Last year, Acura replaced its two smallest sedans with one, the all-new 2015 TLX
The base, four-cylinder TLX 2.4L ($32,365, including transportation) effectively replaced the compact TSX; the six-cylinder 3.5L ($36,240) took over for the midsize TL.
In October, I tested a loaded 3.5L AWD. Acura’s torque-vectoring AWD system lent it a nimble athleticism and promised superior foul-weather performance. Its 290-horsepower six spun out acceptable, if not mind-blowing, acceleration, and delivered 25 mpg combined/21 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
Given its competence, affordability and understated persona, I suggested the TLX 3.5L AWD might be the “ … ideal near-luxury car for the Inland Northwest.”
The 2.4L, which I’ve just driven, is another matter altogether.
At 3,483 pounds, the beginner TLX is lighter by 100 pounds than its six-cylinder, FWD counterpart, and by 265 pounds than a six with AWD. With less bulk — and with the departure of 100 pounds from over the front axle, especially — the 2.4L is more lithe and responsive than the 3.5L trims.
The effect is sharpened by Acura’s Precision All-wheel Steer System (PAW-S), which is standard on four-cylinder trims. PAW-S causes the rear wheels to pivot slightly in the direction of a turn. This counters the tendency of a front-drive car to understeer, a condition in which the front tires lose grip, causing the front end to “plow.”
PAW-S tightens a corner by “steering” the rear end around the arc, like the trailing steering apparatus on a fire truck. Corners can be taken faster and with greater control.
On the winding dirt road outside our house, the effect was striking. The harder I pushed, the more dramatic the response from the rear end. At sane speeds, the action allowed the TLX to track neatly around quick corners even on loose gravel.
I’m not saying one couldn’t drive oneself into the ditch, but a degree of foolishness would be required.
The 206-hp 2.4-liter direct-injected four is mated with an eight-speed automated double-clutch transmission that acts, with hyper-natural precision, to keep the engine in its sweet spot. On uphill grades, nearly imperceptible downshifts keep engine speeds within about 1,1000 and 2,000 RPM. Four drive modes include a Sport-Plus mode that sharpens shifts and holds gears longer before shifting. Paddle shifters allow the driver to dial up the level of aggression.
My tester included a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) that presages the self-driving car. Edge the TLS too closely to a centerline or shoulder stripe and the system nudges the TLX back into its lane.
At 50 mph on a curvy two-lane, LKAS steered happily until insisting that I resume control.
With LKAS switched off, the TLX reverts to a conventional driving mode. When on, it acts only if the turn-signal indicator has not been engaged.
In all other respects, the near-luxury TLX satisfies class expectations. Well-outfitted in base trim, it can be optioned to include nearly every imaginable creature comfort and convenience feature.
However you take it, four-cylinder or six, the TLX is a bold new stroke from a company that deserves a win in the sedan wars.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2015 Acura TLX 2.4L Tech
Base price: $31,445
Trim level base price: $35,025
As tested: $35,920
Options: The TLX Tech is a fully equipped trim; our tester included no options.
EPA ratings: 28 combined/24 city/35 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required