Value isn’t sexy, but it’s still one of the Acura TLX’s advantages over other compact luxury sport sedans. With the updated 2018 model, however, Acura is hoping you’ll now add styling to the TLX’s list of strengths. The new car’s cool diamond-pentagon front grille is a big visual improvement, but Acura hasn’t lost sight of the value that brings many to its dealerships in the first place. Making its debut at the 2017 New York auto show, the 2018 Acura TLX is the latest version of the brand’s best-selling sedan, one whose sales might receive a slight boost once sales begin in June.
With the new 2018 TLX’s standard features list, the revised Acura can more effectively target the BMW 320i and Audi A4 Ultra base models in addition to the 2018 Buick Regalalso making its debut at the 2017 New York show. No lower-trim BMW or Audi can touch the 2018 TLX’s standard features, which include AcuraWatch active safety tech (a collision mitigation braking system, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and road departure mitigation), LED headlights, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
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When we interviewed Acura global creative director Dave Marek at the 2014 SEMA Show, he said that future Acura design would go further.
“The next round of styling will be more premium brand, performance feeling, and more noticeable,” Marek said then.
Now, the 2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec model will answer the call for those who like the TLX’s package but want something bolder before resorting to aftermarket solutions. Available with the 2018 TLX’s front- and all-wheel-drive V-6 models, the new A-Spec model is an extension of what we’ve already seen with the 2017 TLX’s GT package. The 2018 TLX A-Spec takes things further but also starts with visual attitude. Instead of the 2018 TLX 2.4’s restyled 17-inch wheels and the TLX 3.5’s 18-inch wheels, the TLX V6 A-Spec rolls on dark 19-inch wheels with wider 245-series tires. A gloss-black lip spoiler and a body kit with a big dual-exhaust setup are also part of the package, as are the all-important A-Spec exterior badges mounted on the trunklid and in front of the front doors. All A-Spec cars get functional upgrades, too, including different power steering tuning and more aggressive damper settings. Go for the V-6 AWD model, and Acura adds stiffer spring rates and rear stabilizer bar.
The 2018 TLX A-Spec upgrades continue inside with a thicker sport steering wheel, brushed aluminumlike trim, sportier seats with more bolstering, and red or black leather seats with Alcantara inserts. The instrument cluster gauges have red accents, but those functional gauges are starting to look a little dated. We look forward to testing the TLX V6 A-Spec to see whether, objectively and subjectively, the sportier trim is an improvement over the regular six-cylinder model. And in case you’re wondering, Acura says that because those who want a sportier look and feel will naturally consider the V-6 over the I-4, a four-cylinder A-Spec model isn’t in the plans for now.
No matter which model you are eyeing, all TLXs wear the much-improved diamond-pentagon grille that we’ve already seen on the refreshed 2017 MDX, with grille detailing similar to what we’ve already seen on a number of Mercedes cars. Inside, the car’s controversial two-screen layout returns but is said to be 30 percent faster. The lower display is now more responsive, Acura says, and the system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Among other improvements, these helpful infotainment system solutions can provide navigation even on base models that don’t have an integrated system as long as your connected smartphone has reception. Other available 2018 TLX features include ventilated front seats, a multicamera parking system, LED ambient lighting that shines in 10 locations inside the interior, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and power folding side mirrors.
Although all that newly standard safety tech should prove helpful, if an accident is unavoidable, the 2018 TLX should have you covered. The pre-refresh 2017 model received a five-star overall rating from NHTSA (out of a possible five stars) and received top marks in most IIHS crash tests, including front crash prevention, but it missed out on 2017 Top Safety Pick status because of its Acceptable rating (instead of Good) on the small overlap front test and a Marginal rating (instead of Acceptable or Good) on its headlights. Acura says that the low- and high-beam headlights on the 2018 TLX have been improved, so we’ll see how well the car’s safety test performance compares to the pre-refresh model.
The TLX has always veered more toward the value side of the luxury sport sedan segment than others, and that advantage is enhanced with the updated 2018 model. Although the engines might not have changed, the styling has, and that could be just enough to increase TLX awareness in a ridiculously crowded field.