2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite Road Test Review

By : Trevor Hofmann
  Acura’s TLX is more popular than you might think, and for good reason. At just over $35k it’s the best deal in its class, while still boasting a sporty 206-hp 2.4L four, 8-speed dual-clutch auto with paddles, four-wheel steering, alloys, LED headlamps, proximity access, pushbutton start, auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, two-zone auto HVAC, a multi-angle rearview camera, heated power front seats with memory, and more, while our top-line tester came with a 290-hp V6, AWD, 9-speed auto, leather, cooled front and heated re.......
Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up sounds amazing on the 2016 TLX SH-AWD Elite's audio system, the resonant bass tone all-absorbing
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
and Kate Bush's hauntingly beautiful chorus vocal showing its depth of quality, while the theme of the song seems fitting for Acura too.

Let's face it. While Honda's luxury brand was the first of the Japanese upstarts to arrive in North America just over 30 years ago, it hasn't exactly protracted its compass style "A" logo to cover the entire earth like its Japanese peers, having added Hong Kong in 1991, Mexico in 2004, China in 2006, Russia in 2014 and Kuwait in 2015, but it's made a more significant dent in both the Canadian and U.S. markets where it simultaneously started than Infiniti. Actually, its 2015 sales nearly doubled Infiniti's 11,321 at 21,003, and came impressively close to knocking Lexus off its game, Toyota's luxury brand only capable of 22,025 sales last year. All three have a long way to go before Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz start worrying, the luxury sector triumvirate accounting for 26,754, 35,002, and 43,810 respective deliveries last year.

2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Acura's hold on the most important "compact" D-segment sport-luxury sedan segment has long lacked grip. Last year it delivered about half as many TLX sedans as BMW sold 3 Series and Mercedes retailed the C-Class, and while the former competitor also offers five-door hatch and wagon variants and the latter rival purveys a two-door coupe and convertible, these body styles don't register anywhere near as much on the sales chart as the four-door sedan. On the positive the TLX came very close to Audi A4 sales numbers and outsold Lexus' IS, Infiniti's Q50, Cadillac's ATS, Volvo's S60 and others in the segment, so there are definitely some strengths to build on.

The strengths start with the TLX' inherent value proposition. In this respect some might point to greater size for the money, but it's only slightly longer than all of its peers with one of the larger trunks at 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet), its wheelbase being
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
on the shorter side while width and height ride the middle ground. More importantly the TLX' base and fully loaded pricing is most affordable in the class (if you don't include the Buick Regal), and its standard and optional features set is even more impressive.

At $35,690 plus freight and dealer fees, the standard list includes a wonderfully rev-happy 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox with paddles, four-wheel steering, cornering enhancing Agile Handling Assist, amplitude reactive dampers, 17-inch alloys, auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlamps, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
indicators, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, an acoustic windshield with a de-icer, active noise cancellation and active sound control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto climate control, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a garage door remote, a powered moonroof, a multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, satellite radio, a 10-way powered driver's seat with two-way powered lumbar and two-position memory, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, heatable front seats, leatherette upholstery, a capless fuel system, all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver's knee airbag, plus more.

That's a lot of kit for $35k. Most rivals don't even start anywhere near this range, while the $48,190 SH-AWD Elite model tested elevates things by a solid notch or three.
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Just moving up to SH-AWD trim replaces the four-wheel steering while adding a wonderfully refined and powerful 3.5-litre V6 capable of 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, a slightly smoother shifting conventional nine-speed automatic, auto engine start/stop to keep fuel economy at a reasonable 11.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.6 combined compared to the base FWD model's 9.6 city, 6.6 highway and 8.3 combined rating, plus 18-inch alloys on 225/50 R18 all-seasons, a colour TFT multi-information display, and an eight-way power adjustable front passenger's seat, while the Technology package adds proximity access for the rear doors, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, perforated Milano leather upholstery, a heatable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, voice recognition, AcuraLink connectivity, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, upgraded Acura/ELS surround audio with Dolby Pro Logic II and 10 speakers including a sub, heatable rear seats, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and more.

2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
trim takes things to a new level altogether, adding headlamp washers, LED fog lights, auto-dimming side mirrors, perimeter/approach puddle lights, ventilated front seats, automatic seatbelt pre-tensioners, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, front and rear parking sensors, collision mitigation braking with heads-up warning, lane departure warning with steering wheel haptic feedback, and road departure mitigation. Still, even with all of these features the TLX SH-AWD Elite doesn't earn a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS while the smaller ILX and larger RLX sedans, plus the compact RDX and midsize MDX SUVs do. At least all trims achieve five stars in each NHTSA crash test category, which is as good as it gets.

To put the TLX value proposition into context, many TLX rivals haven't been able to put together such a thorough list of leading tech features even though they charge thousands more, while Acura leaves little off the table when it comes to quality
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
materials, refinement and comfort, whereas performance is certainly on par with the leaders until you get up into their most powerful variants. The TLX targets the middle ground anyway, knowing it likely wouldn't attract those focused on 350-plus horsepower super sedans even if something similar was offered, but instead delivering a more premium product than it's ever done before.

As noted the V6 performs strongly and Acura's oddly but justifiably named "Super-Handling" AWD combines with a stiff body structure for tremendous grip no matter the road condition, the only weakness in the powertrain coming from a transmission
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
that doesn't shift as quickly as its more performance-oriented challengers, the delay between flicking the paddle and the gearbox responding about two seconds even when in Sport Plus mode. That's something Acura will want to sort out before it can seriously compete with the road warrior crowd, but those who lean towards pampering will appreciate a truly compliant fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension that delivers a wonderfully smooth ride. It's extremely quiet too, thanks in part to soft touch surfacing in key areas and fabric-wrapped pillars all-round, not to mention plenty of sound deadening materials behind the scenes.

With respect to refinement, the TLX interior is very nicely crafted with loads of attractive metallic trim, woodgrain, leathers, high quality switchgear and colourful electronic
2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
interfaces, not to mention pliable premium surfaces applied across the upper half of the cabin plus the glove box lid, whereas the door inserts and armrests are beautifully done out in contrast-stitched padded leatherette, but it still relies on lower grade hard plastics in areas that top sellers finish with higher grade soft synthetics, most notably the lower door panels and the console between the seats, while Acura should spend more money to make the woodgrain inlays feel realistic. A simple powered glass sunroof sits overhead, but an overhead console gets filled with AcuraLink and Acura Assist features plus a handy sunglasses holder.

2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
dual-screen infotainment system can be a little overwhelming visually, but it's laid out better than previous versions and once familiarized, fairly easy to use. I like that it offers multiple functions simultaneously, competitive systems splitting their screens to do likewise, the upper screen controlled by a large rotating knob and various buttons on the interface below, and the lower display controlled directly by touch, whereas the dual-zone auto HVAC system uses both the touchscreen and a row of buttons below. Additionally there's a small multi-information display between the primary gauges that can be operated via a dial on the right steering wheel spoke. Also smart, Acura includes the button for heating the steering wheel rim under the left spoke for easy access, while the same area under the right spoke is occupied by the adaptive cruise control.

2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
TLX' most obvious idiosyncrasy is its unorthodox gear selector on the lower console, which uses a combination of push and pull buttons to select the usual PRND transmission choices, with the electromechanical parking brake built into the rear portion of the housing. It's impressively made from high quality materials, but other than being different and eliminating the height of a gear lever I don't see its benefit. Rather than saving console space it actually takes up more room than an old school gear lever would, and isn't as easy to get used to as the rotating dial selectors used by some competitors. Also unusual, the key fob must have been designed by someone who predominantly uses purses, as it's much too large to comfortably fit in your pocket.

2016 Acura TLX SH-AWD Elite
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
of space there's plenty in the TLX, it front seats roomy and rear passenger compartment quite good for the class. As noted the trunk is large and 60/40-split seatbacks allow stowage of longer items like skis if required. Still, competitors offer 40/20/40-split seats that let rear passengers enjoy the outboard seats on the way back from the ski hill, eliminating quarrels about who gets to use the rear seat heater.

I'm nitpicking I know, because generally speaking the TLX is an excellent sport-luxury sedan worthy of its strong sales. Certainly there's room to improve, but again I point to excellent value that few rivals come close to matching.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)
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