Acura’s just an SUV brand, right? Well, hold on for just one second. The NSX is one of the coolest cars I’ve ever driven. The RLX Sport Hybrid is one of the best kept secrets in the premium sedan segment. And now the TLX has undergone an A-Spec makeover, with the smoothness of a non-turbo V6 and the road-hugging capability of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
Acura’s got A-spec on the brain with plans to add this spicier flavor to every core model. And with Type-S also making a comeback, it appears as though Honda’s premium division is about to burst with newfound performance.
The TLX has been on the market for about 4 years now and this refreshed 2018 model has finally captured the essence of luxury sport styling. I’m all in on the new grille and more aggressive sculpting, especially on the A-spec where its darker side melds beautifully with this Bellanova White Pearl paint. The spoiler, smoked taillights, darker Jewel Eye LEDs, exclusive 19” wheels – the exterior package works really nicely here. Its subtleties are its strong suit.
Starting with the 2019 model year, you can get this look on both the 4- and 6-cylinder models, but the one I’m running with is the top dog 290 horsepower 3.5-liter TLX with the optional $2,000 Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. MSRP with everything the TLX offers as standard is $45,795. This includes such goodies as ventilated front seats, wireless device charging, and LED ambient interior lighting.
As is typical for the brand, the driver’s sport seat is a perfect helm for sporty driving with excellent forward visibility and gripping Alcantara inserts. You know how certain cars just feel right from behind the wheel? Well, this is one of them.
Now, you’re not getting more engine here but the A-spec is better positioned to tap its fun. Beyond an all-weather solution, the Super-Handling All Wheel Drive system with precise torque vectoring across the rear axle is bundled with a quicker steering ratio and a stiffer spring rate and rear stabilizer bar. In addition to riding on upsized Michelin rubber, this all leads to an energizing driving experience marked by quick turn in, flat handling, precision steering feel and greater control.
Pressing the Dynamic Mode switch into Sport or Sport + enhances the drive with increased throttle response, decreased steering assist and a more involved Super-Handling experience. There are paddle shifters too plus surprisingly attractive sounds to accompany a ride quality that is firm but sophisticated forgiving.
Everything’s got a turbo or 2 these days. And while that can be fun, I can’t tell you how nice it is to drive something quick with a naturally aspirated V6. Especially from the Honda family of engines – it’s just so direct and smooth in its output. Plus, a sub 6-second 0-to-60mph time is very nice and the trick all-wheel drive system is fun to explore. Now, it’s not rear drive-based so you lose a little fun in the dynamic handling department and the 9-speed auto doesn’t seem like the best fit here for a performance machine but everything else – from the seating position to the sounds to the taut suspension make me say yes to the A-Spec.
Mileage on premium gas drops 1mpg in A-Spec livery, rated at 23mpg in combined driving.
The 2018 TLX is the first Acura to feature a refreshed dual-screen user interface that supports Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and Sirius XM 2.0. New software improves the system response time and the enhanced 7-inch touchscreen has a capacitive display that is more responsive to the touch. All that being said, it’s mediocre at best and sure to get the boot once the redesigned model arrives in about 2 years.
The additional A-Spec touches inside highlight an interior that’s held up well though the years minus the 2 screens. I also like how the rear seats are elevated for better visibility, with lots of headroom still left over. There’s plenty of room in general for both passengers are cargo with splitfold rear seats. And as for AcuraWatch features – there’s Adaptive Cruise Control, lane keeping assist and other collision mitigation electronics.
This is Acura’s bestselling car in its most desirable form. And just like you’d expect from the brand, it’s perfectly balanced, appealing to the premium sedan shopper who wants just the right amount of sport.