2019 Acura TLX Tech Road Test Review

August 12 2019, North Shore Acura

2019 Acura TLX Tech Road Test Review

Measurably more car for a lot less money

The popular TLX received a thorough refresh last year, adding Acura's dramatic new "Diamond Pentagon" grille, a couple of sharper-looking lower fascias that either offers a more elegant or sportier design depending regular or new A-Spec trims, plus two cleaner, sportier rear bumper designs, these also trim dependent. The TLX already included some of the best-looking LED headlamps and an attractive set of LED taillights, but these were revised further as part of the update, while its overall profile remained just as long and sleek as it ever was.

For a bit of background, the TLX has only been with us since 2014 when it arrived as a 2015 model. It came about by eliminating the smaller TSX and larger TL, resulting in a just-right-sized D-segment sport-luxury sedan. What I mean by that is it's still a bit larger than most competitors, measuring 61 millimetres more than its nearest challenger at 4,844 mm nose to tail, while its 1,854-mm width makes it broadest in its class by 12 mm, plus its 1,447 mm height makes it tallest by a hair, or rather 4 mm. So if you want more luxury car for similar money, or more precisely significantly less money, the TLX should be high on your list.

The 2019 TLX starts at just $34,890 plus freight and fees, which is closer to the smaller entry-level models of its most competitive luxury brands than anything sized and equipped like this Acura. Some quick comparisons have the segment's next most affordable Cadillac ATS starts at $37,845, the Audi A4 at $39,800, the Lexus IS at $41,050, the Volvo S60 at $42,400, the Jaguar XE at $43,900, the Infiniti Q50 at $44,995, the Genesis G70 at $45,500, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class at $46,100, and the BMW 3 Series at $49,000, or in other words the TLX has every competitor beaten on price by a long shot.

Best-in-class pricing doesn't mean a lack of features

In case the TLX' superb pricing has you wondering whether it comes up short on features, take heed that the base model includes full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, remote engine start, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a colour TFT multi-info display, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an excellent multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way powered driver's seat with powered lumbar, remote-linked two-way memory for the driver's seat, side mirrors and climate control, a powered front passenger's seat, heated front seats, an 8.0-inch On-Demand Multi-use Display (ODMD) above a 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, seven-speaker audio, satellite radio, active noise cancellation, a Homelink universal garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and much more.

On top of that impressive list, all TLX trims boast standard AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Heads Up Warning, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), plus the segment's usual array of active and passive safety features, including an airbag for the driver's knees, while Blind Spot Information (BSI) with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor comes as part of my tester's second-rung Tech trim. 

Tech trim provides plenty of luxury features for great value

Being that I normally get fully loaded models for my testes, I was happy to learn that I'd be testing a less equipped trim this time around. Spending time with the TLX Tech was ideal because plenty of buyers choose this well-equipped model that still manages to slip under the base price points of most competitors at $38,590. Along with the just noted safety upgrades, Tech trim adds rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, an accurate navigation system with detailed mapping, voice recognition, the AcuraLink connectivity system, great sounding 10-speaker ELS Studio audio, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, an always welcome heatable steering wheel rim, heated rear outboard seats, and last but hardly least perforated Milano leather upholstery.

My tester's interior was finished in classic Ebony black, needless to say, a good match to its $500 coat of optional Platinum White Pearl exterior paint, making for an elegantly sporty four-door. The TLX' tastefully applied bright metal and glossy black exterior detailing certainly helped matters too, not to mention ample satin-silver accenting and grey woodgrain inside. Take note that Parchment tan interior could have been selected at no extra charge, so if a lighter interior is more to your liking Acura has your back. 
Despite its entry-level luxury asking price the TLX Tech interior's fit, finish and materials quality is fully up to par with its D-segment peers, many thanks to a soft-touch dash top that wraps down around the instrument panel, even to the lowest edges of the centre stack. Likewise, front and rear door uppers are finished with the same premium padded material, while the long, curving door inserts are made from really attractive contrast-stitched leather, as are the armrests at side and centre. Acura even finishes the glove box lid off with the same pliable surfacing, impressive because many in this segment don't bother going so far to pamper. Of course, each roof pillar is fabric-wrapped, and the roofline is made from an expensive feeling woven cloth. 

Faster infotainment gets updated interface and features

The primary gauge cluster is a nice straightforward combination of metal-rimmed dials with a colour multi-info display at centre, while the centre stack features Acura's latest two-tiered infotainment system, the larger top monitor controlled by a knurled metal knob and row of quick-access buttons just below the smaller display, which is a touchscreen as noted earlier.

This second-generation dual-screen system was updated last year and now processes inputs 30-percent faster while also including the aforementioned branded smartphone integration, with either the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto interface showing up top, along with the navigation system's map and route guidance inputs, and features like the climate control system, heatable front seats, and audio functions found within the lower hands-on unit.

Housing the map and destination prompts on the larger upper display makes them easier to see without removing eyes from the road, while once again Acura's route guidance is extremely accurate, has never led me astray in all the years that I've tested it. Of note, Acura chose the map for the top display's default function, which I was grateful for, as it was always handy as a quick locator. Just below, the touchscreen's graphics are even more appealing and also benefit from what seemed like a higher resolution display boasting richer colours and deeper contrast.

Of note, you can adjust some of the climate functions via the narrow row of buttons and rocker switches just below the screen, and these are some of the tightest fitting, best-damped switchgear in the business. This pretty well sums up most of the controls in the TLX' cabin.

TLX provides a roomy, comfortable and quiet cabin

Making adjustments to the side mirrors via the power controller on the door panel provided good rearward visibility, which when joined by plenty of glass in every direction, plus the auto-dimming rearview mirror and aforementioned multi-angle rearview camera, results in a car that's easy to drive through congested city traffic and tight parking lots.

The multi-adjustable driver's seat is very comfortable too, while the tilt and telescopic steering column extended the steering wheel far enough rearward to provide a comfortable seat distance for my legs while leaving my elbows properly bent for maximum control when resting the hands at 9 and 3 o'clock, plus all controls were within easy reach.

The rear seating area offers plenty of space too, plus excellent lower back comfort in the outboard positions. A large folding armrest provides a nice place for inside elbows when only two are seated in back, plus it incorporates the usual twin cupholders and a tiny open bin for holding snacks or what-have-you. Acura adds a couple of vents to the backside of the front console to keep rear passengers aerated, while a surprising three temperatures for the rear seat heaters are certainly a step up over the usual two.

The TLX' trunk makes good space as well, measuring 405 litres thanks to the car's extra length mentioned earlier. Pull-tabs release the 60/40 split seatbacks if you want to lower one side or both for longer cargo, while a handy hidden compartment resides under the cargo floor.

TLX delivers equal parts performance and efficiency

While I enjoyed the tranquillity of the well-insulated TLX cabin more often than not, I was glad that Acura allowed the high-revving base 2.4-litre engine's stimulating auditory soundtrack to seep through the front firewall when pushed. This engine is right out of the previous-generation Civic Si, so that sonorous song and rorty exhaust note ideally complements its ability to rev all the way to 6,800 rpm. You know, I can't even decide if I like this V-TEC-infused mill more than the car's optional 3.5-litre V6, and if it weren't for the larger engine's advanced SH-AWD, the FWD version might even be my first choice.

Don't get me wrong as the V6 spits out a naughty growl of its own when getting hard on the throttle, but my nod in the four-cylinder's direction has more to do with the excellence of its quick-shifting paddle-shift actuated dual-clutch eight-speed automated transmission than the engine's laudable 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. Certainly, the extra 84 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque would be had to pass up, but the four brings back the verve of youth and is one thoroughly entertaining offering all on its own.

Getting the most out of the TLX drivetrain is Acura's four-position "Dynamic Mode" driver settings, featuring default Normal, thrifty Econ, Sport and Sport + modes. The latter two really make a difference when pushing the envelope, but I left it in Econ mode when dealing with city traffic, as it was best for eking the most from a tank of fuel. Acura claims 10.0 L/100km city, 7.1 highway and 8.7 combined with the four-cylinder model, while the V6, that gets an engine idle stop-start system, does pretty well at the pump as well with a rating of 11.4, 7.7 and 9.8 respectively.

Handling is a TLX trump card

Another bonus with the smaller engine is less weight over the front wheels, so it feels a bit nimbler when pressed hard through corners and is slightly less likely to understeer. On this note, it's pretty hard to upset the TLX' nicely sorted front strut and rear multi-link suspension setup, while the car's standard 17-inch alloy wheels and 225/55 all-season tires help deliver a nice compliant ride. High-speed stability on the freeway is good too, with the car tracking nicely and wind noise kept to a minimum.

Once again, four-cylinder fans who want more can now opt for the TLX Tech A-Spec, a car I hope to cover in an upcoming review because it combines this sporty four-cylinder drivetrain with a sweet looking set of 19-inch rims on stickier 45/40 rubber, plus plenty of aerodynamic styling upgrades, and other niceties inside.

No matter the trim, the 2019 TLX is a very good choice, especially when factoring in expected reliability and stronger than average resale values that come from such a competitive value proposition at a time of purchase. Great value in mind, this TLX Tech is a very good car for a superb price, but even when you load the TLX up with maximum performance and features it's Elite SH-AWD A-Spec trim slips under the $50k affordability barrier and therefore undercuts most competitors by thousands, let alone tens of thousands. Truly, if you want an excellent D-segment sport-luxury sedan that doesn't cost you a proverbial arm and leg, spend some time in a 2019 Acura TLX. I believe you'll be glad you did.