Quick! What two things do you want your luxury sports car to be like? A Cheetah and a jacuzzi? An arsonist and a waterslide? Wrong and wrong. According to Acura, it's a gymnast and a bank vault. And that's the essence of the new TLX prototype.
Well, the actual phrase they used as the fundamental conceit of the car was "red carpet athlete," but they later said they wanted a "vault-like experience," which they further emphasized by a big image of a bank vault on the giant screen.
I'll be honest — I find the idea of a "vault-like experience" in a car horrific. I'm picturing dark, claustrophobic, stuffy, eerily silent — none of these are qualities I seek in a sports sedan. I get what they're getting at — solid, quiet, refined — but I don't think bank vaults are the imagery you want for a new dynamic sports car.
The TLX prototype was unveiled by Acura Senior VP or maybe Señor Acura VP Mike Accavitti, and the whole time I sort of felt like I was being scolded by an angry dad. Acura was very insistent about the performance capabilities of the sports sedan, calling it "instinctively responsive" and saying it has a "highly elastic power band," much like my underpants.
Acura gave no actual specs or numbers of any kind to back these claims up, though I don't doubt that it will be a capable performer, based on the equipment. There's two engine options, a 2.4L VTEC four, mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter, and a 3.5L V6, working with a 9-speed auto. These are both current Acura engines, and if I had to guess I'd bet in the TLX we'd see the four making around 200-250HP and the V6 making between 300-350HP.
Based on the number of times it was mentioned that "it's not just about power and brute force," I'd expect power numbers to be somewhat less than the competition.
Both versions incorporate Acura's four-wheel steering system, the adorable-named P-AWS, and there's an AWD option for the V6. They managed to shave 25% of the weight off the AWD system, so that's a plus.
In addition to grandiose claims of life-changing performance, the luxury and, repeatedly, quietness of the cabin was stressed. Accavitti described the car as "controlled isolation," which sounds like something you do to a criminal mastermind who just killed two cellmates with his mind.
The car will likely end up being very well engineered, but the exterior design is competent, at best. The proportions are decent, there's some nice flowing character lines, it's reasonably sleek, but it's fundamentally pretty forgettable. It's a prototype, sure, but you could still lose it in any modern parking lot.
Up front it does have Acura's now signature overcrowded headlights, this time only totaling a more restrained 10, five per light unit. And then there's that same, ponderous robot-hawk grille. It looks like an Acura, and it's pretty difficult to get excited about it.
They wouldn't let us see the interior. Which is too bad, since I wanted to see if Acura was sticking with their best-in-class frame number access.
They did also unveil a TLX-based GT car that had a massive wing, and under the cover it looked like it might be a wagon, which got everyone excited. It's not a wagon.
Still, a racecar is nothing at which to sneeze, and the TLX did look purposeful with that massive wing. The car will start racing very soon, in the Pirelli World Challenge, in the World Challenge GT class. That is exciting, and should give a little more of a hint as to what the car is capable of.
So, first impression isn't really blowing me over, but I'll reserve judgement until I can drive it. If I can find it in the parking lot.