ML, Genesis Lexicon, RLX Krell and the high end Audi ($6K option) B&O are the only things that play in this category. The Bose in the M37S and the A6 were just above junk. The one advantage the A6 has is the way you can consume music, it has 2 SD slots you can fill with music and even copy that to the internal HDD. Acura needs to ditch the disc media and be more flexible with removable media. Support for multi-channel files and ability to have say SD Slot and copy to internal drive would be huge win. I do feel the low end bass on the TLX ELS is not what I recall from my 09, but it could be just my aging memory. Even the bass in the 16 RDX Advance sounds deeper than the TLX, although the TLX is a tad cleaner.
Navigation – WOW Acura, get with the 2010s, the 16 Accord at least now has updated modern maps now. Audi takes this one by a mile, very nice navi with online google lookup and google maps. Even the klunky AcuraLink app is weak, just bite the bullet and get google online searches and send to car from google maps. Even the Infiniti M37S navi was a little easier to interact with. It is still an improvement over the 4G TL, but Acura is still lagging here. I will write a separate AcuraLink review later on. Acura is acceptable here, but nothing to pull ahead of the competition. I have read that Toyota/Lexus Enform system is also very good and my little interaction with Hyundai’s Navi also looks impressive. Let me explain how simple Audi’s is; I hit the voice button and say “online destination McDonalds” it goes out to google and pulls back a list of all the McDonalds in in the area, I just select the one I want it and it sets the destination, just that easy! AcuraLink is horrible slow, then it voice reads you ever address until you recognize what you want. Hell half the time I don’t know what street it is on, pop them all on the map with a list I can scroll that highlights each one and let me pick. AcuraLink so far is a huge miss for me.
Infotainment – I covered most of this, but will highlight the interaction. The new dual screen layout is a bit confusing and does show redundant info at times, but it seems you get used to it. I have played with the new layout in the 16 Accord and it is better, so hopefully MMS improves even further. The voice interaction in Acura is by far the best I have dealt with. Infiniti was limited to a few function, and the Audi had some functions, but always had problems deciphering my commands. The Acura gets the commands right almost every time and has an extensive list of things that can be voice controlled. I love the Siri feature and have only played casually with the text feature. I know some have complained about Acura’s voice recognition, but I still find it better than anything I have owned.
HVAC – OK this is an easily over looked category, but I feel it deserves a mention. Acura has always nailed this for me. The Infinit and Audi I was always fiddling with temp HVAC, and Audi always reset the recirculation when you start the car. Acura I set a temp, set Auto and set recirculation and never touch it again. A nice feature in the Advance model is the Auto setting for the vented seats that adjusts temp and setting of seats based on overall HVAC. Speaking of vented seats Acura gets a good nod here. While my Infiniti wins this one as it had genuine cooled seats, the venting on the Acura is very good. The Audi vented seats on high were never noticeable and you could easily hear the fans.
Safety Tech – My A6 has BSI, LKAS, ACC CMBS so it is comparable to the TLX. The TLX is a bit more aggressive at LKAS in keeping you in the lane, where the A6 would kick in as you hit the line the TLX seems to prevent you from actually touching the lines. This is more preference, but the A6 would do a smaller rapid steering vibration when you cross the line, while the TLX is slower wider swings of the wheel to jolt your attention. The TLX requires you to engage LKAS every time you start the car, the A6 remembered last setting. Again minor difference. I like the LKAS in the Acura and it takes this one, but I wish they would remember the last setting when you turn the car on. The one area I feel Audi kicks everyone’s ass is with their blind spot system. It is nicely integrated into the side mirror and as a car approaches it changes in intensity blinking rapidly if the car is in the spot that would cause a crash. Where the Acura BLIS is a bit better is in accuracy, the A6 BLIS warns far too early that makes it less useful, it begins lighting up long before there is any danger of you hitting a car or cutting someone off. The TLX BLIS seems to come on at just the right point that you would not want to take the lane, but not too early to have you second guessing what to do. Also the way Audi has them in the side mirrors they are aimed at the driver so no one else gets distracted by them. No clear winner for BLIS.
Lighting – Audi is famous for it’s LEDs, but if I look at how many LEDs my A6 had in the headlights vs. Acura I am amazed how much better the Jewel Eyed LEDs light the road with fewer elements than the Audi. Big win here for Acura. Hopefully MMC will bring the RDX (Audi like) style LED DRL/turn signal. I do wish Acura would go LED for the rear turn signals and ever light in the car, kill incandescent bulbs! Also I wish the side mirror LED signal wrapped more around the side so I could see it on the edge of the mirror.
This is very subjective, if I had to rank seating comfort in the 4 cars mentioned; the M37S takes it by a mile, then the 09 TL AWD then A6 ties the TLX. Now let me qualify this. The M37S was designed for comfortable long drives, so great side bolsters, but plenty of 4 way lumbar and lower seat long leg thigh support. The 09 AWD was a different beast, it has deep side bolsters and very good overall comfort. Seeing as it is 5 years later I wonder if I would still feel the same about the 09 as my body has aged ;-). The A6 seats were a bit firm and would never work on a long drive, but at least I found a great seating position. The TLX has very comfortable seats with a good mix of side bolstering, but could use 4 way lumbar, longer seat bottom and more height adjustment. I go through this with every car according to the spouse, I struggle for first 2-3 weeks to find perfect seat settings then get comfortable and stop complaining. For long drives the M37S is king, for whip it in a turn the 09 TL AWD would win, the TLS is a great compromise of both.
Here is where the debate will rage and again is very subjective. It is no secret I had a love hate with my 4G 09 AWD TL. I hated the design, but loved the interior and ride and overall car. I also loved BOTH my 08 Type-S TLs. The TLX is clearly the evolution of the 3G TL and what the 4G should have been. Looking at the front of the TLX you clearly see 3G TL roots and heritage, even the back has some hints to 3G days. I think the TLX at MMC will be a super sexy and beautiful car. I assume they will give it the 16 RDX/Accord treatment which will be separate LED DRLs that double as turn signals. I would hope they add full LED rear turn signals as well and the RDX revised beak. I know the Infiniti styling is a love it or hate it, but I love the new Q70 styling. The A6 is just sheer simple elegance and has understated beauty in its simplistic lines. I am biased, but with the wheels I put on my A6 it transformed it into a beautiful car that only my Type-S TLs rivaled in me wanting to turn around a look at it as I walked away every day. The TLX is a beautiful car and I suspect the SSM and lack of future MMC refinements are what is stopping me short of feeling the same way. The TLX is a beautiful car and is very appealing and holds its own exceptionally well.
The TLX is a great car. It is very obvious even after 5 years that Honda had to cut somewhere to keep the price point it did and yet offer all the new features. I think my 09 TL AWD overall had better build quality and feel to it, more bank vault solid feel. The TLX is far ahead in build quality than my M37S was and probably tied with my A6. There are things with the A6 that seem to have excellent build quality and other areas that are no so much. The M37S had decent build quality, but never felt as tightly put together as the TL, A6 or TLX. The quality of the leather in the 09 TL AWD I recall being of a higher grade, while the TLX seems like what was in her 14 RDX and similar to the A6, while the 09 TL AWD and my M37S had extremely excellent quality buttery smooth leather and interior components.
I really enjoy the TLX, it is really a huge redemption for Acura after the 4G (no offense to 4G lovers). The 3G was the right style and features at the right time that left the competition lacking and that is why the 3G was selling 70K cars a year. The 4G was Acura’s attempt to step up and stand out. While they stepped up, they stood out for the wrong reasons. Many were turned off by the size and styling of the 4G, I was fine with the size, just not the styling.
In 2015 with all the competition in this class as well as the mainstream plates nibbling from below it is tough to stay on point. The TLX in some regards feels like a slight step back in the “luxury/quality” feel of the 4G, but they upped the content and features while not making the cost cutting overwhelmingly obvious. I really like the TLX and hope a Type-S comes at MMC. That said the $40K market segment is now crowed with Korean wanna-bes and low end German entries and the average consumer has some appeal to the German makers because of years of it representing “status, prestige” and “you have arrived”. I believe Acura has done a wonderful job here and sales seems to say they are exceeding targets. I thinks it will take time for Acura to shake the image of “glorified Honda’s” and for people to realize the styling mistakes are in the past. Acura is finally headed in a great direction and IMO only needs a few tweaks to the direction and I feel the days of people thinking Honda may ditch Acura are in the past and now have competitive vehicles in each class they aggressively compete within (excluding the RLX, I don’t think they really try to compete here).
You can go to any car forum for any make car and find lovers and haters, if there were a single perfect car it would have 100% market share. We are lucky to live in a time that the convergence of technology, style and competition offers us some amazing selections compared to just 15 years ago. Acura is not perfect and no car maker is. We can all guess what the real Honda strategy is for Acura, but only Honda knows that. Clearly they are targeting smart luxury if you read any of the survey’s they send us. They are not targeting the “status” buyer, they want someone that understands the value proposition they offer. I don’t ever expect them to be a direct threat to Lexus, MB, BMW or Audi. Infiniti seems to be targeting the true Sport Luxury crowd that makes more emotional purchases, but has not been very successful, although I like many of their products.
Acura seems to be targeting people that are more practical and calculating in their purchases and I believe with their current products they have done that very well. I do feel that for a car that replaced the TSX and TL it clearly is based on a TL platform, but has a lot of TSX like hints, many which I do not care for (back seat leg room, and too light on its feet), but overall they have been very successful. I see more on the road all the time and sales have been good. I suspect as time goes one the sales will be stable or improve as once people see the car it will appeal to many.
I know some of you will say; “Keith this is supposed to be a review of the TLX, but you seem to be showing where the TLX compares to your Audi.” True it comes across like that, but if you read carefully you will see Acura is ahead in some areas and easily holds its own against a car with a sticker almost $20K more. That is a very impressive accomplishment. Even the Genesis to compete with the A6 is around $54K and it does not handle as well as the TLX and gets substantially less fuel economy. The real statement here is that for the money the TLX is pretty much in a class of its own. Sure you can get a Kia or Sonata or even Accord with many of the same features on paper for far less, but they are clearly not in the same league as the TLX. The only car that may compete is the 2017 A4 when it is released in January, but the A4 has been a notoriously unreliable car.
So in summary for the cliff notes readers: the TLX is an awesome car for the money that cannot be touched at the price points it is at!