In a declining segment, not being best at any one thing is an issue.
– Detroit, Michigan
When you look at the sales stats for the small luxury sedan segment, from last year until now, you see an awful lot of slippage. Smaller crossovers and SUVs are taking up a lot of this slack, leaving cars like the Acura TLX struggling to find homes. And even within those sedan numbers, this is an Acura product that’s a long ways off from cracking numbers put up by Mercedes and BMW.
After a week and about 800 miles of driving in the most recent TLX – and following a stint in the quite good Acura RDX – I can see those sales figures are born out in the driving experience. This is a solid luxury sedan, but not one that seems at all ready to break out for greatness.
- Versions of this 3.5-liter V6 get used all over the Acura/Honda universe, but it fits hand-in-glove with the TLX. Maximum output of 290 horsepower is plenty to make the car feel both quick off the line and fast on the highway. The nine-speed automatic is one of the first transmissions with that many gears that I actually enjoy using, too. It mostly stays out of my way, but can be quickly geared down to take advantage of the NA V6’s rising torque curve.
- Neither overtly sporting nor completely isolating, the Acura does a decent job of having its cake and eating it, too. Yeah, most Buick products are quieter at speed and slightly better at handling rough roads, but they’re far less agile in even moderately aggressive driving. And, while rear-drivers from BMW and Mercedes are almost inherently more fun to push, they don’t have the easy, non-intimidating thing down quite so well. (Lexus does, of course.)
- Interior design isn’t exactly cutting edge. But this is a cabin that should remain attractive for years, because of the conservatively handsome (other than the infotainment system) vibe. Quality, as ever, feels top notch. There’s a reason Acuras hold their value so well, after all.
- The TLX isn’t the best at anything. There are amazing sedans in this class that are faster, cheaper, more efficient, quieter, sexier, etc. People don’t buy cars entirely based on superlatives, but having one or two to your credit certainly helps matters.
- The infotainment system is very functional, I suppose, but I’ve largely given up trying to make it feel easy to use. The two-screen setup is confusing, period. Whatever additional information I’m able to see is mitigated by the fact that managing it requires me – usually – to stop the car and figure out the interface, again.
- I personally don’t have much issue with this implementation of the pushbutton transmission. But as a staff, Motor1 seems to wish Acura would do something more conventional and easy to use right away. Remembering to push a button backwards to activate Reverse may sound logical, but after years of moving a shift lever or pulling a stalk, it does feel very odd.
Photos: James Bradbury / Motor1.com