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2018 Acura TLX: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Acura TLX, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Acura TLX Review

In the 2018 Acura TLX, buyers will find a premium-brand luxury sedan that also has an athletic side. And while this statement is true of many luxury performance sedans, few can claim the near flawless reliability ratings put up by Acura products, including the newest TLX. For those not so enamored by brand identity, however, there are any number of less expensive family sedans that offer the same or even higher levels of luxury, safety and performance.

From a styling standpoint, the TLX gets a boost this year thanks to a heavily revised front end. Still, there’s more to like in a Kia Optima or Ford Fusion. Things don’t get much better on the road, where the 4-cylinder model fails to inspire. Moving to the V6 all-wheel-drive (AWD) version significantly improves the TLX’s ability to impress driving enthusiasts, but it’s still not a best-in-class performance by any means.

To be fair, we think the TLX will appeal to those who place safety, fuel economy, a comfortable ride and intuitive instrument controls over flashy good looks and high-tech gizmos. If, however, you feel a luxury car should do more, you’ll find much more to like in a BMW 3 Series, a Cadillac ATS, an Infiniti Q50 or an Audi A4. See the 2018 Acura TLX models for sale near you

What’s New for 2018?

For 2018, the Acura TLX gets a refreshed front end and, on V6-equipped models, a new performance-oriented A-Spec trim. A-Spec models feature a revised suspension, 19-inch wheels, recalibrated power steering, thickly bolstered sport seats and unique interior and exterior trim. Other new features for the TLX include a revised audio system featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Advanced Package for V6 models gains wireless phone charging, a Surround View camera, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Lastly, the Acura Watch system is now standard on every TLX.  

What We Like

Excellent crash-test scores; quiet interior; roomy rear seat; uncomplicated dash design; impressive handling when equipped with AWD; Acura’s ELS Studio audio

What We Don’t

Generic styling; uninspiring 4-cylinder engine; no manual transmission; snug rear seat

How Much?

$33,950-$48,000

Fuel Economy

The Acura TLX is powered by a choice of two engines. The base model is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque. Power flows to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. This transmission is unique in that it also includes a torque converter for smoother gear changes. Fuel economy for this model is rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Optional on the TLX is a 3.5-liter V6 offered with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). This engine produces a robust 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and employs a 9-speed automatic with an electronic Sequential SportShift mode. Fuel economy for the FWD TLX V6 is 20 mpg city/32 mpg hwy, while the SH-AWD model earns 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. A-Spec models earn slightly lower figures, with front-drive models attaining 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy and AWD versions returning 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 TLX features three trim levels: the TLX 2.4, TLX 3.5 V6 and TLX A-Spec. The 2.4 can be equipped with the Technology package, while the V6 can be equipped with the Technology package, AWD, the A-Spec trim or the Advance package.

The TLX 2.4 ($33,950) includes the advanced Precision All-Wheel Steer (or P-AWS) all-wheel steering system, 17-in alloy wheels, Acura Watch (forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation and collision-mitigation braking), adaptive cruise control, a power moonroof, keyless access with push-button start, a rearview monitor, dual-zone automatic climate control, jewel-eye LED headlights, Siri Eyes Free, imitation-leather seating, heated front seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, a 4-way power passenger seat, two LCD view screens (8 inches up top and 7 inches on the lower dash), Bluetooth capability, 7-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, app integration, and USB and auxiliary input jacks.

The TLX 2.4 with the Technology package ($37,650) adds rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, voice-activated 3-D navigation, leather seating and the 10-speaker Acura ELS audio system with HD Radio.

The TLX 3.5 ($37,150 FWD; $39,150 AWD) includes all the same equipment as the base 2.4 but features the V6 engine, the 9-speed automatic transmission, an electronic push-button gear selector, an 8-way power passenger seat and 18-in wheels.

The TLX 3.5 with the Technology package ($40,850 FWD; $42,850 AWD) includes all the equipment from the Technology package, plus the V6 engine and driver’s-seat power thigh support.

The TLX 3.5 with the Advance package ($44,700 FWD; $46,700 AWD) adds front and rear parking sensors, wireless phone charging, LED interior lights, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer, a Surround View camera, remote start, LED front fog lights and 18-in wheels.

The TLX 3.5 A-Spec with the Technology package ($43,750 FWD; $45,750 AWD) adds a performance-tuned suspension, 19-in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, unique exterior and interior styling cues, a choice of black Alcantara or red leather seating, sport front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging and a black headliner.

Safety

The TLX comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability control, and seven airbags, including front, front side-impact, side curtain and driver’s-knee airbags. Also standard is Acura Watch, which includes lane-departure warning and assist, collision warning, collision-mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control. Optional safety equipment includes rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear sonar warning sensors.

In government crash testing, the Acura TLX performed exceptionally well, earning five out of five stars in every category. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the TLX top marks in all but the small-overlap front crash test, in which it earned a Marginal score.

Behind the Wheel

Although some of the TLX’s rivals truly distinguish themselves on the road due to sharp handling or especially impressive acceleration, we can’t say the same thing about the TLX. With the exception of the new A-Spec trim, the TLX’s ride and handling are more about comfort and competence than competition.

With the V6 under its hood, the 2018 Acura TLX always has enough power for any situation, and the steering feel is appropriately responsive. The FWD TLX’s driving experience, however, doesn’t stand out from the pack in terms of sportiness — a reality that’s true from the base model, which uses a 206-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, right on up to the V6-powered TLX, which musters 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. However, this engine combined with the A-Spec and SH-AWD setup produces a very different driving experience, one we think will probably satisfy all but the most diehard driving enthusiasts.

Interestingly, the TLX’s engine details help prove our larger point. Given its size, the 4-cylinder TLX includes one of the least powerful engines in its segment, and the V6 model is overpowered by nearly every competitor, from the BMW 340i to the Infiniti Q50 and Cadillac ATS.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Cadillac ATS The ATS is a bit smaller than the TLX, but it offers superior ride and handling. You can choose between a 272-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder or a 335-hp V6 engine, and some rear-wheel-drive models are available with a manual transmission.

2018 Infiniti Q50The Q50’s styling and interior layout is much more expressive than the TLX’s, and its myriad of engine offerings includes three turbocharged options and one hybrid. The Q50’s optional Sport packages make it much more fun to drive.

2018 Lexus ISThe IS can match the TLX for quality, dependability and resale value, and it offers a more powerful base engine. Although the TLX has a stronger V6 than the base IS 300, the IS 350 delivers an additional 16 hp.

Used Lexus GSA 2011-2016 Lexus GS will give you more interior space, power and luxury, and it’s a better-known commodity in the luxury-car world. There’s also a hybrid model.

Autotrader’s Advice

If you’re looking for luxury, power, safety and technology, we suggest moving to the top-of-the-line TLX 3.5 SH-AWD with the Advance package or the performance-oriented TLX 3.5 A-Spec. Other than the Acura name, the base TLX just doesn’t provide enough to convince us you couldn’t spend the same money or less on a Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200 or Kia Optima and get more car for your money. 

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