When you want your car to make you look good, the Acura TLX gets the job done.
Acura has long been a symbol of affordable luxury, and the 2018 Acura TLX AWD A-Spec continues that precedent. This mid-size sedan is a solid choice for drivers wanting luxury paired with safety, reliability, and technology. And if style is important to you (of course it is!), the TLX shows off Acura’s new look with the ‘Diamond Pentagon Grille’ that replaces the chrome belt that covered the front of its prior versions.
A-Spec takes that look a bit further and adds a little more muscle to the TLX. A-Spec is Acura’s sport package, which adds larger wheels, a rear spoiler, fog lights and increases the engine size to a V6 290 horsepower –all the better to use those paddle shifters – from the 4-cylinder 206 horsepower in the standard model.
Who This Car is For
- Singles, couples or small families with young children
- Older adults looking for a luxury feel at an affordable price
- Drivers who want a stylish, sporty look in their vehicle
- Buyers who want a reliable sedan with ample trunk space and smartphone integration
What This Car Costs
The Acura TLX AWD is available in four trim levels. It’s also available in two front-wheel drive models.
- Standard Acura TLX AWD: $38,200
- Technology Package: $42,100
- A-Spec (the model driven for this review): $44,800
- Advance Package: $45,950
Further Reading: Meet Elliot Scheiner, Grammy winner and designer of Acura’s exclusive premium sound system
This Car is Pretty
From the beautiful black diamond grille in the front, to the rear spoiler, to the sweet “Shark Gray” wheels, the Acura TLX A-Spec is for anyone who wants a car that turns heads. The “jewel eye” LED headlights and LED fog lights are icing on the cake.
Honda Reliability with Luxury Touches to Boot
Inside, the TLX has the comfort and reliability you’d expect from any Honda (Acura’s parent company). Features include:
- Front seats with three levels of heat and ventilation so you always have maximum comfort
- 12-way power seat for the driver and 8-way power seat for the passenger
- Alcantara seating surfaces – a suede-like material that feels luxurious to the touch
- Push-button gear shift that probably takes up more room than necessary, but I like that the buttons were all shaped slightly differently so you can “feel” what gear you’re shifting into once you get used to it.
- Beautiful ambient lighting
Lots of Trunk Space, and Some Backseat Flexibility
You can pack a lot into this sedan’s 14.3 cubic feet of trunk space. That’s about half the space you’d find in the average compact SUV. For a sedan, this is a good amount of space! Be aware that the back seats do not fold flat. You can fold down the seats to reveal a “window” so you can slide long items through, but you can’t completely open up the entire cargo space behind the first-row seating. After all, this isn’t an SUV.
Second-row seating was comfortable for my teenagers, but considering the size of this car, I would have liked a bit more leg room. And no USB ports or 12 Volt charge port in the second row meant it was a good thing we brought along our battery packs so the kids could charge up.
Safety is Standard – But Not Ordinary
AcuraWatch is standard on all TLX models and trims and includes:
- Autonomous Emergency Braking
- Forward Collision Warning
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Lane Keeping Assist
- Road Departure Mitigation
I really liked the location of the TLX’s blind spot notification. Many cars have this light on the side mirrors, but this car places it inside the car, just next to the mirror. I felt it was much easier to see against the dark background of the car’s interior.
Other safety features to love are the auto-dimming rear-view mirror and surround-view camera, which gives you a “bird’s eye view” of everything around the car. I’m also a big fan of the rain-sensing windshield wipers. Driving in bad weather is stressful enough – it’s so nice to know the wipers will just work at whatever rate the precip is coming down!
Get connected to your smartphone with ease
The Acura TLX AWD A-Spec comes with two screens: the lower is a touchscreen for climate, audio, and other controls; the upper is devoted to navigation and is not a touchscreen. This seemed a bit redundant to me, but after a while driving the car, I could appreciate being able to see so much information at a glance.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration comes standard with all trim levels and I had no trouble connecting my iPhone and listening to podcasts.
As for plugging in, the TLX has just one USB in the whole car. There is also a 12V plug and an auxiliary port for connecting audio, both in the front. For a single person commuting to work or couple, this is fine. For a family or drivers who regularly have back seat passengers, a workaround may be necessary.
All Wheel Drive performance handled snow with no problem
For a sedan, this car performed better than I expected in less than perfect weather conditions. The AWD was great on snowy roads and it made it up my long driveway with no issues. And trust me, I’ve had several sedans stuck half-way up my driveway over the years!
The TLX also comes with paddle shifters, though I didn’t get a chance to try them out. Paddle shifters give you manual control over an automatic transmission and are typically more for “fun” than anything else.
Premium Sound From ELS: It’s like a Concert Hall in Your Car
Probably one of the coolest things in this Acura, or any of them, is the ELS premium sound system that, in this case, is standard to the TLX A Spec. ELS is the sound system designed by Grammy winner Elliot Scheiner, who has worked with Steely Dan, the Foo Fighters, Eric Clapton, Beyoncé, Van Morrison and dozens and dozens of other great artists.
The story of how Elliot became involved with Acura is a great one: he thought the car was a great place to listen to music and proposed designing a system for it. He pitched every car company and they all turned him down. Then, Acura proposed a collaboration. The result was so good that not only is Elliot extremely proud (he drives a TLX!) but when he needed the Foo Fighters to listen to a track he was working on, he sent it over in an Acura for the band to take a listen. Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl was so impressed he approved the work and bought the car, too!
We got a chance to listen to the system with Elliot and are giving away a pair of Panasonic headphones so one lucky winner can get the ELS experience every day.
The sound system completes the package that the Acura TLX promises: luxury, technology and a sporty look and feel designed to spoil the driver.
What We Loved
- Stylish exterior
- Surround-view camera
- Ambient lighting
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on all trim levels
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Unique location of blind spot indicator light
- ELS premium sound system
What You Need to Know
- Seats five
- Average fuel economy is 23 MPG combined; 20 city, 29 highway
- Six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty
- Four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty
What to Listen to in the 2018 Acura TLX
We asked Elliot Scheiner what he thinks sounds great in the Acura. This is a selection from his ultimate ELS premium sound system playlist.
Disclosure: The 2018 Acura TLX AWD A-Spec was provided for this test drive. All opinions are my own.