2018 Acura TLX V-6 A-Spec.
I can begin liking Acura again.
I mean, REALLY liking Acura again.
I’ve always been a fan of Acura’s driving dynamics, particularly the nifty super-handling all-wheel-drive (SH-AWD) system that not only improves traction, but is also a major benefit to cornering.
But the brand lost me for a generation with a number of odd styling decisions — not the least of which was a front grille that was more like a griddle. Flip it up and cook flapjacks. That kind of griddle.
Acura has retained the trapezoidal shape of the grille — the shape was never the problem — but has gone back to a more traditional style of grille, one that even looks as though it was designed to let air into the radiator.
With the TLX, it has the traditional sedan three-box profile, ending with a sharp, vertical tail and just a hint of spoiler on the trunk. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, it’s just executed very well.
There hasn’t been much change to Acura’s interior design, perhaps with good reason. The familiar dual-screen user interface remains, with a large navigation knob toward the bottom of the centre stack, with the lower screen showing infotainment functions and the top screen primarily showing navigation.
The automatic transmission uses, in the TLX A-Spec, at least, Acura’s love-it-or-hate-it combination of push buttons and pull lever — for reverse — to select Drive, Park or Reverse.
It’s been quite the subject of consternation for some auto writers, but I happen to like it. I find it intuitive and easy to use, but perhaps my view is tainted by having used it a few times already.
Where the TLX shines, however, is in its driving dynamics. The tester was the A-Spec, so it had the 3.5-litre V-6. That engine delivers solid power, but does so with a fantastic exhaust note. Growly, throaty, intoxicating.
I particularly enjoyed the heavy feel to the steering, which not only contributes to excellent on-centre tracking, but also delivers excellent feedback from the front wheels. The steering’s direct input is one factor to the car’s excellent handling, while the car’s ability to counter roll was the other.
Kick in some added torque delivered to the outside rear wheel in hard corners — thanks to the super handling all-wheel drive — and the TLX is a joy to toss around.
It is laid out like a front driver, so the engine is mounted sideways, yet thanks to the SH-AWD, it feels a lot like a rear driver.
A few things I wasn’t crazy about included the auto-start/stop feature for the engine. It was key to my 9.0-litres-per-100 kilometres fuel economy, which was excellent. But it was very intrusive.
It could benefit from being smoother on startup and less frantic about shutting down. You really felt it when it started, and it would shut down so quickly there were times when it shut off before I was really finished with it, such as when parking.
Fortunately, there’s a defeat switch just behind the gear selector. Unfortunately, regulations require that the parameters with which the carmaker obtained its official fuel economy numbers also be the default setting when you start the car. So you can’t permanently disable it. You have to shut it off every time you drive or when it just finished annoying you.
Rear seat legroom wasn’t abundant, but the A-spec model tested did have heated rear seats.
The trunk is spacious, swallowing the case for my archery equipment and asking for more. And the rear seats do fold down for even more room.
The TLX is easily the most enjoyable Acura I’ve tested in some time. A few minor tweaks and it would be, if not a 10, at least a nine.
The TLX features an entirely new nose that has a handsome grille first seen on the Acura Precision Concept car and the 2017 MDX.
The 2018 Acura TLX is an attempt at recapturing the brand's performance mojo in a midsize sedan.
The 2018 Acura TLX includes a revised infotainment system that now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, although the awkward dual screen set-up survives.