2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec
Acura answers those who’ve wished for a spikier TLX
Words by: Adam Allen
How has the TLX fared in its three years since the TL/TSX amalgamation?
Since the TSX and TL were consolidated into the TLX in 2014, it has been a story of peaks and valleys for Acura’s mid-size sedan. In the first couple of years it was on sale, it stormed out of the gate, generating impressive sales numbers. The last couple of years haven’t been as kind to TLX sales figures, with a precipitous drop off in the amount of TLX’s finding homes in Canadian garages and driveways. Undeterred, Acura has polished the TLX lineup for 2018. But what caught our attention more than the refreshed styling and upgraded infotainment system is the addition of a new trim level that should entice those who flogged Integras in their youth. Called A-Spec, it gives the TLX a nice dose of sport that was missing before.
Great news! How much power have they added?
Er…none. Unfortunately, A-Spec trim doesn’t reap the benefits of a bump in engine displacement, nor does it enjoy the addition of turbochargers. The naturally aspirated four and six-cylinder engines carry over unchanged, and it’s the same story with the transmissions. Some enthusiasts might dismiss this trim level as a glorified appearance package. They’d be partly correct, because A-Spec TLX models certainly look like they have embraced a sporting bent with their revised head and taillight modules, unique 19” alloy wheels and huge but tastefully integrated 4” chrome dual exhaust finishers. Yet in addition to the window dressing, the TLX gets meaningful upgrades to the chassis as well, including stickier Michelin Primacy rubber, retuned electric power steering and dampers as well as stiffer springs and a rear stabilizer bar.
Has it all worked to make the TLX a formidable sports sedan?
The TLX plays in a very competitive league of accomplished cars, with the BMW 340i perennially taking home MVP honors. Has it been massaged enough to jockey for position at the top of the heap? While it isn’t quite there yet, the TLX A-Spec is much, much better to drive than the top rung versions of the model from the past. The subtle tweaks made to the suspension system now yield a car that hungrily turns in towards the apex of a spirited corner whereas before the TLX seemed to wince when you picked up the pace. Credit must go also to the wider tires on more aggressive rubber, but we wonder how much friskier the TLX would feel with even more aggressive rolling stock. The SH-AWD system also has torque vectoring in its repertoire, and you can feel the power coaxing the rear end to follow the front when you’re showing it the beans. Speaking of which, if you want to access the upper reaches of the tach- and you will, because the top end rush is addicting, and the accompanying soundtrack can best be described as incredible- it will require a healthy stab of the throttle to get there. Over the course of the week we drove the Acura, we could see that the A-Spec package does in fact make the TLX more enjoyable to dive. The bottom line is with a little more focus towards the goal of being a serious sports sedan, the TLX could be much better.
The interior hasn’t changed much either…
OK, but guess what? It didn’t need to. From the outset, the TLX has always excelled at providing comfortable environs in which to spend time while performing the task of driving. Ergonomically, it’s spot on and the build quality is seriously good. The seats are firm but all day comfortable, and our tester’s hides were a lipstick-red hue that really popped and livened up the proceedings nicely. All passengers have ample room to get comfortable, and Acura has done a commendable job of keeping everyone isolated from wind and road noise. That and its robustly solid structure lend a feeling of luxury and serenity. We also enjoyed reveling in the minutiae offered by the TLX’s cabin, including the steering wheel that feels great in the hands, the artfully designed and equally functional dead pedal and the way the switches and buttons move with millimetric precision.
What might go wrong?
First, we’d recommend a rethink of the transmission. With nine gears to choose from, that might be too many- often we’d catch it hesitating or just plain being in the wrong gear. More serious is the way it seems to stifle the excellent V6 engine- oh, to dream of a manual gearbox option for this car. Next on our hit list is the infotainment system. Let’s get this out of the way: it is a massive leap forward over its predecessor, and it’ also easier to use. Despite these improvements, there is still much work to be done, starting with the resolution- even though its brand new, it already looks dated to the eyes and even the most budget smartphone trumps it in this area.
Should I buy a TLX?
Those that covet exclusivity or choosing to go against the grain will note that you just don’t see TLX’s plying the roads to the same frequency as you might a BMW 3 series, Infiniti Q50 or Audi A4. It is an often-overlooked choice in the segment, and as we’ve seen, it is a solid competitor with its comprehensive list of standard kit, its standard suite of AcuraWatch safety technologies and its excellent naturally aspirated V6 and all wheel drive. If you were to equip some of the competitors in the segment to similar levels, it would cost much more, even factoring in the added expense of the A-Spec package. If you don’t mind your sports sedan having a little less edge (and there are many of you out there, and that’s OK) you should look at the TLX. Plus, with Acura’s reputation of building durable, reliable cars, you should have many years of enjoyable and trouble-free motoring.
2018 Acura TLX SH-AWD V6 A-Spec — Specifications
- Price as tested: $53,207
- Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 290 @ 6,200 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 267 @ 4,500 rpm
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,729 kg (3,812 lbs.)
- Observed Fuel Economy: 13.1L/100km (18 mpg)