2018 Acura TLX Review

Japanese Genes, California style, Midwestern Sensibility

What else is there to say about the Acura TLX, a premium sedan that’s been significantly reworked for 2018? It’s a respectable all-arounder that’s free of any deal-breaking flaws, even if it fails to truly thrill.

Like an automotive Goldilocks, this important four-door is nestled between the compact ILX and full-size RLX, competing with industry heavyweights like the Lexus IS, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, to name a trio of adversaries.

Sharing foundational underpinnings with the capable Honda Accord, this front-drive-based sedan has been improved significantly for the new model year, with fresh exterior styling being the TLX’s most obvious change. Their divisive “shield grille” has, at last, been jettisoned in favor of a new motif, which debuted on the Precision Concept a year or so ago.

In addition to its handsome new “diamond pentagon” grille, this car’s fenders, fascias, fog lights and filigree have been spruced up for 2018. The overall look is fetching, if not quite lust worthy.

Curiously, only the 2018 TLX sedan and MDX utility vehicle have gained the brand’s starburst face; even the Acura NSX supercar features the old beak-like front end. Still, such an obvious difference hasn’t dulled the halo surrounding this hybrid supercar, which draws untold masses to Acura’s website. When window shoppers are done fantasizing about NSX ownership, the No. 1 vehicle they view afterward is the TLX sedan, something that bodes well for this premium four-door.

New A-Spec Trim

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Providing a tangible if tenuous connection to its exotic stablemate is a newly minted A-Spec trim, which provides more engaging dynamics and a more aggressive design.

Among other tweaks, these V6-powered cars are set apart from mainstream TLXs with new bumpers and fog lights, dark chrome accents as well as unique 19-inch wheels with high-performance all-season tires.

A-Spec models can be had in five different exterior colors. Arguably the most arresting is an exclusive hue called Still Night Blue Pearl, which looks absolutely radiant, especially in bright sunlight.

Beneath the skin, a few noteworthy engineering changes have been made. The electrically boosted power steering’s ratio has been quickened, its spring and dampers retuned and the rear stabilizer bar adjusted, all to improve grip and reduce body roll.

For better or worse, these models feature essentially the same interior as mainline TLXs, with a few minor changes. The dashboard and door skins are made of a utilitarian soft plastic that’s suitably squishy if not particularly upscale. The leather is smooth and controls free of friction. Inspiring owner confidence, everything feels like it’s built for the rigors of a long-term relationship.

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The A-Spec’s bolstered front buckets are commendably comfortable, as is the rear bench, which can accommodate six-foot-tall passengers thanks to its generous legroom. As for the trunk, it clocks in at 14.3 cubic feet (405 liters), a bit more than you get in major rivals like the ATS (10.4 cubic feet, 294 liters), C-Class (12.6 cubic feet, 357 liters) or A4 (13.0 cubic feet, 368 liters).

A-Spec cars also gain interior accent lighting as well as black headliner and pillar trim. Depending on your interior color choice, racy-looking red leather is available. Another welcome upgrade is a steering wheel with a meatier rim. Thanks to these enhancements and more, Acura estimates about 20 percent of TLXs will be dressed to impress in A-Spec trim, which is available for about $46,000 including destination in the U.S.

Natural Aspiration

As before, two engines are offered in the TLX. Economy-minded drivers can stick with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Rated at a somewhat meager 206 horses and 182 lb-ft of twist, this engine is matched solely to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sends torque exclusively to the front wheels. Even though official consumption figures are not available, this should be quite an efficient drivetrain combination.

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If you want more speed or crave four-corner traction, Acura once again offers a V6 in its updated luxury sports sedan. With a lung capacity of 3.5-liters, this option is rated at a class competitive 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission; a manual is no longer offered, not just in the TLX but any Acura.

Drivers of six-cylinder cars can opt for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Enhancing the car’s road-holding capability, this system not only distributes torque between the front and rear wheels based on demand, it also shuffles twist left or right at the back as required, which can, among other things, help mitigate the wet blanket of driving dynamics: understeer.

Again, official fuel consumption has not been published, but for reference, the 2017 all-wheel-drive V6-powered TLX is rated at 21 miles per gallon around town (11.2 L/100 km) and 31 on the highway (7.5 L/100 km).

Standard Technology

One important area where the 2018 model leads rivals is in standard equipment. Every version comes with LED exterior lighting, including the headlamps, which are high-tech affairs comprised of numerous individual elements. A multi-view backup camera, hill-start assist, dual-zone climate control and a power moonroof are also included at no extra cost.

But a generous serving of cutting-edge electronics is what really helps this car pull ahead. Aside from all the previously mentioned goodies, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard; ditto for keyless entry. In addition to this, every TLX is equipped with AcuraWatch, the brand’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technologies. This includes popular and useful features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision mitigation braking and more. To be clear, all of this is standard on even the most affordable TLX, which is priced from roughly $34,000 including delivery in the U.S. None of its rivals offer all that for so little.

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Another surprisingly useful feature is this sports sedan’s infotainment system. In years past, Acura’s offerings have been rather difficult to use, but not anymore.

The brand’s updated On Demand Multi-Information Display (ODMD 2.0 for short) has a reworked user interface that’s dramatically easier to decipher, plus it’s estimated to be 30 percent quicker than its predecessor, an improvement that’s immediately noticeable.

While I still prefer hardware buttons for things like the climate controls, this two-screen infotainment system is nonetheless pleasant to use, providing some unexpected benefits. The lower one is a capacitive touchscreen that spans seven inches. Handling audio and climate functions, it’s easy enough to navigate and even simpler to reach.

Higher on the dashboard is a colorful eight-inch unit that’s operated via a control knob on the dashboard. The advantage of this arrangement compared to single-screen systems is that you can have two things going at once, with, say, audio controls showing on the lower screen and a map up top.

The Drive

The most pleasant part of this A-Spec Acura’s driving experience is probably its husky steering. The tiller has a more heft to it than the standard car’s, which helps it feel more playful.

As mentioned, the TLX shares basic underpinnings with the Accord but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Its structure seems absolutely inflexible. By weight, 52 percent of the body-in-white is constructed of high-strength steel, with six different grades being used. Helping trim some fat, a few lightweight aluminum and magnesium components are thrown in for good measure.

This rigidity gives the TLX a feeling of refinement that one expects in the luxury segment. It’s quiet, unexpectedly smooth and free of any annoying shudders or rattles when driving over rough surfaces. Everything is solid and screwed together with precision.

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Toss this sports sedan into a turn and the body remains level even if the tires protest your need to corner with such urgency. During such maneuvers, you can feel the all-wheel-drive system shuffling torque around to keep the nose pointed in the direction you want (read: away from the ditch or oncoming traffic).

With 290 horses on tap, the TLX is quick enough for a car of this caliber. The engine is exceptionally refined, emitting a snarly rasp as the revs build, though much of this sound is synthesized, broadcast through the audio system.

Surprisingly, the 3.5-liter V6 doesn’t pull with real urgency until the tachometer needle hits about 5,000 rpm, then it sprints to redline with vigor. You’d expect the nine-speed transmission to keep it cookin’ at all times, but this gearbox is one of the more recalcitrant units on the market today. It’s particularly reluctant to downshift. In the Normal driving mode, you can bury the accelerator at, say, 45 miles an hour and it takes the gearbox a couple seconds to select a lower ratio; the wait is agonizing, and it hardly improves when you put it in “Sport” or “Sport+” modes.

The shift quality of this ZF-sourced transmission is generally pretty good, unlike other vehicular applications. In the TLX it’s just unwilling to cooperate at times, which is unfortunate.

The Verdict: 2018 Acura TLX Review

So, that’s what can be said about the 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec. There’s no single captivating reason to buy this car, but if you’ve got the means, neither are there any significant strikes against it.

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A Cadillac ATS is probably more fun to drive (and can still be had with a manual gearbox), the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is more luxurious inside, and Infiniti’s Q50 is far more sensual to behold, but the TLX is entirely competent, bringing a unique value proposition to market thanks to its impressive list of standard features in addition to the brand’s historically strong quality. This solid and respectable Acura four-door goes on sale June 1, so look for it at dealerships in just a couple short weeks.

Discuss this review on our Acura Forum

  • Felix

    This looks SOOOO much better than the old one!

  • Jonathan

    I hope blind spot assistant is standard this time around. Should be standard on every modern vehicle to keep you plebs in place.

  • danwat1234

    Being an expensive 2018 vehicle, it should have auto start/stop standard with of course a button to disable it.
    Recalcitrant… learned a new word today. Uncooperative towards authority.

  • Terry Melvin

    The problem with Acura is, Honda wants to make it an upscale brand complete with its own dealerships. But in actuality Acura is a rather fancy Honda built for American Honda. If the TLX was marketed as , say, an Accord Sport and priced accordingly, it would fly out of the Honda (not Acura) dealerships. People won’t buy a “cachet” car brand that doesn’t have cachet.

  • Christoph Michael

    Having driven this sedan recently, I’m not impressed. The only good thing about it for me was it’s handling and AWD. It corners like it’s on rails. But almost everything else about it annoys me. The start stop function very annoying. When you turn it off, an annoying bright light stays on in the dashboard, blinding you. The touch screen is highly annoying, with important buttons being hidden away deep within screen menus. The alignment of body panels with outer trims meet poorly. The sport+ mode feels like grandma’s version of pedal to the metal. The steering feels way too “electric” , disconnecting the driver from the car. And no manual option, again! I’m sorry but I surely do hope Acura can go back to its roots and revamp their cars because if they don’t, they wont stand a chance in the future…

  • craigcole

    Tomorrow’s word: obstreperous

  • Bob Johnson

    It seems like bad business sense for Acura to forgo the entire luxury coupe market.

  • danwat1234

    =Trump!

  • craigcole

    LOL!!! OMFG, so true…

  • Terry Melvin

    …And herein lies the problem of Acura’s cachet, or lack thereof..offering a naturally-aspirated (and puny) 4-cylinder as a base engine, and an optional 3.5 liter V-6 (can you say Nissan V-6-yawners) for the TLX. The base TLX is little more than a slightly fancier 4 cyl. Accord or Civic. One good thing at least with the TLX, you don’t have to see that beak any more. If Honda wants the Acura brand to stand apart and above, then they better start making cars that actually are, apart.