Mountain Wheels: Quickened and enlarged, Acura’s TLX aims for sport sedan greatness
While sedans of the European grand tourer style are something of a rarity in the wintery High Country (unless you live near Aspen, I imagine) the notion of a sporty, elegant-but-comfortable, long-distance cruiser still appeals to many purists.
With the much more expensive Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera directly in its targets, Acura is creating some noise with the debut of its new TLX sport sedan, with a high-output Type S model poised to appear later this year, as well.
The first TLX appeared in 2014, part of the 35-year-old Acura’s ever-expanding quiver of cars and SUVs; as SUV sales moved into major dominance in recent years, the company has re-focused its resources and re-imagined the TLX as a longer, wider, faster machine — but still designed to replicate the “bigger car” effect of the soon-to-be-continued RLX sedan.
They’ve employed a few strategies, including distinctive design, cabin technology and a real focus on performance, in the process creating a vehicle that’s faster and more substantial than older models.
Each “standard” TLX is equipped with a 2.0-liter VTEC turbo, putting out 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. The upcoming TLX Type S, Acura’s old performance nameplate, gets a 3.0-liter V-6 that swings closer to 355 horsepower and rides on standard 20-inch wheels.
You can get into the game for about $37,500 for a two-wheel drive version, if you spend your winters in Arizona and not up here. The Super Handling All Wheel Drive edition I drove, also equipped with the A-Spec appearance package (upgraded suede insert seats, a black trunk lid spoiler, a flat-bottomed racing wheel and LED fog lamps), came to $47,275. Guesstimates suggest the Type S will venture into the mid-50s in pricing. The all-wheel drive package is a $2,000 premium for any of the standard car’s five models.
Sophisticated it certainly is, and a little more roomy on the inside, though not in a Lincoln Town Car kind of way, obviously — while the aspirational competition here ranges from the Tesla Model S to Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series cars, TLX is probably closest to an Audi A4, a BMW 3-Series or a Mercedes C-Class, though it’s certainly sized like a mid-size luxury sedan. TLX’s wheelbase has grown by 3.7 inches, and it’s 2.9 inches longer overall (194.6 inches total) and 2.2 inches wider.
To push the performance aspect, there’s a 10-speed automatic transmission and brake-by-wire technology lifted from the NSX supercar, plus variable ratio electric power steering and torque vectoring. You get another one of Acura’s trademark Dynamic Mode knobs right at the top of the ladder of pushbutton transmission controls, just asking you to throw it into sport all of the time, and tighten up those adjustable dampers, quicken the throttle response and even boost the exhaust note.
All of it means more go, more agility and certainly a sportier look, with a very long hood and an extended, European-looking cabin.
Safety is also a big part of the picture and the car’s multiple automatic systems, plus a one-of-a-kind multi-chamber front passenger airbag which deploys like a giant catcher’s mitt, helped it earn the extra-level IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus.
I still did not intuitively figure out Acura’s new True Touchpad Interface, a wide, curved input pad for navigation and entertainment. The concept is that what you see on the screen is geometrically mapped onto the controller, versus all the scrolling and pointing of other brands. Let me see if I master it next time around.
Meanwhile, I also had a bit of extra time last year with the vehicle that’s turned into Acura’s top-selling SUV, the RDX – itself, again, in a flashy A-Spec edition, featuring a 272-horsepower four-cylinder turbo, a $47,195 price tag and … well, if you’re paying attention, a whole bunch of factors that are very similar to the TLX, just in taller SUV style.
My suspicion is that the RDX may offer the height and presence you’re looking for during a much-anticipated full week of snow and treacherous highway outings.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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