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Our Acura TLX Reveal Impressions

  • Posted: 01-20-2014 02:44 AM
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Much to the dismay of those of us who view the Acura TSX (at least the first iteration of it) as <a href="">one of the best vehicles Honda has ever made</a>, the seers' premonitions have been revealed; the TSX is dead. That is it. I won't pine on about it. Moving on.

The TLX's reveal, we hope, is a symbol of Acura attempting to reach back to the success of the third generation TL while employing technology and innovation honed in subsequent models. We'll confirm this prediction when the chassis specs and weight are revealed for the TLX, but it would seem that the public’s love of the 2004-08 TL's package would be something Acura would want to cash in on again. Encouragingly the reveal was rife with allusions to the highly athletic pretenses that will embody the TLX. The reveal speech was also met with the deafening roar of crickets at its summation. Hard not to be bored. Acura failed to really woo enthusiasts with a manual trans and a turbocharged production variant. And the styling: Typical.

That is until the Realtime Racing GT racecar was unveiled. Now, you have our attention. You've given the enthusiast "tuner" base something to look forward to. "I want to build a performance version, too!" Unfortunately, as tuners, we love taking things to the next level but rarely are willing to take the plunge to be dramatically different. With a bad-ass version out there already, we suspect the aftermarket will be encouraged to jump on this car earlier than the last TSX, TL, and the ILX.

What this also gives the nay-sayers is that the TLX is going to gun against some very serious iron this year; CTS-Vs, R8s, 911 GT3s, SLS...the list is impressive. Infiniti isn't there. This will be something for us to watch.

Realtime Racing campaigning the the TLX in GT class is upping the ante on their long-running success racing Acura vehicles. Acura and Realtime cannot afford to chirp like crickets against the fire-breathers they are now going to be up against. Realtime has worked magic with numerous double-wishbone Acuras. They have not with MacPherson Strut RSXs. Instead of focusing on the deliciously powerful twin-turbo V6 under the GT's hood, I am looking at the struts attaching the latest generation's Accord hub carriers to the chassis. Will Realtime find the sharp handling they will need to be dominant in the GT class? We'd be silly to assume the TLX chassis will be shared with anything other than the latest Accord, both in Japan and the USA.

At least is that previous thought is true, we can be done with those despicable compliance bushings.

Unfortunately, the TLX won't come with a powertrain worth lusting over (the one in in the GT car developed by HPD would do, but no). A naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine and the latest version of the 3.5L V6 will be the two options, both with direct injection. Honda builds fantastic engines, but the "T" word is conspicuously absent from the two powerplants we've been presented. With seemingly every small engine getting a turbocharger these days, even those in Hondas meant for other countries, we want to know when it is going to be our turn. The RDX was burdened with too much weight and no direct-injection; destined to fail with abysmal fuel economy from a 2.3L engine. Did the poor sales of this SUV leave such a sour taste in Honda’s mouth for forced induction? Honda knows it can do more with less weight employing a V6 as opposed to a turbo-four. But that does not get the enthusiast drooling. We want boost!

Also failing to invoke drool is the styling. With a body only a Honda enthusiast could love and the rest of the car world "doesn't get," the TLX shows great in red. It has very smooth lines which harken the heritage of previous models while also showing a soft, sexy flow that can only be categorized as "bland" and "boring" until the car is lowered on some nice looking wheels. It has haunches. The hips represent boldness from serially-conservative Honda/Acura. People are quick to call out cues from other cars; but originality is truly hard to come by these days. The grille continues to be polarizing, although only in the eyes of the sensationalists; the grille is tasteful and scaled well to the proportions of the car. In fact the shape and placement of the grille is not far off from the 2004-08 Acura models this car might draw spiritual lineage to.

Honda has a knack for creating understated designs which become timeless, but it takes time to realize this truth. We'll love the TLX 4 years from now, just as we love the TSX of today, 4 years after wincing at it (and the bugeye 1996 Civic, 4 years after ridiculing it). However it would not be surprising to see a warming to the TLX in a much shorter time-frame than recent models have required.

One hope of ours is that some interior color flexibility can be baked in to this product. Europeans charging premiums for the metallic flake in their paint seems a lot more palatable when one gets to choose coordinating interior and exterior colors. Enthusiasts often prefer black interiors but white and red Hondas and Acuras are typically limited to tan innards that send them reeling to black, blue, or silver exteriors.

Then there is also the future to consider. The second-generation TSX got a V6 engine in its second year, and the second year forth-generation TL SH-AWD got a manual transmission. What is in store for the future TLX? Indeed, we still know very little about the upcoming car. We're anxiously awaiting the chassis specs. We'd like to see the wheelbase and weight of the vehicle. And definitely if the performance is there in both the 8-speed four cylinder and 9-speed V6 models, we should see a good, healthy resurgence of the aftermarket which seemed to stray from the 2009-14 TSX and TL. Yes, a manual would be the cat’s meow on the base TLX; but a good dual-clutch trans might just be a reasonable compromise. We’ll need to drive one to see.

Acura has taken a path of technology to woo buyers of late. There is no doubt that the amount of gadgets in their recent cars is staggering and the TLX will be no exception. Whether or not all that is needed these days is debatable. While focus groups will tell OEMs the more bells and whistles the better, it gets annoying having to sift through automotive journalists’ complaints of confounding arrays of buttons and every expanding owners’ manuals begetting more comprehensive quick-start guides. When the tires hit the pavement we want the pride that comes with being seen and feeling confident. A goofy radio knob and led lights certainly help make cars feel special, but investing too heavily in gadgets fails to appeal to the fuel-blooded enthusiasts who are the ones that "have to have" that car.

So, to summarize our stance on the TLX: Acura wants this car to be their bread and butter. If they haven't got so many wires in the dash as to push the car over 3500 lbs in V6 FWD trim, and maybe 3800 in SH-AWD, make ours the approximate size and weight of a 3g TL; as much as we want the four cylinder's efficiency and dual-clutch trans, we want SH-AWD and therefore who'd we be to turn down a V6 engine?

And please…make more than a few dozen in white on black.


David Spalding
02-12-2014 08:41 PM at 8:41 PM
Well said, sir! I haven't driven the 2gen TSX, but a few in-person looks, a "get acquainted" session behind the wheel in a showroom, and ... I wasn't impressed. Meh. The body lines on this new model certainly show the same singular vision that my CL9 displays. I look forward to hearing more about this vehicle. As my CL9 with mods (most from you guys) nears 200k miles, I'll be looking to Honda for another "exceeds expectations" model, or moving to the T side of Import St.

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