|The new "diamond pentagon grille" and other upgrades make the 2018 TLX really stand out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In fact, the new grille looks especially good with the new A-Spec upgrade, my tester’s San Marino Red exterior paint doing a good job of showing all the glossy black highlights around the sporty honeycomb mesh grille and upgraded lower fascia, the latter adding visual drama thanks to unique matte-black mesh grille inserts at centre and larger fog lamp bezels to each corner. What’s more, Acura’s signature five-lamp Jewel Eye LED headlights are darkened in A-Spec trim, plus body-colour rocker extensions now run down each side, “smoked” LED taillights enhance
|Unique A-Spec trim gives the updated design a seriously sporty look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I should also mention that all 2018 TLX trims get a reshaped hood with more sharply sculpted creases, plus the front fenders have been redesigned to meld cleanly into the new frontal styling. Less noticeable changes affect the side sheetmetal and rear design as well, but nothing quite as dramatic as the A-Spec.
This in mind, upgrading to A-Spec trim also replaces the regular model’s chrome trim with matte black side window surrounds and dark chrome around the front grille, making the latter look larger in the process, while bright chrome trim is deleted
|Blackened A-Spec grille surround makes its pentagon shape look even larger. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As you might have guessed, Acura retuned the A-Spec chassis to match the uprated wheel and tire package, with its focus on the electric power steering and damper settings, whereas all SH-AWD-equipped cars incorporate a quicker, more responsive steering ratio, stiffer spring rates, and a thicker rear stabilizer bar.
|Once again, LED headlamps are standard across the TLX line, these blackened for the A-Spec upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As has long been the case, the 2018 TLX undercuts most competitors with a starting price of just $35,990 plus freight and fees, while SH-AWD models start at $40,990. The new A-Spec package can be had for just $42,190 when fitted to four-cylinder FWD trims, whereas the TLX A-Spec SH-AWD
|A sportier lower fascia joins grey 19-inch alloys in A-Spec trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Compare this to its German rivals and you’ll quickly see the value advantage, with a similarly optioned BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Audi A4 nudging up against and even surpassing $60k. Some offer more power than the top-line TLX, but I wouldn’t be put off by the direct-injection single-cam 3.5-litre V6 engine’s 290-horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, or the torque-vectoring SH-AWD system that puts twist down to all four wheels. These are well-proven commodities that deliver strong performance and noted reliability, but the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic gearbox was a bit disappointing.
I’m usually a big fan of ZF autoboxes, especially their eight-speed unit used by BMW,
|The A-Spec gets a black rear spoiler, blackened LED taillights, a racy rear diffuser, and bigger tailpipes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To this end it rewards with a commendable 12.0 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 10.3 combined rating as tested, aided by auto start/stop, while the engine itself is wonderful
|Great looking TLX A-Spec interior is ultra-comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
While I’m a bit put off by the transmission’s lethargic attitude, it’s this kind of comfortable livability that makes the TLX so popular in its class. The suspension is wonderfully balanced whether pushing the limits of the road, where it’s dialed in for understeer at its breaking points, or cruising the highway, where it tracks effortlessly.
|Performance-oriented cabin only goes partway in providing sporty equipment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The front seats are plenty comfortable too, Acura even adding a powered extendable lower cushion for the driver seat. Most competitors make you pull such extensions out manually if available at all, but this said such DIY designs neatly cup under the knees whereas this one lifts up more like an ottoman, and by doing so tends to lift the lower legs as well. For this reason I needed to leave it fully down, but I’m guessing taller folk might find it works well enough. The leather and microfibre upholstery was very nice, however, the latter proving helpful in the corners where it gripped backside well, while this material might be even more useful in the rear due to less side bolstering. Those back seats are also comfortable with excellent lower back support, while three abreast seating is possible,
|Mostly analogue gauges receive a nice colour multi-info display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Now that we’re talking practicalities, the trunk is quite large at 405 litres (14.3 cubic feet). Its lid swings up high and out of the way, plus the lift over height of its sill is quite low for easy loading. The rear seats fold in a typical 60/40 fashion, which means the TLX doesn’t offer quite as much cargo/passenger flexibility as the Europeans that traditionally offer a 40/20/40 split, or at least a centre pass-through.
|Acura pairs an overhead monitor with a conventional rearview camera for a best of both world’s parking scenario. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Likewise the TLX interior is a class act. I picked it up in the evening, which made its glowing red ambient lighting all the more noticeable. It was an experience unlike anything else I’ve driven, while the semi-digital primary gauge cluster and dual-screen infotainment setup was as bright and colourful as car electronics get. The cabin workmanship is very good too, with high-quality soft-touch synthetic surfaces in all the expected places, plus some harder plastics used below the beltline,
|The revised dual-screen infotainment system is quicker and more intuitive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
On the positive, the dual-screen infotainment system was redesigned for 2018, with a much friendlier interface that adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A new 7.0-inch capacitive touchscreen sits below, boasting 30-percent quicker response times,
|Acura’s unusual electronic gear selector should be a positive for tech fans. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Also new, every 2018 TLX receives a standard suite of AcuraWatch advanced driver-assistance systems including Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel haptic feedback, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation, while blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert was added to my top-tier tester as well. These worked flawlessly during my test week, alerting when required and never beeping, flashing and vibrating unnecessarily, which can often be the case with other systems.
|Great driver’s seat gets an odd ottoman-style thigh extension. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Rear seat roominess is good and comfort superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Sales have picked up since this renewed 2018 TLX went on sale in June, and it’s easy to appreciate why. Its improved design, superb quality, comfort, good expected reliability and excellent value, plus its strong performance and reasonable fuel economy make for a compelling package that’s hard to pass up. I recommend it for those looking to mix a more relaxed demeanor with their sporty sedan experience.
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