Monday, September 18, 2017

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2018 Acura TLX 3.5 A-Spec

Replacing two of my favorite Acura cars (the TSX and the TL) a few years back, the 2018 Acura TLX continues to be a perfect choice for someone who wants to graduate from a Honda Accord. The TLX offers a luxurious, roomy sedan with plenty of features - all without closing down the bank account.

But for those that want a little more excitement out of their Acura, a new A-Spec trim level joins the line up for 2018.

The A-Spec trim can be ordered on either the four-cylinder or the V6 equipped TLX - it's the latter that is how this weeks test car arrived.

Before we get into the A-Spec, it should be noted that all TLXs get a new five-sided mesh grille, new bumpers and new headlights — leaving the old Acura "beak" as a distant memory. The TLX continues to sit right between Acura's entry level car -the ILX and their flagship sedan - the RLX. In normal form, the TLX is handsome with graceful and mature lines to it. But like most Acura's, the styling is hardly exciting and doesn't stand out in a parking lot.

But that changes with the A-Spec. This new package adds dark-gray 19-inch wheels, black exterior trim, and LED fog lights, and special badging - all giving the TLX a sense of purposefulness that has been sorely lacking since the car's 2015 debut.

Along with the wider footprint and enhanced looks, the A-Spec also adds in a firmer sport-tuned suspension that includes firmer dampers and springs, a larger-diameter rear anti-roll bar, retuned electric power steering and sticker Michelin tires. Inside the TLX A-Spec, there are special sports seats with Alcantara inserts and contrast stitching, black headliner and A-Spec badges scattered around.

Most will be disappointed to hear that there are no engine enhancements. TLXs equipped with the 3.5 V6 makes do with 290 hp and an 9-speed transmission. The 2.4 liter four-cylinder versions gets by with 206 hp and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

But that sport-tuned suspension combined with the TLX's SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) really changes the dynamics of the TLX.  In my first drive, the first thing I noticed was that the steering wheel has a pleasant heft to it, making it feel like your connected to the wheel better. Add in the the firmer suspension and there is now a sense of athleticism and tossability to the TLX. Throw it into a corner, point the nose at the exit and mash the gas and the TLX powers out of the corner like a roller coaster making a sharp turn.  Hang on!

Some may gripe that the TLX makes under 300hp. Let them gripe - the V6 delivers plenty of power for this chassis - it's plenty fast, hitting 60 mph in the mid 5-second range. Sure, there are plenty of faster four-door luxury sedans out there, but not with a price tag under the $50,000 mark.

The TLX continues to be a great step up from the Honda Accord. The A-Spec package gives you even more reason to make the leap.