2015 Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance

Back in the day when there were Yellow Pages—yes, there still are Yellow Pages, but one is undoubtedly more likely to avail oneself of Google or Yelp—companies sometimes created names that would allow them to show up early in the listings.

Back in the day when there were Yellow Pages—yes, there still are Yellow Pages, but one is undoubtedly more likely to avail oneself of Google or Yelp—companies sometimes created names that would allow them to show up early in the listings. That is (for those of you who are unfamiliar with the way the YP is organized), if a company is in the repair business, it might want a name like “AAAA Repair” because that would show up before “Bob’s Repair.” “Awesome Pizza” would precede “Giuseppe’s Pies.”

Whether or not it actually worked is something else entirely. But the early initial letter certainly got a company ahead of the others.

Acura probably wishes that there were more people who used a Yellow Pages when looking for a car. Somehow, when you ask someone to name luxury brands—even Japanese luxury brands—Acura gets left off the list. BMW or Mercedes. Lexus or Infiniti. Audi. Cadillac. Even Lincoln.

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But its relative longevity notwithstanding (Acura was introduced in 1986—Lexus three years later), somehow it has managed to elude the attention, and the sales, that its competitors have racked up.

Which is really a shame, because the company makes some damn fine vehicles.

Case in point: the TLX.

The TLX is a midsize sports sedan. One of the things that Honda has long been known for is its powertrain technology and. . .

“Wait a minute,” you say. “This is a story about Acura. Why are you now talking about Honda?”

Well, as Toyota is to Lexus, Nissan to Infiniti, and VW to Audi, Honda is to Acura.

And Honda is a world’s class powertrain developer. While there are people who actually work for “Acura,” one shouldn’t forget the roots of where they come from. And in this instance, it is a good thing.

Because this is the “sports” sedan territory, the TLX is this particular case has a considerable amount of powertrain and driveline technology that makes the vehicle, well, sporty. As in a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and which is mated to a nine-speed automatic (yes, there are paddle shifters).

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In addition to which, there is SH-AWD, which is “Super Handling-All Wheel Drive,” which is better known by its acronym, as the other version sounds like something that might come out of Nintendo.

The all-aluminum engine features direct injection and variable cylinder management, which means that when cruising along at highway speeds, for example, three of the six cylinders can be shut off to save fuel. And speaking of shutting things off, there is idle-stop capability (a.k.a., a “start-stop system”), which means when, say, at a stop light, the engine will shut off, again for purposes of fuel savings.

One of the problems that vexes some start-stop systems is that upon restart it can be a jarring event. So Acura has deployed a 28-Volt “Active Control” engine mount that counteracts those sudden vibrations.

As mentioned, the nine-speed transmission has paddle shifters. What is in some ways more interesting, and which will be used each and every time you drive the TLX, is an electronic pushbutton gear selector mounted on the center console where the shift leaver would otherwise be located. This not only opens up space, but it also makes for a more attractive control layout.

SH-AWD is a torque vectoring system. Acura has been working SH-AWD for a number of years and has used it to great effect in the MDX SUV. This hydraulically controlled system is most helpful in cornering situations—at high speeds or low—by transferring torque to the wheel that needs it the most.

The TLX is a clean-sheet car for Acura, meaning that there is an all new platform that was developed to help make Acura more competitive in the sport-sedan territory. There is four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link setup in the rear). The car uses a cast-aluminum and steel front subframe that’s mean to keep the driver and passengers from feeling jolted by the road surface. In addition to which there are amplitude reactive dampers that deploy two separate damping pistons, one to accommodate minor inputs in ordinary driving and the other to handle damping when the car is being driven hard.

A point of the TLX is that it can be driven hard, but when doing so it isn’t a situation where you feel like you are exhausted from the experience.

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Acura apparently recognizes that cars are most often driven by regular people under regular circumstances, as opposed to actual or would-be race drivers who live on a mountain top that can only be reached by roads with more twists and turns than a ziggurat. One indication of this is that driving modes can be selected via pushbutton that include ECON, Normal, Sport, and Sport +, with the first being a means to optimize fuel efficiency; Sport adjusting the throttle, steering and SH-AWD rear-wheel torque vectoring; Sport + also adjusting transmission mapping.

The interior is well executed. Acura interior designers call their approach to the front seats “dual personal structure,” which pretty much means that what the driver needs is readily at hand, and the center console can be accessed by either the driver or the passenger. I found the lines on the instrument panel to be well thought-out—it seems as though someone was really paying attention to their task and executed well.

Yes, there are screens, an eight-inch color screen high in the instrument panel and a lower seven-inch screen that has menus in place of a plethora of buttons. (Although there are still buttons.)

The vehicle as driven has the “Advance Package,” which includes things like collision mitigation braking (if you don’t pay attention to its alert that you’re going to bang into something, it will apply the binders itself), adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow (let’s face it—what’s more tedious than slow going?), lane departure warning, and more. And, of course, there is all of the other now-obligatory tech on offer (e.g., navigation, Sirius XM, etc.).

From a styling standpoint, the TLX seems to be a design with more confidence, which means dialing back on some of the “look-at-me” characteristics of previous generations of Acura cars and trucks. To the company’s credit, it doesn’t seem as though it is trying to be something from another brand. It is as though after all these years, Acura is really coming back into its own.

Sedans are facing rough sledding in the market right now as it is smooth going for SUVs, especially for compact SUVs like the Acura RDX. But for those who are in the market for a luxury sport sedan, it is certainly well worth it to start at the beginning of the alphabet and to check out Acura.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC, DI V6

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 290 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Steering: Electric power assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 190.3 in.

Width 73 in.

Height: 57 in.

Passenger volume: 93.3 cu. ft.

Curb weight: 3,774 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 21/31/25 mpg