2018 Acura TLX Review

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2018 Acura TLX Overview

Just three years after its debut, the Acura TLX midsize luxury sedan receives a mid-generation refresh for 2018 that sharpens its looks, alters its stance and proportions, and improves its tech features and premium packages. The exterior upgrades include a restyled hood and front end, a reshaped grille, and new wheels. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the list of standard interior features. In addition, the automaker has launched a sporty new TLX A-Spec trim, which receives its own unique exterior design elements, a sport-tuned suspension, and exclusive 19-inch wheels. It joins the existing base TLX and V6 TLX trims in the lineup.

When the TLX launched in 2015, it took the place of both the TL luxury sedan and the TSX sport sedan, combining elements of both to create a new luxury sedan with a sporty edge. The TLX has since become Acura's best-selling vehicle, and it has garnered good reviews and a loyal following from the automaker's core buyers. But the TLX runs in a crowded and highly competitive luxury-sedan market segment dominated by iconic vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus, among others. While the TLX offers a quiet cabin and competitive pricing that could make it a good deal when compared to some of its more expensive challengers, it's not quite as flashy or as competent. It makes sense, then, for Acura to fast-track the TLX's fairly substantial mid-generation refresh just three years into its run in an effort to make it more competitive, rather than letting it coast along for another year or two with its current design and features.

The exterior revisions certainly give the TLX a bolder, more muscular appearance, bringing it more in line with the current design statements of many of its competitors. Acura borrowed much of the TLX's new look from the MDX SUV, its second-best-selling vehicle, and plans to extend the design to the rest of its vehicles. Sharper creases along the hood and sides create a dynamic edge that should help the TLX stand out more in a crowd. The hood's center crease in particular draws attention to the revised front fascia, which features a new diamond-shaped grille, updated airscoops, and a protruding front bumper that angles forward from the grille as if it's cutting through the air. Although Acura reshaped the TLX's headlights slightly for 2018, they remain the same Jewel Eye design from the previous year. Made up of 5 LED light clusters on either side, they mimic natural sunlight and can double as daytime running lights.

As for trim-specific exterior features, the base TLX gets 17-inch wheels as standard equipment, while the V6 TLX upgrades to 18-inchers. In addition to the revised front-end treatment of the base model, the V6 TLX receives a reshaped rear bumper, a rear diffuser, and exposed dual rectangular exhaust pipes for 2018. The new TLX A-Spec trim comes equipped with a number of unique exterior features, including a revised front fascia with round LED fog lights, side sills, gloss-black trim, and round exhaust pipes that differentiate it from the V6 TLX. A gloss-black rear spoiler, a rear diffuser, and dark-finish 19-inch wheels with wide tires round out the TLX A-Spec’s exterior look.

Two engines, rolling over from 2017, continue to power the 2018 TLX. A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque drives the base TLX. This engine sends torque to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with sequential SportShift paddle shifters and gets fuel-economy numbers of 24 mpg city, 35 highway, 28 combined. Reviewers like the base TLX's relatively decent fuel efficiency, but some say it feels underpowered at times, especially during aggressive driving maneuvers.

Buyers seeking more power from their luxury sedans will want to opt for the V6 TLX. It delivers better performance than the base trim thanks to its 3.5-liter V6 engine, which boosts horsepower to 290 and torque to 267 lb-ft. The V6 links to a 9-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual operation. It also sends power to the front wheels, although buyers can equip the V6 TLX with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system for better traction and stability. As expected, fuel-economy figures drop to 21, 34, and 25 for the front-wheel-drive (FWD) configuration and 21, 31, and 25 when equipped with SH-AWD. Acura recommends premium fuel for the V6.

Acura offers the new TLX A-Spec trim with the V6 engine in either FWD or SH-AWD configurations. Like the base TLX, the FWD variant receives all-wheel steering, which helps to improve driving precision and agility. Its upgraded sport-tuned suspension delivers a firmer ride with more precise handling, thanks to adjusted damper settings and revised electric power steering. Additionally, the A-Spec trim with SH-AWD has a stiffer spring rate and a rear stabilizer bar for even more control and traction.

The 5-passenger TLX continues to offer a quiet, well-finished cabin with soft-touch surfaces and comfortable, supportive sport seats. The driver and front passenger will find plenty of legroom and headroom, though headroom in the rear seats can be tight for taller passengers. Standard interior features include leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and ambient lighting. In addition to the new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, all trims come with redesigned dual infotainment screens, a 7-speaker premium audio system, and satellite radio. The A-Spec trim receives a number of unique interior features, including exclusive sports seats with improved bolstering, front seat ventilation, a sport steering wheel with a thicker rim, brushed aluminum interior trim, and red ambient lighting, as well as red or black leather upholstery with Alcantara inserts.

Beyond the basics, buyers can choose from two upgrade packages to outfit their TLXs even further. A Technology package available on all trims adds such features as navigation with real-time traffic, a 10-speaker audio system, HD Radio, voice recognition, leather upholstery, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. On the V6 TLX trim, the Technology package brings a number of new items for 2018, including upgraded seats with contrast stitching and a power-operated thigh extension for the driver's seat.

The Advance package, available only on the V6 TLX trim, has also been updated for 2018 and now comes with unique LED fog lights, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a built-in wireless charging pad, a surround-view camera system, and expanded white LED ambient lighting.

New for 2018, all TLX trims will be equipped with the AcuraWatch suite safety and driver-assistance features, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, a road-departure mitigation system, automatic emergency braking, and a collision-mitigation braking system. The 2017 model received a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA) and mostly Good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which should carry over to 2018.

Overall, the 2018 TLX's upgraded design and features bring it more in line with its competitors and provide some much-needed flair. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto alone, previously unavailable on the TLX, was certainly a necessary upgrade, and the overall improvements should ensure the TLX remains Acura's most popular vehicle.

Updated

Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.

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