2015 Acura TLX first drive review

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Whatever happened to the Legend, the Integra, or even the Vigor? Acura used to have such brilliant, instantly recognizable model names. Names that inspired thoughts of potential, performance, power, and style.

Now, the brand has adopted the alphabet stew that plagues so much of the rest of the luxury car world. Whether that’s for better or worse, there are aspects of the 2015 Acura TLX that remind us of the good old days of proper names—and proper cars.

How so? The new TLX is pretty darned brilliant, that’s how. It has, hands down, the best-tuned suspension you can buy for the money, especially in the entry premium/luxury segment, and that includes stalwarts like the BMW 3-Series and newcomers like the Cadillac ATS. It’s really that good.

But before we dig into the meat and potatoes of the TLX’s performance, let’s address the preliminaries: just what the heck is it?

The TLX, as its name (sort of) indicates, is the new replacement for a pair of cars: the previous TL and TSX. By merging the two into the TLX, Acura has chosen to split the two former segments, leaving its luxury sedan lineup with a three-car monte: the ILX, TLX, and RLX.

Acura’s resulting product lineup therefore offers cars that are all somewhat between segments: the ILX is, as we noted in our first drive of the car, more like a premium mainstream sedan than a true luxury car; the RLX is somewhere between the BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class the larger 7-Series/Lexus LS. The TLX, then, is somewhat larger than the common midsize luxury mold, a space inhabited by the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4, and Cadillac ATS—but smaller and lighter than the next half-step up.

And yet the TLX is priced like the half-step below. Starting at $30,995 for the four-cylinder, front-drive TLX, and working its way up to the loaded all-wheel-drive V-6 model at $44,700, the 2015 TLX manages to undercut most of the smaller cars even while delivering a competitive—if not quite equivalent—feature package.

But the TLX isn’t really meant to take on the BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, and Cadillacs of the world. Or at least it doesn’t come across that way. The Lexus IS or ES? Sure, those are fair game. Anything from Buick or Lincoln? Easy prey. The top end of the mainstream offerings from Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and even Honda? Yep, the TLX will deal handily with those too.

Why is that? Because the TLX’s materials, while nice, don’t shout true premium—certainly not in the way the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class does. The design, from the dual-screen infotainment layout, to the seats, to the rather plain and bleak passenger side of the dashboard, falls short of the style-meets-comfort aesthetic found in the upper end of the class, too. That’s not to say the car truly disappoints in any of those respects; it just doesn’t make as good a first (or second) impression.

After a good stint behind the wheel, however, none of that really matters, because you’re still getting an awful lot of performance and luxury in the TLX—it’s just mostly under the skin.

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