Acura TLX and BMW i3

| August 1, 2015


Acura TLX | Starting Price: $31,500

The near-luxury midsize segment is great, if you’re a consumer. If you’re an auto maker, well, you’ve got some pretty stiff competition. You’re going up against the hard-to-beat Germans like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. Throw in Lexus, Cadillac, and Volvo, and, well, you better have the chops to walk the walk — or drive the drive — so to speak. So the question becomes, does the Acura TLX have what it takes to hang with the big guns?

The TLX comes with two engine choices: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6. I tested the V6, which delivers 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of well-balanced torque. It launches from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, which is quick enough for any vehicle in this category. The automatic transmission executes its duties well as it works its way through all nine gears, and the paddle shifters add a sporty, responsive feel.

Thanks to the Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) the TLX does offer some interesting driving dynamics. It behaves less like a typical front-drive vehicle, allowing you to really lean into the turns. Add to that the fact that you can adjust the car’s behavior from the mild-mannered Econ setting to Normal, Sport, and the spicier Sport Plus, and you’ve got a car that becomes quite fun to drive.

Fuel economy ratings for the V6 range from 21 mpg city to 34 mpg on the highway, with an average of about 27 mpg combined. The base sporty 2.4 liter four cylinder gets even better economy and is just a bit less fun.

In all settings, the TLX feels well-controlled and balanced, never losing out to torque steer. Noise, vibration, and harshness are kept to a minimum. The ride feels solid and comparable to its German competitors. The cabin is finely appointed with everything you’d expect in a near-luxury midsize sedan — steering wheel-mounted controls, navigation, touches of wood and metal. The leather seats are very comfortable and supportive, making longer trips more pleasant for both driver and passengers.

With so much competition, Acura upped the ante when it came to looks. The stand-out feature of the TLX’s exterior is easily the Jewel Eye LED headlights. Whether illuminated or not, they are definitely capable of catching one’s eye. Also notable are the optional 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels for even more glimmer.

Perhaps further arguing the case for the Acura TLX is its price. Starting in the low 30s for the 4-cylinder version and pacing up into the low 40s for a fully stocked V6, the TLX easily delivers value. In other words, you get a lot of bang for less buck than some of the other competitors.

So yes, the 2015 Acura TLX certainly delivers on its promises. Engaging driving dynamics, good power, a luxurious fit and finish, and a decent starting price make it a serious contender in a segment dominated by some very big guns. Add to that a reputation for superior vehicle reliability and it definitely drives the drive.



BMW I3 | Starting Price: $42,000

What is the future of driving? It seems many have taken a stab at their own interpretation: solar, hydrogen fuel cells, bio-fuel, even water-powered. Being as it is 2015, I can’t help but wax nostalgic for a Mr. Fusion-powered, time-traveling, flying DeLorean.

Hybrids were without a doubt revolutionary when they first came to market, and their popularity remains high. Electric vehicles continue to pop up here and there and appear in several iterations, from quirky little runabouts to sleek and sophisticated dream machines.

So, the question then becomes, has BMW gazed into the crystal ball? Is the electric i3 the proverbial wave of the future? As an electric vehicle, the BMW i3 is most certainly a standout. Its body is made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic. It’s as strong as steel, but much lighter, contributing to the overall fuel efficiency of the car. BMW engineers planned its two-piece frame to specifically meet the needs of an electric vehicle.

Inside, the i3 boasts as much spaciousness as the 3-series sedan, despite its boxy hatchback design. With three trim levels including mega world, giga world and tera world, you can make your way through sustainable upgrades like open-pore eucalyptus wood and olive leaf-tanned leather.

Driving the i3 does deliver a BMW-type experience. It’s different, but that can be good. The ride is pleasant and it’s also quick: reaching 0-60 in seven seconds. That’s a full three seconds less than some of its electric competitors. Unique is its accelerator pedal. It is entirely possible to drive — and stop — this car using only the accelerator. This BMW, like many electric and hybrid cars, utilizes regenerative braking, capturing kinetic energy and converting it to electricity to extend range. However, it also decelerates quickly and consistently enough that the regenerative braking can bring the car to a complete stop. Pay attention and watch traffic, and you might never have to touch the brake pedal. In the case that you do find yourself in a real-life braking situation, pressure on the brake pedal will stop the car from 70 to 0 in 160 feet.

Handling is true to BMW style, with quick, laser-like focus from the steering wheel. And the i3 is quite happy cruising at 80 mph.

Speaking of cruising, the i3 has a range of 81 miles using battery power alone. You can opt for the range extender (a small gas engine) which drops electric-only range to 71 miles but increases overall range to 150 miles. With the extender, in a pinch you can stop at a gas station and in about five minutes fill up the small gas tank and motor on down the road.

There are a few things to consider with this electric vehicle. You can opt for the 220-volt at-home charging station which adds additional cost, or utilize public charging stations. Either way, it takes about three hours to fully charge the battery again.

With engaging dynamics and unique styling, the i3 could be the future of driving. Pricing starts out at about $42,000 before tax incentives.

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Category: New Automobiles

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