Sometimes less is more. In Acura's case, it is looking to replace two models with one, the sum being greater than the parts. The 2015 Acura TLX is that car, replacing both the TSX, a version of the European Accord that was somewhere between a compact and midsize model, and the TL, which straddled the gap between midsize and large. The new TLX is truly a combination of the two, a midsize package that offers two entirely different powertrains designed specifically to appeal to those previous two sets of buyers as well as a whole new audience who may be shopping cars like the Lexus IS, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti Q50.

The new Acura TLX rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as the larger TL, but is 3.7 inches shorter in overall length at 190.3 inches. This more compact body is in line with other midsize models, while allowing the car to offer the same level of interior comfort. The TLX has a more fluid design with graceful character lines that flow front to rear. The face of the car has a more three-dimension look to the traditional Acura "mail slot" grille and the opening is flanked by a row of square LED lights. The TLX offers full LED lighting on all models and the face of the car has strong links to the upcoming 2015 Acura NSX sports car.

Two powertrain approaches

Beneath the hood are two different transversely mounted powertrains. The standard front-drive TLX comes with a 2.4-liter direct injected 4-cylinder engine making 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to the auto industry's first 8-speed dual clutch transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother launches than standard DCTs, while allowing faster shifts than a conventional automatic transmission. The combination is expected to deliver 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway (respective gains of 2 and 4 mpg) with a combined rating of 28 mpg.

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Acura will offer two versions with V6 power. The six has a displacement of 3.5 liters with 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Both are equipped with 9-speed automatic gearboxes, but one will drive the front-wheels only, while the second variant is equipped with Acura's Super Handling-All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).  The latter model features an all-new hydraulically actuated rear differential that not only improves traction, but also handling by using torque vectoring across the rear axle to help the car turn in more quickly.

Four wheel steering

The SH-AWD isn't the only technology improving handling on TLX models. The front-drive versions use Acura's Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) to increase dynamic agility and ease of low speed operation. When parking or tight cornering, the rear wheels steer in opposite phase to reduce the turning radius in the former and to sharpen turn-in in the latter. When braking, the rear steering will toe-in the wheels to provide additional stopping power. During lane change maneuvers, the rear wheels will steer in phase with the front axle for quick transitions.

By offering three versions of the TLX, two front drive models with either 4- or 6-cylinder power and a flagship 6-cylinder with all-wheel drive, there is something for everyone when it comes to the driving experience. The 4-cylinder model feels nimble, much like the previous TSX, thanks to its slightly lighter nose and the assist from the rear-steering system. The 8-speed dual clutch transmission, which has steering wheel-mounted paddles in addition to the conventional console mounted shift lever, is smooth, refined and quick in changing gears, further adding to the sporting flair of the 2.4-liter package, which has plenty of power for a car this size.

Even more refined V6

Step up to the V6 and the 2015 Acura TLX takes on a different demeanor. The additional power and the super smooth 9-speed transmission makes this model feel like a class-above luxury cruiser. The V6 is also equipped with cylinder deactivation to help improve fuel economy and employs active noise cancellation to keep noise levels in check with the engine operating on three cylinders. This system also provides additional dampening of road and tire noise that contribute to the car's quiet cabin. While all models have start/stop push buttons, the V6 versions also use buttons for the transmission, with a round one for drive, rectangular for park and a recessed square for reverse, which pulls back to engage. 

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All models are equipped with four driving modes-Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+. In Econ, both the throttle actuation and transmission shifts are programmed to deliver maximum fuel economy. In addition, the climate control system is dialed back to reduce engine load and idle stop/start is engaged. Normal uses the baseline settings for throttle and transmission response, stop/start is engaged, however the climate control operates at normal levels. In Sport, the shifts and throttle response are more aggressive, stop/start is disabled and the steering has a higher effort. Sport+ will hold gears and adapts the shift logic to match the aggressiveness of throttle and brake inputs.

Advance and Tech packages available

With a base price of $30,995, the TLX 2.4-liter has a high level of standard equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels, 60/40 split folding rear seat, a rearview camera, keyless entry and start, and a standard center console touchscreen. The Technology Package, which adds $4,030, includes navigation with voice recognition, ELS Studio Premium Sound with 10 speakers, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic monitor, forward collision warning with car and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist and perforated leather. 

The 2015 Acura TLX V6 models start at $35,220; the Tech Package takes that to $39,250. The Advance Package, which adds another $3,250 includes adaptive cruise, ventilated front seats, road departure and collision mitigation, remote engine start and front and rear parking sensors. All TLX 3.5-liter models with SH-AWD come standard with the Tech Package at $41,450, while the Advance Package brings it to $44,700.

The all-new TLX marks a new direction in Acura's bid to recast itself as a more formidable player in the luxury market. It's a step in the right direction.

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