by Frank A. Aukofer

They call it a “major refresh,” but the 2018 Acura TLX looks and feels more like a comprehensive makeover of the sport/luxury sedan.

Although it carries over engines, transmissions and other components from the previous TLX, the new car has been re-sculpted from the windshield forward. A handsome “diamond pentagon” grille replaces the earlier face, which some critics likened to a dental overbite.

There also are new rear styling touches as well as an upgraded model, the A-Spec, which features state-of-the art suspension modifications, quicker steering, 19-inch alloy wheels and premium sport-tuned Michelin tires that combine to muffle road noise and improve the ride, response and feel. Engine sounds are enhanced to make music for enthusiasts’ ears.

2018 Acura TLX

The musicality extends to the to the rhythm and tone of the driving experience, in which the TLX — particularly in the models with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive — evokes tactile sensations and emotional driver responses. Overall, the feel is of heft and substance.

The first TLX was designed to replace two Acura models: The acclaimed TL sedan, produced from 1996 to 2014, and the slightly smaller 2004-2014 TSX sedan. A TSX station wagon also was sold for a few years.

There are six versions of the new TLX, all with front-wheel drive, starting with the standard model at $33,950. It comes equipped with a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automated manual transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother starts off the line.

2018 Acura TLX

Basic equipment is extensive, including the AcuraWatch suite of safety features: autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

Also standard are Apple Car Play or Android Auto infotainment systems, XM satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, motorized sunroof, power and heated front seats, and pushbutton starting. A 2.4 TLX with the Tech package, at $37,650, adds navigation, premium ELS audio system, perforated leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic monitoring.

There also are four versions of the TLX with Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. They range from the standard model at $37,150 with equipment similar to that of the standard 2.4-liter version, ranging up to the Advance trim level. That carries a price tag of $44,700 but includes a full load of equipment, including wireless cell phone charging, surround-view camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and a heated windshield.

2018 Acura TLX

Off by itself is the slightly less expensive but more engaging A-Spec model, which lists at $43,750. It was the version tested for this review and is aimed at customers who appreciate the nuances of sharper, more responsive handling as well as raspier exhaust notes.

The tested TLX was equipped with Acura’s state-of-the-art super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD in Acura-speak). It is available on any V6 TLX model for $2,000, and not only delivers confidence in foul weather conditions but enhances the driving experience even in fair weather climates.

Sure, almost anyone would be perfectly happy driving a TLX with front-wheel drive. But aficionados will appreciate the SH-AWD for the precise way it contributes to rapid lane changes and high-speed handling stability on curving roads. The torque vectoring system, housed in the rear differential, apportions power to the rear wheels automatically depending on conditions. In a high-speed corner, it slows the inside wheel slightly and increases power to the outside rear wheel to follow the driver’s chosen line. It also modifies the steering angle. The principle is the same as that used on the Acura NSX super car and the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.

Although the A-Spec with SH-AWD still has the TLX feeling a bit as if it is under-steering — that is, pushing forward in a straight line — it obeys the driver’s wishes if you trust it.

2018 Acura TLX

Interior appointments, ergonomics and front-seat comfort are first-rate. But the outboard rear seats are barely adequate for average-sized adults. The center-rear position should be reserved for purses and small backpacks.

Though the TLX is marketed as a midsize sedan, its interior volume of 107.6 cubic feet (including the trunk) places it in the EPA’s compact class. To get a midsize designation, a sedan must have 110 to 119 cubic feet inside.

The 2018 TLX competes in the entry premium segment of the market against the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, BMW 330i, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. It doesn’t bow to any of them.

2018 Acura TLX

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 290 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and SH-AWD all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 93/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,616 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/31/25 mpg. Premium required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,700.
  • Price as tested: $45,700.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Acura TLX
2018 Acura TLX V6 A-Spec

Photos (c) Acura.