Welcome back, Acura. I can’t imagine the dark depression that caused you to snuff the flame of building performance cars, but the spark is coming back in the new TLX.
Punch up Sport-plus mode, flick off a double downshift of the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and push those 7,000 rpm redline shifts. It feels good and sounds good, as an Acura should.
The TLX is in the thick of the segment for sporty midsize sedans and is sold with four-cylinder and V-6 engines, two automatic transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive.
The four-cylinder TLX is sold in base 2.4L and 2.4 Tech models, both with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder.
Starting prices are $32,365 and $35,025, including the $920 freight charge from Marysville, Ohio. Fuel economy ratings on the recommended premium are 24 mpg city, 35 highway and 28 mpg combined.
The six-cylinder Acura TLX 3.5L is sold in five trim levels with rear- or all-wheel drive, a 290-hp, 3.5-ltier V-6 and nine-speed automatic. Starting prices range from $40,295 to $45,720 for the loaded SH-AWD with Advance package and Tech package.
Tech package adds voice-recognition navigation system and multiview rearview camera, AcuraLink communication system with real-time traffic, 10-speaker ELS Studio audio system with HD radio, perforated leather-trimmed leather seating, blind-spot information, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers.
I tested a 2.4L Tech and 3.5L SH-AWD ADV. The 2.4L Tech was a fair deal at $36K, though about the best I could do for a combined fuel economy was in the low 27 mpgs, just below the EPA rated 28 mpg. But I did spend most of my driving time in Sport or Sport-plus modes, which keep the minimalist horsepower on the ready. In Sport-plus the shift responses are Porsche quick with hearty rev-matching downshifts.
Both engines have stop-start at idle, which works well with the four-cylinder, but I found it to be abrupt on the restart and a count slow from lifting off the brake to hitting the gas. The system can be switched off.
But the nearly 300-horsepower of the 3.5L is rewarding and, oddly, I got about the same average mpg as I did in the four-cylinder. With a combined 27 mpg, the 3.5L beats the EPA’s 25 mpg rating, with 21 mpg city and 31 highway, on premium. The Advance Package on the tester adds features desirable for the commuter, including collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, ventilated front seats, LED fog lights and puddle lights at the side mirrors. Seven air bags are standard.
Four-wheel disc brakes — 12.6-inch vented front, 12.2-inch solid rear — are the same with either engine. And the 225/55 high-performance all-season tires are on some plain 17-inch alloy wheels.
Precision All Wheel Steer is one of the Acura separators, which tucks in the car in high-speed steering and reverses the input at slower speeds for nimbleness in parking. But all-wheel steering may be wasted on most drivers because it doesn’t do much trim the wide, 39.2-foot turning circle.
The on-road experience is near-luxury in quiet and smoothness. But the ride quality is uneven, with soft springs and firm shock absorbers. Cornering is not as sport-sedan gripping as is seen in the TV advertisements.
Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System provides driving modes of Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport-plus. Sport-plus mode is an aggressive step up from Sport and raises the throttle response and shift points to slalom readiness — or to protect your line on the daily commute. Power and quickness provide privileges.
The interior is well-appointed with an abundance of conveniences and varied textures, satin metal trim and well-padded places for elbows. But the design is boring and the faux wood trim is out of place in what should be a fashion-forward, sport-sedan environment. The dual screen for radio above and a smaller one below for other car controls is distracting, with too many hands-off-the-wheel requirements to adjust fan speeds, etc.
Back seat space allows room to spread with good views and 35.4 inches of legroom. The center position is compromised by the protruding front console and a tall transmission tunnel. Trunk space of 13.2 cubic feet has a low liftover and broad access with ample underfloor storage.
The pedal’s not quite to the floor in pushing performance, but Acura feels the heat to compete and a devil’s halo is again in reach with TLX.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage