Test Drive: 2015 Acura TLX

Luxury isn't defined by a price tag. Acura TLX is a compelling choice for less than $50,000.

2015 Acura TLX Exterior V6When it comes to vehicles, what defines luxury? Certainly, style and function play into it, as do the accouterments and amenities that elevate a vehicle into a class above the rest. Obviously, price is a good indication that you’ve hit that luxury threshold. But mostly, it’s the cachet of the nameplate. Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Range Rover — all status symbols of the highest degree.

Then there are the brands that have the goods — the quality, the looks, the amenities, the price tag — but are a tier below in terms of brand prestige. The 2015 Acura TLX falls into that category. It’s sleek, a roomy sedan loaded with standard features that surely place it into the luxury realm, but without the brand recognition that will make your friends’ and neighbors’ ears perk up at its mere mention.

And yet… there is a lot to envy in the TLX. Technically, the TLX is a luxury performance sedan, replacing the TL and slotting between the entry level ILX and the flagship RLX sedans in the lineup. Acura calls its strategy with these new sedans “Red Carpet Athlete,” suggesting red carpet worthy refinement, with athletic driving dynamics. To achieve this, a new host of driving technology, including precision handling enhancements, new engine and transmission offerings, have been introduced to make the vehicle more attuned to the road for long-distance cruising or spirited everyday driving.

It comes in three distinct model offerings: the base model with a 206-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine and eight-speed dual-clutch transmission; an upgraded version with a 290-horsepower V-6 and nine-speed automatic; and the top of the line all-wheel-drive model with the larger engine and nine-speed options.

I drove all-wheel-drive version on a recent road trip to Prescott via 1-17 and highway 69, providing the opportunity for both typical highway driving and more winding routes. Riding in the TLX is a lot like taking a drive in the comfort of your living room. Seats are comfortable and supportive; there is very little road noise intruding into the cabin; the drive is sedate and smooth. Satellite radio provides the soundtrack for the ride via a premium 10-speaker audio system, and the air-conditioning does a fine job of helping you forget the scorching heat on the outside.

2015 Acura TLX Interior V6The interior delivers on luxury, with heated perforated leather seats, power accessories, soft-touch materials throughout, and tech features like push-button start and keyless access, nav system with real-time traffic and multi-view rear camera. So while the comfort, red-carpet aspect is definitely well represented in the TLX, the “athlete” aspect is a little more questionable. Handling is deft and the sculpted exterior does present a muscular visage, but the road feel is duller than what you might expect from a sport sedan.

Safety features include blind spot warning, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking system, road-departure mitigation , and lane-keeping assist.

If you’re looking to elicit the envy of your friends by name-dropping your vehicle’s lineage, or turn heads with its crazy good looks, Acura may not be your brand. However, overall, the TLX is a great value, with the base starting at a mere $31,445, and our fully loaded, all-wheel drive model ringing in at $45,595. It’s an all-out bargain for a luxury vehicle, with a comfortable drive and all the amenities you’ll find in pricier brands without breaking the bank.

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