Acura TLX — Mid-cycle improvements

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Through the years our favorite Acura sedan has been the third-generation TL (2003-2008), which caught our imagination with just-right styling, a perfect size, excellent handling traits and a hearty V-6 engine. It was a mature interpretation of what we thought a luxury sports sedan should be. Then Acura seemed to lose focus, producing softer more mainstream sedans with questionable styling features.

In the meantime, Acura managed to keep the fun factor alive with the smaller and less horsepower-infused TSX that provided the tossable handling excitement we had come to enjoy with the TL.

In 2015 Acura got back on track with the TLX, a sedan that merged the TL and TSX into one cohesive unit retaining some of the fun-to-drive nature of the TSX combined with the technology savvy, spacious, and luxury-appointed TL.

Since then the TLX has been noted more for its cutting-edge technology and quiet and well-appointed interiors than its sporty nature. We aren't saying the TLX has not been a solid, well-made entry level luxury sedan that evokes pride in ownership. But for excitement, sedans such as the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti Q50 — to name a couple — provide more driving engagement.

For 2018, the TLX gets refreshed with just-right styling tweaks and updated technology while retaining its energetic 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque mated to a smooth shifting "retuned" 9-speed automatic., and the base 2.4-liter four making 206 horsepower driven by an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.  

Acura has addressed the sporty concerns in 2018 with a new $2,900 A-Spec trim designed to sharpen up handling, gaining firmer dampers and springs, a larger-diameter rear anti-roll bar, retuned electric power steering, and new road-gripping Michelin tires. The A-Spec combines the energetic V-6 with either standard front-wheel drive or Acura's torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

What this means is that opting for the A Spec package infuses the TLX with a true sports sedan personality. Its cornering prowess is noteworthy as we discovered on our usual winding rural-road "test track." The steering is accurate and the car handles like a true sports sedan. And we very much liked the thicker steering wheel, the more aggressively bolstered seats, red trim around the gauges and the brushed aluminum accents that also come with the A-Spec option.  

As for straight-ahead performance, the V-6 gets the job done in a satisfying manner, but is still no match for several other sports sedans in the segment. For comparison, the TLX can finish off a 0-to-60 run in 5.7 seconds and turn a quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 100 mph according to instrument testing by a major automobile magazine. (The 4-cylinder is rated at 6.5 seconds from 0-to-60). Gas mileage for the 6-cylinder is good, rated at 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined. Higher priced premium gas is recommended.

On the styling front, every 2018 TLX adopts a sleek new five-sided mesh grille along with new bumpers and headlight and taillight detailing. The A-Spec ups the ante with dark-gray 19-inch wheels, black exterior trim, and LED fog lights.
The interior has been left much the same, but with updated software for the twin-screen infotainment system. It allows for infotainment apps and audio controls to be separated from navigation functions. The updated system is more responsive than before and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard equipment.

Something very relevant for those of us with aging and spreading bodies, is the ease of entry and exit and the just-right seat height in the TLX. Rear-seat passenger legroom is excellent, although taller occupants might find headroom a problem. Very noticeable is the lack of outside noise at highway speeds thanks in part to active noise cancellation technology and an acoustic glass windshield and triple door seals. There is ample storage space up front to take care of a couple of cellphones and other odds and ends.  And the trunk will swallow up 14.3 cubic feet of cargo, average for the segment.

The TLX comes in two 4-cylinder trims — TLX 2.4L and TLX 2.4L with Technology package. The V-6 comes in four flavors — TLX 3.5L, TLX 3.5L with Technology package, TLX 3.5L A-Spec, and TLX 3.5L with Advance package. All-wheel drive is available on all V-6 trims. The technology package, which comes standard on the A-Spec and Advance trims, includes navigation, multi-view rear camera, premium sound system, blind spot monitoring and rain sensing wipers. The base 4-cylinder starts at $33,965. The V-6 begins at $37,165.

Our TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec test car carried at bottom line of $45,750.

Base price: $33,965; as driven, $45,750
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 290 @6,200 rpm
Torque: 267 foot-pounds @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 190.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,640 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined
0-60: 5.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW 3 Series sedan, Mercedes C-Class sedan, Infiniti Q50

The Good
• Loaded with technology
• Excellent handling with SH-AWD
• Well priced
• Quiet interior

The Bad
• Lacks true sports sedan experience

The Ugly
• AWD not available with 4-cylinder