2018 Acura TLX A-Spec: Sporty but sensible

Posted by Wheels On Edge about 6 months ago
The midsize sedan segment in Canada is in an interesting place. Vehicles like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and indeed, the Acura TLX (formerly TL and TSX) tend to take the back seat to crossovers and SUV’s. Back in their early days in North America, Acura cemented their reputation with vehicles like the Integra and the Legend, offering luxury, sportiness, fun and value for money. In the midst of a mid-cycle refresh, can the TLX regain the appeal its segment once had, while bringing back the magic of the early Acuras? We found out.

Much of the TLX A-Spec’s changes are visual. Next to a standard TLX, the A-Spec is far more aggressive, featuring 19” gunmetal wheels, dark chrome accents,  trunk spoiler, side skirts and a re-sculpted front and rear. Inside the seats and dashboard take on a sportier look, ditching wooden accents for a darker brushed metal look. The seats - said to be inspired by the NSX supercar - are available in either red leather or black leather with alcantara inserts. The seats are also more bolstered than the standard model, but still comfortable.
The A-Spec features some engineering tweaks as well, giving the car a sportier feel than a standard TLX without sacrificing its comfortable ride. The steering and transmission were tweaked to feel more engaging and responsive, while the stiffer suspension helps cut down on body roll in corners. Acura also did some work on the exhaust. It’ll sound louder from the driver’s seat, but not all of the sound is natural. Some of it is piped in through the speakers. 

Under the hood, our A-Spec was equipped with a 290-horsepower 3.5L V6 engine mated to a 9-speed automatic gearbox. Coupled with Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, the TLX won’t carve corners or thrust you into the back of your seat like an NSX, but it’ll get you going smoothly and quickly. The SH-AWD system focuses more on smoothness and stability than all out performance. Actions like making a right turn or changing lanes feel precise and controlled - even in inclement weather or on poor road surfaces.
At highway speed, the A-Spec can cruise quietly at low RPM’s thanks to its 9 gears. The gearbox responds quickly when shifting in manual mode, but under normal driving, it can feel slow. This is especially apparent when switching from Reverse to Drive, or when mashing the gas pedal during overtaking. Acura ditched a traditional gear shifter in the TLX, utilizing a series of buttons instead. While this does save some vertical space, it will take some getting used to. Below the gear buttons, a ‘Dynamic’ switch lets drivers toggle between various driving modes that affect throttle response, transmission behaviour and the AWD system’s behaviour. 

On the technology side, Acura’s safety technology, dubbed ‘AcuraWatch’ is now standard on the TLX. This suite of driver aids include lane keeping assistance, collision mitigation braking and a birds-eye camera view. A dual-screen setup inside allows the TLX to display navigation and infotainment simultaneously. It also comes with Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility. Modern smartphones can also enjoy a wireless charging pad. But the interface and design of the on-screen display is not quite as refined as that on the cheaper Honda Accord. Plus, the Accord also features a optional Heads Up Display - an option absent from the TLX.
The TLX A-Spec starts at $44,407 in Canada. Our tester, with the optional V6 engine (among other features,) came in at a heftier $53,207. The TLX, at the end of the day, is a comfortable and practical family sedan. While the A-Spec isn’t quite as sporty as Acuras of past like the Integra, it still injects some much needed aggression into the brand’s lineup.

Written by Shane Kalicharan


Tags:
2018 Acura TLX, A-Spec, SHAWD

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