You may have seen last week my column espousing the sensory benefits of physical switchgear in cars. They can add a bit of fun and character in the smallest ways. As it turns out, our long-term Acura TLX has a great example of this idea: the drive mode selector.
In most cars, drive modes are typically chosen via a nondescript button tucked away in the center console. Sometimes the selector is buried in an infotainment menu. But in the TLX, it’s a huge, gleaming knob placed front and center in the main control stack. It would be impossible to miss. It’s actually even more prominent than the buttons for shifting.
With the size and placement, it’s a nice dial to grasp, and works with smooth action and a solid stop in either direction for flipping through modes. But what really brings it together is the speed at which modes are selected, and the sound the infotainment system makes upon choosing one. In some cars it can take a long time for the system to acknowledge your selection and engage it, but the Acura activates it nearly as soon as you’ve let the dial snap back to center. And it confirms your choice with sort of whoosh-y electronic clink through the speakers. It’s the kind of quick reaction and sound design you get from high-quality video game menus.
All of these aspects make the TLX nicer to use and feel more premium. It doesn’t feel like a hassle to change drive modes since it takes very little time and works well. That’s especially welcome if you like driving it in the sport mode, since the car defaults to the normal mode on start-up. It also makes the car feel like it has fast-acting software befitting a premium car.
It may seem like a small thing, but small things matter when cars have become so good. And I appreciate that Acura took its time with this seemingly little component.