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2018 Acura TLX: Improved sedan still an underdog

The 2018 Acura TLX has a refreshed interior and exterior.

The 2018 Acura TLX is the fifth year of the performance-oriented midsize luxury sedan. It’s matched against segment leaders from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and it was upgraded this year to further find its way as the competition intensifies.

Unveiled in April and available at dealers in the Bay Area three months ago, the TLX has restyled wheels and a revised grille, front fascia and fenders. Technology has also advanced with new infotainment features, including Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

The 2018 Acura TLX has a refreshed interior and exterior.
The 2018 Acura TLX has a refreshed interior and exterior. All images © Gretchen Gaither/2017.

Acura, the upscale marque of Honda, has long used three-letter titles acronyms in its lineup. It’s uncertain if the some of the names represent a style or are hopeful, important-sounding marketing phrases. The TLX (Touring Luxury Sedan) replaced the TL and TSX models to lessen the letter maze. The performance-oriented A-Spec trim, included in my test vehicle, is also new for 2018.

The A-Spec features showcased the TLX’s versatility during a recent week of driving in Washington and into the San Juan Islands. The 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 290 horsepower and advances with the nine-speed automatic transmission. It also has selectable drive modes — Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+.

Changing modes adjusts the throttle response, shift points, stability control engagement, air-conditioning usage and the all-wheel-drive or all-wheel-steering settings. The Sport+ mode instructs the transmission downshift if you touch the brakes before entering a turn.

The Acura TSX advances from 0-60 miles per hour in about 6.0 seconds, which isn’t particularly brisk. But the sedan has an “attitude.” Its performance seems faster via the comfortable seating, astute maneuverability and good overall vision. There’s also a wealth of safety-oriented technology features, such as blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring systems.

AcuraWatch, the manufacturer’s trademark name for its is a suite of safety features, further enhances the Acura’s top safety marks. Lane departure and lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a road departure mitigation system are standard.

While driving on Interstate 5 for long stretches, entering and exiting various Washington State ferries or driving in and out of small cities, the TLX maintains a quiet ride. The reason? Triple door seals and additional sound insulation have been added.

Likes:

Smooth, quiet ride.
Keen maneuverability.
Versatile driving modes.

Dislikes:

Cramped back seats.
Mediocre gas mileage.
Push-button gearing awkward.

Facts & Figures: 2018 Acura TLX

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.9 seconds.
Airbags: 7
Fuel economy: 20 mpg (city), 29 mpg (highway), 23 mpg (combined), nine-speed, push button automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 290.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $44,800.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.acura.com.
Price As Tested: $45,750.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 6 years/70,000 miles; Powertrain, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“Acura seems to be rediscovering the balance and flow that makes a vehicle engaging to drive. The real question is how much people will pay for it.” — caranddriver.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The 2018 Acura TLX is improved from previous years’ models. But it won’t change the buying habits of loyal follows of BMW or Mercedes-Benz.”

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