It’s about time Acura got some credit.
After all, it was the first Japanese automaker (via parent company Honda) to enter the luxury division that was owned by Europeans. It created a supercar (NSX) that could hang with the world’s best, and still it was as reliable as a Prelude.
Somehow along the way, though, the brand earned a reputation as nice, well turned-out cars, but a little bland for the enthusiast. Now if you want to point out the new NSX, that’s fine – but at a starting price of $156,000 it’s more of a dream car for most us than a real choice. How about something for the rest of us?
How about an Acura TLX A-Spec?
The TLX started in 2015, being the middle-child replacement for the smaller TSX and larger TL sedans. And it was a nice, well turned-out sedan (sound familiar?), that did little to stoke the fires of those who love to drive.
Enter the 2018 TLX V-6 SH AWD A-SPEC – as it’s called. And it’s exactly what the brand – and buyers have been needing.
While all of the TLX models got a freshening for ’18, it’s the A-Spec that gets our attention. Along with Shark Gray 19-inch wheels, there’s new front and rear fascia’s that give all the models a crisper look. The A-Spec adds a matte-black finish on the new diamond pentagon grille, unique front bumper with round fog lights, dark chrome LED headlights (5 per side!), sculpted side sills, piano-black rear spoiler, rear bumper with piano black diffuser, dual exhaust outlets, and dark chrome LED taillight details.
The total effect is stunning. We parked next to an earlier TLX and you could barely believe it's the same car. The A-Spec looks serious, crisp and lean, and stood out especially in our tester’s A-Spec unique Still Night Blue Pearl.
‘Spec out the interior.
Inside is not as massive a change as the outside, but it still leaves a strong impression. More aggressively bolstered front sport seats squeeze in all the right places –especially the A-Spec’s 12-way power driver seat with power thigh extension – while a unique thick rimmed steering wheel with cut-outs to rest your thumbs feels great in the hands. Our tester featured the optional Alcantara seating surfaces and interior trim that makes the A-spec feel luxurious and special.
Speaking of seats, we were pleased to find a split-folding rear seat with a generous-sized pass-through for longer items. Often times, performance models beef up the rear bulkhead for added rigidity, and you lose this useful feature. Not here.
Adding to the good vibes are black headliner and pillars, aluminum-look trim, contrasting stitching, and red LED ambient light piping.
Remembering when Acura used to have you swimming in a sea of switchgear and controls, the TLX strikes as a simple, clean design, with easy access to what you need. For 2018, the TLX gets a redesigned dual screen interface, more intuitive menus, and a new 7-inch touchscreen that’s 30% faster, and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along for the ride.
Underneath, switchgear for the climate control and infotainment are quick and easily deciphered. There’s even wireless charging for your smartphone if applicable. Nice, state-of-the-art stuff.
Performance worthy of an A?
Of course, none of this matters if the TLX doesn’t deliver the performance goods. On paper, the list is long and illustrious, with Michelin Primacy 245/40R 19 tires, retuned electric power steering and damper settings, and on A-Spec’s with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (highly recommended), there’s also a firmed-up suspension with stiffer spring rates and rear stabilizer bar.
In the real world, it’s even better. The 290 hp, 3.5 liter V6 is sonorous but not obnoxious, and the 9-speed automatic helps make sure you’re always in the powerband. Punch it, and you feel a nice even flow of power that helps you hustle along – yet it maintains the refinement you’d expect in an Acura.
Combine Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and grippy 19-inch wheels and tires and you have a recipe for a canyon-carver extraordinaire. The steering has a hefty feel to it, so you don’t feel like you’re tossing around a sports car – but with the AWD, you find yourself hitting the gas sooner, powering through turns with precision, and then rocketing out, all with calm, confident composure. Much like the big German sport sedans.
Also like the big Euro’s, when you’re not giving it das driving boot, the TLX comes across as extremely solid. The ride is firm but not harsh, there’s no squeaks or squawks, and you feel comfortable and cocooned in Alcantara goodness. It’s an easy mile-eater that’s more than at home for long trips and the daily commute.
Acura also likes to tout its tech, so the A-Spec gives you safety goodies like Collision Mitigation Braking System, Head-up Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with low speed follow, Lane Keep Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Blind Spot information and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor. You feel well looked after.
I’d like to buy a vowel…an A.
Well, while the TLX A-Spec may feel like an autobahn-burner, it’s really a big Honda at heart, and that means great value.
Your most basic TLX starts at $33,000 – and features 4-cylinders, front wheel drive, 8-speed DCT transmission and P-AWS all-wheel steer. For enthusiasts on a budget, it’s a fine choice. For $3,200 more you can get the powerful 3.5-liter V6. Add $2,000 on top of that for AWD. Adding luxuries and goodies is as simple choosing the Technology Package, Advance Package, or A-Spec Package.
Our A-Spec with SH-AWD included the Technology Package and carried an MSRP o $44,800. That’s just a little more than the loaded-to-the gills Camry V6 XSE we recently tested, and a comparable BMW 340i X Drive came in at $54,400 – nearly 10-grand more! So, the A-Spec is an excellent value.
Perhaps the biggest challenger to the A-Spec will be Kia’s new Stinger GT – another Asian marque with the Germans in its crosshairs. Stay tuned for our review of that soon.
We loved our the TLX V-6 SH-AWD A-Spec (despite the long name!). It’s the most exciting Acura in a long time, outside of the NSX.
The TLX A-Spec shows they still know how to build superlative sport sedans.