Great looking car,” says the guy in the rather nondescript sedan as he admires my 2018 Acura TLX test car dressed in shiny red.
Of course it is, particularly when compared to his ride, but who am I to make light of an admirer?
Acura refreshed its sporty TLX for 2018, producing a sleek four-door sedan with a factory-bred fun factor, especially when it comes with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
The new TLX’s good looks start with a pretty face: matte black diamond pentagon grille with a dark chrome surround, LED headlights and aggressive lower fascia with round LED fog lights. The side profile is dominated by 19-inch dark alloy A-Spec wheels and flared side sills. The attractive rear features a piano black deck spoiler and a rear diffuser with dual four-inch exhaust outlets.
Acura sent me a TLX A-Spec model for evaluation. The company says the redo “amps up the sporty character of TLX.” I’ve got no quarrel with that after my time in the test vehicle which carries the wordy model designation of SHAWD Elite A-Spec. (You’ll only find that on the spec sheet. The car carries badging only for SHAWD and A-Spec). The Elite designation also includes the technology package.
On the interior, the seats provide excellent support with bolsters that welcome me with a friendly hug and warm the occupants – front seat and rear — on a frigid Prairie day. I could spend hours and hours driving this car and never become fatigued.
There are no options available at this level of the TLX hierarchy. It’s all standard, from power everything to premium 10-speaker audio, heated multi-function steering wheel, blind spot monitor, cross-traffic monitor, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors. I’ve got a seat with power thigh extension and both front seats have ventilation. Oh yeah, there’s a surround-view camera system and wireless smartphone charging.
Safety gear includes the usual full suite of nannies from airbags, lane departure warning, lake keeping assist, stability assist, collision mitigation braking system with heads-up warning, forward collision warning to road departure mitigation system.
Techies will welcome the redesigned dual-screen infotainment centre with new menus and command system augmented by a new seven-inch touchscreen. It’s this system and voice command recognition that have, in the past, been less than satisfactory. The new system recognizes my voice, actually listens and for the most part responds appropriately. The touch screen, Acura contends, is 30% faster to respond (but who’s counting?) and supports Android Audio and Apple CarPlay.
Now if only the navigation system was a little more responsive and a little less inclined to take the road less traveled in getting to a programmed destination, life would indeed be good.
I might be giving away my age, but the only thing that would improve the fun factor would be a manual transmission. Alas, there isn’t one, the smooth 3.5L V6 under the hood is hooked up to a nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The automatic is nearly seamless in its operation and probably much quicker and accurate than I am with a stick, but still there’s that connection you get when you row your own gears.
It all comes together on the road.
The 290 horsepower i-VTEC V6 isn’t overly powerful but, aided and abetted by it’s silky automatic transmission and paddle shifting along with Integrated Dynamic System. it provides plenty of motivation for an every day driver with a taste for a bit of fun now and again.
I’ve got four drive modes (Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+) to choose from. IDS adjusts throttle response, transmission shift logic, steering effort and SH-AWD along with HVAC operation and active sound control.
Econ turns TLX into a slacker (in the interests of fuel economy of course) while, on the other end of the scale, Sport+ makes greatest use of the car’s performance potential.
I don’t spend a lot of time in either one. I soon discover Normal is the go-to setting for the highway while Sport is a better fun-in-the-long-run setting as it tightens the steering but is not as aggressive on transmission shifting as Sport+.
Cruising along in Normal gives me plenty of on-tap power to pass slower highway traffic. The new electronic power steering doesn’t respond quite as quickly as I’d like, but that’s no deal-breaker because it doesn’t take long to get used to that miniscule lag. That aside, grip is terrific. When it’s playtime in an on-ramp the TLX sticks to the curve as though on rails with just a tiny hint of body roll.
Put on the right rubber for winter and there’s no end to opportunities to have a blast behind the wheel.
2018 Acura TLX
Trim level: A-Spec Elite SH-AWD
Price before taxes: $50,990.00
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5 L i-VTEC V6/ 9-speed automatic
Power/torque: 290 hp/262 lb- ft
Fuel economy ratings: 12.0 L/100 km city, 8.2 highway
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km basic, 6 years/110,000 km major components
Competitors: Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C Class, Volvo S60