MSRP as tested: $49,290 (generous discounts available)
Specs: Naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 (290 hp, 267 lb.-ft. torque), paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission
0-100kmh as tested: 5.9 seconds
The Acura TLX might not be the quickest or flashiest car in the segment, but it sure is engaging to drive. Most sports sedans nowadays simply lack the old school charm and feeling of direct connection with the road that the TLX offers, nor do their turbocharged 4 cylinders sound nearly as good as the naturally aspirated V6 engine found in the AWD TLX models.
Unfortunately the TLX is also quite dated on the inside, utilizing mediocre build materials, an ancient infotainment system, old technology, and an uninspiring design. Buyers looking for the greatest and latest in their sport sedans may want to eliminate the TLX from their shopping list or wait for the all new 2021 TLX arriving later this year, but for those looking for a great deal, excellent reliability, and a car that’s an absolute blast to drive, the TLX still represents a great option.
The driving experience is the TLX's main selling point. While it isn't necessary the most capable sports sedan out there, there's no denying it's one of the most fun-to-drive; its smiles-per-dollars simply can't be beat by any other car in its segment. The TLX offers a connected-to-the-road feeling, handles wonderfully with accurate and nicely weighted steering, and an excellent suspension setup that minimizes body roll while providing a surprisingly comfortable ride body. Cornering grip is quite confidence inspiring, thanks to Acura’s SH-AWD (Super Handling AWD) system doing a marvellous job of diverting power to the outer wheels during tight turns.
With 290 horsepower in the 3.5L V6, the TLX reached 100km/h in 5.9 seconds during our testing, a little disappointing considering rivals manage the same feat with smaller engines and less horsepower. With its naturally aspirated power plant, power delivery is buttery smooth and consistent throughout the power band, though it doesn't feel quite as punchy as turbocharged rivals when it kicks down. The exhaust note from within the cabin is also quite lovely for both 2.4L and 3.5L engine choices, though for some reason, sounds quite muted from the outside.
Surprisingly, ride comfort is best-in-class in the TLX, even in our tester's A-Spec Elite model with its relatively large wheels, sport-oriented chassis, and sport-tuned suspension. In fact, the only vehicle in the class that can beat the TLX in ride comfort and smoothness is the Lexus IS. With such a capable suspension and chassis, its a shame that Acura doesn't offer a more powerful variant to compete directly with the likes of the BMW M340i, Audi S4, and Mercedes C43 AMG, though this will hopefully change with the introduction of the TLX Type-S next year.
The interior on the other hand is a huge letdown, and could be a deal breaker for many. Apologies to TLX fans for being blunt, but the cold hard truth is that the 2020 TLX is woefully outdated, and simply can’t match the rest of the competition when it comes to interior build quality, design, or tech. The dual-screen infotainment system is maddeningly complicated to use, and looks ancient with its washed-out colour display and tiny slow touchscreen. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, so you may be able to avoid the worst of the stock infotainment system.
More disappointing is the subpar materials and build quality. In our test vehicle, the centre armrest lid was loose and made rattling noises when going over bumps, the A-pillar interior panels were poorly fitted and on the verge of coming loose, and cheap plastics were used everywhere from the dash, to the door panels, to the centre console. Having recently driven the excellent Acura RDX, it's shocking how different the two are when it comes to interior quality and design, at a similar price point. Perhaps this is just a testament to how far Acura has come in a few short years, or perhaps out test vehicle was simply a dud. Either way, pretty disappointing for a nearly brand new and fully loaded $50K car with just 10,000 km on the clock.
The TLX is a sharp looking sport sedan, and looks especially snazzy dressed up in A-Spec guise. Accented by its distinctive Jewel-Eye LED headlights and open pentagonal grille up front, and a spoiler, black diffuser, and massive dual exhausts at the rear end, it certainly looks the part, and has a uniquely aggressive yet classy vibe to it.
Ownership and Service Experience:
Think of Acura dealers as slightly more upscale Honda dealers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them, the facilities are adequate, and you’re always treated with respect, but they also fail to offer that special customer experience that luxury car buyers might come to expect. Then again, you’re also paying a much lower price for the car and for servicing, so perhaps this minor trade-off makes sense, or is even appealing to some. Just don’t go in with Lexus-levels of customer service expectations, and you should be satisfied with your experience. One last note, if you're an enthusiast, you'll love the Acura owners' community which is filled with likeminded owners, as well as all sorts of meets and events.
Recommended Build: SH-AWD A-Spec ($41,196 CAD)
Our tester was stupidly expensive due to being the fully loaded 'SH-AWD A-Spec Elite' model, coming in at nearly $50K CAD before taxes or fees. Granted, there are quite some generous discounts currently available, with some buyers reporting up to $10K-15K off the MSRP price. And you can save even more by going with a lower trim level, without giving up too many extra features.
We think SH-AWD is a must-have option, adding AWD, enhanced handling and cornering capabilities, and upgrading the standard 2.4L 204 hp 4-cylinder to a larger 3.5L 290 hp V6, all for a $5000 premium. Even if you're on a budget, try to avoid the base 2.4L engine if possible, which feels a bit unresponsive and could dampen the excellent driving experience. Our choice would be the SH-AWD A-Spec which comes in at $41,196 before discounts. The SH-AWD Tech is also worthy of consideration at $41,896, removing the A-Spec package in exchange for niceties such as a blind-spot monitoring system, heated steering wheel, premium audio system, and nicer leather seats. Any trim higher than this simply isn't worth it in our opinion (simply adding extra features such as ventilated seats, wireless phone charging, and parking sensors for a few extra thousand dollars), unless you manage to get a massive discount that negates the price difference.