2015 Acura TLX Prototype First Look
A Promising Preview of Acura's Non-SUV Future
While the MDX regularly sells better in one month than every Acura sedan combined, that may not be the case once the 2015 TLX arrives midway through the 2014 calendar year. Debuting at the 2014 Detroit auto show in prototype form, the slightly toned-down 2015 Acura TLX production sedan will streamline the luxury automaker's sedan lineup, simultaneously replacing the TSX and TL with one ambitious four-door that was designed and developed in the U.S. The 2015 TLX is Acura's latest chance to prove its sedans are worth just as much consideration as the better-selling RDX and MDX crossovers. But will the TLX be met with the same lukewarm reception as the smaller ILX?
We're guessing it won't. The four-cylinder 2015 Acura TLX will use an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with a torque converter and the V-6 will be mated to a nine-speed automatic. We haven't (yet) seen either transmission on a Honda-badged vehicle, making it a little tougher for buyers to eschew Acura for a Honda with the same features. Trickling down from the flagship RLX to the TLX prototype are Jewel Eye LED headlights and the Precision All-Wheel Steer four-wheel steering system (P-AWS) to enhance handling. We're curious just how hard drivers must run the production-spec TLX with P-AWS feel the technology kick in.
New for Acura design -- and something we'll have to see on the street to appreciate -- the TLX prototype's side mirrors have LEDs fused into their bases; turn on your indicator and the lights are said to provide a "moving glow" around the mirror's bottom edge. Overall, the new TLX prototype has a refined design with a luxurious feel, but there's nothing bold about the prototype except for the bright red paint and the show car 20-inch wheels. The design has promise, but we look forward to seeing the actual production car.
The TLX prototype's 190.2-inch length splits the difference between the 2014 TSX and TL; it's 3.8 inches shorter than the TL and 4.6 inches longer than the TSX. In wheelbase, the TLX prototype is 109.3 inches, identical to that of the TL and Accord sedan, and 2.9 inches longer than that of the TSX.
The 2015 Acura TLX will offer front-wheel drive with both engines: a direct-injection 2.4-liter I-4 that's lighter than the one under the hood of the 201-hp 2014 Acura TSX and a direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6. How the power output of those engines compares to the 2.4-liter and 3.5-liter engines in other Honda products is not yet clear. The 2.4-liter Accord sedan makes 185-189 hp and the 3.5-liter RDX produces 273 hp. A new version of Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive will be made available on the V-6 model with the nine-speed automatic. That transmission as well as the four-cylinder model's eight-speed dual-clutch automatic (which delivers rev-matching downshifts) will help both TLX models reach the top of the car's segment, Acura says, in EPA-rated fuel economy. There's no mention of a manual transmission on the TLX, so until Acura surprises us with a late-release TLX V-6 SH-AWD 6M model, the tens of buyers ready to put their money where their mouth is will have to shop somewhere else.
When front- or all-wheel-drive TLX drivers are after maximum efficiency, they can switch the four-mode Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) to the Econ mode. From Econ and Normal to Sport and the new Sport+ mode, IDS can adjust the electric power steering, throttle response, transmission shift mapping, SH-AWD or P-AWS tuning, HVAC controls, and even the Active Noise Control settings -- because when you're burning up a winding road, you'll probably want to hear the engine working.
With Active Noise Control as well as enhanced body stiffness, body sealing, and sound insulation, Acura promises the 2015 TLX will feature "vault-like quietness." That's a bold statement coming from a company not known for whisper-quiet cabins. On the safety technology front, the 2015 Acura TLX will have higher-trim buyers covered, with the neat Lane Keeping Assist system that's a bit spooky at first (on the MDX and RLX), adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, a blind spot monitoring system, plus a forward collision warning system and a Collision Mitigation Braking system. When those safety systems fail to keep the TLX out of trouble, Acura claims the car will get a five-star overall safety score from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.
If all that safety talk doesn't thrill you, perhaps the TLX prototype's amusingly named Acura Athletic Red Pearl paint color will. No? The 2015 Acura TLX may not set the FWD/AWD premium sport sedan segment on fire, but the Detroit show prototype's details suggest the automaker is ready to get back in the game. With the TL and TSX on the way out, and the ILX and RLX receiving mixed reviews, Acura needs a hit sedan. Soon, we'll find out whether the 2015 TLX is up to the challenge.