Acura’s mid-size sedan, the TLX has been a market success. There’s good rationale for that, as the Japanese upmarket division for Honda has made the TLX a relatively affordable option for those looking for a four-door sedan with style and cachet, not to mention luxury and performance.
The 2018 Acura TLX 3.5-liter with SH-AWD and A-Spec options is definitely at the top of the heap in the TLX family, although the Advance model is intended to be. With a four-day opportunity in the Denver during the NHRA’s Mile-High Nationals, driving this new machine presented a chance to enjoy back roads and highways equally, getting the full gist of this machine in a short period of time.
As its name implies, the Acura TLX is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, one that has been the backbone of the firm’s TLX range. It produces 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,500; redline is 6,700 rpm. Acura installs a pushbutton 9-speed automatic transmission with sequential sport-shift paddle shifters; it’s easy to shift but reverts back to “D” very quickly if not prodded by an active driver. No problem getting accustomed to the pushbutton gear changer.
Built on the Accord platform, the TLX A-spec SH-AWD chassis has MacPherson strut and multi-link suspensions, front to rear, together with stabilizer bars, using the SH all-wheel-drive system that Acura has been developing for about two decades; Acura’s integrated dynamics system and agile handling assist aid in the great handling. Firmer shocks and springs make the handling exemplary with the AWD system.
Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quite precise on-center and is well-weighted. Braking with ventilated front and solid rear disk brakes is excellent, but the big orange “BRAKE” light in the windshield when following closely is a bit disconcerting for this enthusiast. With 60/40 weight distribution of its 3838 pounds, the Acura TLX AWD with A-Spec is definitely more agile than expected. Acura fits 245/40R low profile tires on handsome, painted, twinned, five-spoke 19-inch wheels, making for a sporty ride that may be a bit too firm for some.
At Bandimere Speedway, where the race was being held, gearheads morphed to the bright, crystal white and sexy Acura to take second and third looks, as well as walk-arounds. The second of its family to shed the old “beaky” nose (MDX was first), the TLX’s front end is svelte and luxurious. With a deep, horizontal side body crease near the window headers, sill extensions, a black mini-wing that draws the eye to two hefty pipes at the rear, this is an elegant and purposeful sports sedan. The attention it gets is warranted. It goes as well as it looks.
But those looks. The elegance transfers to this car’s interior, where black Alcantara fabric covers the totally supportive 12-way and 8-way heated/ventilated front bucket seats; there is contrast stitching. The seats were so comfortable on the very hot Denver days and helpful for a driver suffering from sciatica. While minimal added padding exists about the cabin, that could have been done to keep weights down on this performance-accented car. A-Spec emblems on the door sills, aluminum pedals and a true driver’s information system occupy the dash area. There are gauges for temperature and fuel here, along with customary info systems.
Acura uses two infotainment screens in its central stack with the upper taking on the Tech Package’s excellent navigation system with voice recognition and multi-view rear camera when reverse is engaged. That screen is worked through a multi-media interface below the second screen, which is primarily responsible for audio and climate controls. At its base lie coverable 12-volt and USB plugs. Covered central storage holds a second 12V and auxiliary plug.
The Tech Package includes AcuraLink communication with real-time traffic and street/freeway conditions (not in all markets), an excellent ELS Studio Premium audio system with 10 speakers, blind spot monitoring, rain sensing wipers and rear cross-traffic monitor at no extra charge. The audio system has Aha and Pandora compatibility and, on this car USB audio interface, “Song By Voice” and Siri eyes free integration for iPhone.
Acura’s infotainment systems work well together; the navigation system got me exactly where I needed to be as I searched for my nearby AirBnB hostess; it offers traffic rerouting as necessary. The ability to either use the system built into this car or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on the upper screen is nice, but not something I needed for this short spell. The infotainment hardware on this Acura is improved from earlier versions (the current TLX entered production for the 2015 selling season); it’s the first to use Acura’s capacitive touch screen, complemented by an improved overall menu system.
This driver enjoyed the steering wheel controls of phone and audio to the left and radar cruise control, trip info on the right. The ability to change the space between cars is wonderful. Acura fits idle-stop on the TLX, which helps its fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic, once warmed up. The AWD sedan is rated at 20/29/23 and with just over 1,300 miles at pickup, those figures are accurate from the 17.2-gallon tank. Range information adjusts to reflect the type of driving, a nice touch.
There are several dynamic driving modes that can be adjusted on the central console: Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport +. The latter is meant for track-day driving, and on our watch, the TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec stayed either in Normal or Sport, using the latter setting on the run to the airport Sunday night to get through traffic. Shifts are higher and more pronounced in Sport and even more emphatic in Sport +. Lighting is excellent, including LEDs throughout, including fog lights.
For those uninterested in paying attention, AcuraWatch features collision mitigation braking (that horrid orange light on the windshield), the lovely adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Most of these “assists” were disabled on my watch.
When the fob is in a pocket, the TLX sedan will unlock due to close proximity; I preferred to use the handle-mounted button to lock. The driver’s seat moves rearward for ingress/egress and returns to one of two settings when the pushbutton start is activated. Rear-seat passengers have air flow, pockets in both front seatbacks, and cup holders in the pulldown armrest. There are no bottle/cup holders in the rear doors as there are up front. The small two-way moonroof is almost an after-thought.
There is an interior remote for the 14.2-cubic-foot trunk, which features side indentations just right for a wine bottle (and used for that purpose). The rear seats have an 70/30 fold and, while there is no spare tire there is excellent under-floor storage made of molded plastic. It could be a great place to store a computer or even a camera as it’s large enough to contain either or both.
It’s a shame I didn’t have more time to spend with the 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD A-Spec sedan. It was a glorious four days and I felt privileged to be able to enjoy this car. While its as-delivered price of $45,750 might encroach on the territory of some German vehicles, with the Acura a driver can rest secure in the knowledge that this Marysville, Ohio-constructed Acura has mostly US-built parts, including its engine and transmission, together with Honda’s reputation for reliability. Parting was such sweet sorrow.
By Anne Proffit