Acura TLX tries to be nice but not outstanding – and succeeds at both
A luxury car can be a showcase for dazzling style and technology, or it can be a fairly ordinary vehicle that’s simply nicer than a cheaper one.
The 2016 Acura TLX is the latter type. This midsize sedan from Honda’s premium brand was styled to avoid offense rather than to excite. It has few features that you can’t also find on a fully-loaded Honda Civic. But it’s a comfortable, pleasant sedan that’s far more attainable than a similarly roomy BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
Note that just because the TLX is a mild-mannered vehicle doesn’t mean that it isn’t also fun to drive. It’s not a pure sports sedan, but the taut, responsive steering is enjoyable in everyday traffic – this Honda Accord-based model won’t match the high handling limits of a BMW 3 Series, but if you’re not pushing the car too hard, the Acura provides a respectable experience. The TLX is noticeably tighter and quieter than a mainstream midsize sedan like the Accord.
The tested TLX included the available 3.5-liter V6 engine, with provides smooth, strong acceleration and decent gas mileage – EPA ratings of 25 miles per gallon overall with the available all-wheel-drive system. A four-cylinder is standard, though comes only with front-wheel-drive. With both engines, Acura programmed the car carefully so it doesn’t jump awkwardly off the line while you’re trying to drive gently, yet still gets moving without delay if you accelerate harder.
The TLX was all-new as a 2015 model, but the interior styling looks a generation old. That’s not necessarily a problem, especially if you liked the simple designs of the late 2000s, but Acura didn’t take any risks here. Some of the touch screen’s controls take a few extra steps, though – it’s a pity that the TLX’s ergonomics don’t live up to the straightforwardness of the interior styling. The seats are quite comfortable, at least.
The TLX has a base price of $32,635 and reached $45,720 as tested with the V6, AWD and all the other available features. The BMW 3 Series may tempt you with a similar base price – $34,145 – but note that BMW has less standard equipment and charges much more to add options. Compelling vehicles closer in price to the TLX are the Buick Regal and Infiniti Q50. If you are looking for a comfortable, affordable luxury car that’s neither dull to drive nor so sporty that it isn’t very comfortable, the TLX is worth considering.
Mazda offers a sportier alternative to the typical small crossover
The best-selling crossover in the country is the Honda CR-V, a model that blends an exceptionally spacious, flexible interior with pleasant driving dynamics, good gas mileage and reasonable prices.
But if the CR-V and similar models like the Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 have a weak point, it’s their lack of spice. They’re fine tools, but just not all exciting. Buyers seeking more fun in the compact crossover class should be looking first to the 2016 Mazda CX-5, which trades some interior room for zippier acceleration and handling.
Mazda introduced the CX-5 back in 2013 and hasn’t stopped improving it. It quickly rolled out a new engine a year later, and for 2016, it tweaked the styling, upgraded the interior and added new safety and technology features that include a new infotainment screen and improved automatic braking system.
While the CX-5 doesn’t have the same quick reflexes as the excellent Mazda3 compact car – a lower, lighter vehicle – it stands out from its competitors on a winding road. Turn the steering wheel in the CX-5 and the car is quickly following your guidance; in most crossovers, there’s a looseness to the steering that you won’t find from Mazda.
Acceleration is lively from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, yet it still returns competitive EPA fuel economy ratings of 24 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg overall in the tested Grand Touring all-wheel-drive model. In mixed driving with more highway than city conditions, the tested CX-5 averaged 29.0 mpg.
However, if you have no complaints about how other crossovers accelerate and handle, you’ll first notice the CX-5’s weaker points. Leading competitors have more rear-seat and cargo room, and fancier interior décor – all at roughly the same price. The CX-5 starts at $22,695 and hits $32,340 as tested with all the options.
Note that another popular crossover – the Ford Escape, newly updated for 2017 – is the CX-5’s leading competitor for driving enjoyment. If the Mazda doesn’t suit you but you want something like it, check out the updated Ford.