By on March 28, 2017

Refreshed 2018 Acura TLX to Make World Debut

Slowly but surely, the inhabitants of the Acura stable are dropping the toned-down version of the brand’s polarizing “shield” grille in favor of the far more appealing “diamond pentagon” mouth.

That grille debuted on Acura’s Precision concept car before appearing on the redesigned 2017 MDX. Now, it’s the TLX sedan’s turn for plastic surgery. The automaker promises a refreshed and shieldless TLX at the New York International Auto Show on April 11, hoping that a new face might turn the tide on the midsize sedan’s flagging fortunes.

Minus this photo, which clearly reveals the updated model’s new grille, sculpted hood and LED headlights, there’s not much information flowing out of Acura. The automaker claims the 2018 TLX will boast “premium features and technology enhancements” that should place the sedan as one of the most “technologically advanced and well-equipped cars” in its segment. Well, we’ll see about that.

Certainly, Acura needs more eyes on its products, especially its sedans. Overall brand sales in the U.S. sank by nearly 16,000 units last year compared to 2015 — up from recession-era totals but well below its mid-2000s tally. The TLX, which replaced the TL and TSX in the brand’s lineup for the 2015 model year, saw U.S. sales sink by nearly 10,000 units compared to its first full year on the market. This year’s not looking too good so far.

At its peak popularity, the old TL brought in over 70,000 U.S. customers for three consecutive years in the mid-2000s. Last year saw 37,156 TLX sales. Of course, the buying public’s shift towards crossovers and SUVs plays a role in the declining sales of nearly all traditional passenger cars. These days, it’s more a game of holding on to what you already have.

[Image: Honda North America]

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60 Comments on “2018 Acura TLX Shapes up, Lowers Its Shield...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    The sedan segment is like Al Bundy’s job; he can’t get ahead and he can’t leave.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s a notable fact that the luxury brands that struggle (Lincoln, Cadillac, Acura, Jaguar in past years) have to reinvent their front-fascia design language so drastically and so often. Meanwhile, the brands with more staying power (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Land Rover and surprisingly Volvo) have front-fascia timelines that are more evolutionary. In fact, lot of those brands’ equity *is* in those trademark styling details. Imagine if BMW released something with no Hoffmeister kink and no kidney grille.

    As for the subject of the article, although I think the logo is a tad too large, Acura seems to have a hit with this. It’s a fitting and improved replacement for the beak.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They also have consistent naming conventions. We’re seeing what happens when Lincoln uses a traditional Continental name for its flagship model. Imagine if Cadillac resurrected its Seville and Fleetwood monikers. Golly, even “Model 62” sounds better than “CT6”. Acura needs to bring back its model names – who can tell a TLX from a RLX or an ILX?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        In the end, the only people who care about whether a car is “named” or “numbered” are the ones who read this site.

        In the real world, they care far more about things like styling, or infotainment systems that work properly, or not buying a luxury car that’s a thinly disguised Fusion.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          “In the real world, they care far more about things like styling,”

          Which is why the garish RX or anonymous and dated BMW any-series sedans are top sellers?

          “infotainment systems that work properly,”

          Which is why Mercedes and Lexus have top sellers with their awful “please take your eyes off the road” touchpad infotainment interfaces?

          “or not buying a luxury car that’s a thinly disguised Fusion”

          Which is why the Camry ES has trounced all luxury sedans in sales outside of the 3/C for several years?

          I don’t mean to pick on you, but you left a lot of low hanging fruit :) Acura never recovered from the blow to its brand equity when it dropped names from its models. 21 years later people still think fondly of and even pine for the Legend. Cadillac’s only model that means anything to anybody besides contrarian CTS-V wagon accolytes is the only one with a name- the Escalade (which is also a lazy rebadge). So while a name can’t polish a turd (nobody remembers the Opel That Sucked™ aka the Catera), I think a name can help catapult a middle of the pack but competitive entrant above the fray. XTS? MKZ? XE? CONTINENTAL. 2nd and 3rd tier brands don’t have the luxury of alphabet soup for model names… if the brand before the model doesn’t matter you better make sure the model does!

          • 0 avatar
            DearS

            All make interesting point and/or conversation. I do want names to come back. I like the Continental and Legend names. Vigor, Integra, even Catera.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Thinly? That may have been the case with the first gen, but I’d hardly call the current MKZ a “thinly disguised Fusion” since it offers exclusive powertrain.

          When does it become okay for a luxury car to share a platform with a mainstream car? Oh, I know: When its a Lexus.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ford/Lincoln Panther
            Ford/Lincoln D186 Conti
            GM C/K body Cadillac (slight variation of H bodies)
            GM D body Cadillac (slight variation of B body)
            Chrysler E-body (New Yorker K-car)
            Chrysler Y-body (Imperial K-car)
            Chrysler M-body (Fifth Ave RWD/Dippy/Gran Fury)
            Everything Acura since 2005 save TSX
            Lexus FWD
            Everything Lincoln since 2006

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        While names do matter more to TTAC readers, Acura’s old names — Integra and Legend — had value in the general public, arguably in the same way Civic and Accord do… or Miata… or Mustang… or Corvette. Acura needs to embrace its strengths, not hide from them. BMW is one of the few exceptions that can make letters and numbers work; that is *their* strength, not Acura’s.

        The problem now is that resurrecting the names Integra and Legend after so much time… well… it may be impossible to produce a car that can live up to the near mythic expectations.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          “it may be impossible to produce a car that can live up to the near mythic expectations.”

          Did somebody say CR-Z? It wasn’t even exactly the same name, yet critics (not to mention the majority of the B&B) panned it for being a Hybrid instead of all Fast-and-Fart-cannons.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            Yes, CR-Z is a good example. I wouldn’t buy one, but I thought it was an “interesting” car — a hybrid with a manual. But I’ve read that the AC would shut off at stop lights, along with a bunch of other annoyances.

            In the end, a Mazda3 gets good mpg, is available with a stick, fun to drive, and is a lot more practical.

      • 0 avatar
        tlccar

        The SUVs are fine but you are 100% correct that the sedans should go back to names, especially the Legend. Even simply keeping TL as it was very well known and accepted.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Lorenzo: Fleetwood, yes. But don’t forget Cadillac’s de’Ville models as well They were the ones that really carried the brand for Caddy. The Seville was a joke in the beginning, with its chopped-off trunk and front-wheel drive. Not saying it was bad but rather that everybody was panning it for being so different.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Agree about the grille, Kyree. They can’t bury the damn beak fast enough for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Kidney grille I get, Kyree. But Hoffmeister kink?

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    Acuras problem is brand differentiation. When I look at an MDX,I see a Honda Pilot with the wrong badge.

    Back in the 90s this wasn’t so. The 2006 TL was a great example too-it looked nothing like the equivalent generation Accord. They need to follow Lexus’ example and differentiate the brand,fast.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Funny you use the MDX as an example — it’s probably the one current Acura that distinguishes itself best from its Honda twin, thanks to the use of SH-AWD and much better suspension tuning.

      I’d cite the RDX, which amounts to a CR-V V6.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        RDX is yucky and I’ve never liked any of them. Especially not the first one.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          It’s not a bad choice for a two-row CUV. The value is good, it’s quick, and it’s pretty comfortable in front. It’s just not any sort of driver’s car or luxury car. Think of it as a CR-V V6 and you won’t be disappointed.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Awful lotta money for a V6 CR-V though.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Base $36k, loaded just over $40k, with a couple grand off in both cases? Seems pretty reasonable to me. Not a big upcharge over a loaded CR-V.

            Right now the RDX is at a disadvantage because it’s based on the previous CR-V, but that should be fixed this year.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            A fully loaded CR-V is around $33,000, so yeah, a RDX with similar equipment (AWD, leather, nav) is definitely a big upcharge at around $40,000.

            I wouldn’t pay an extra seven grand for it.

            (Come to think of it, that last sentence pretty much sums it up for Acura as a whole, doesn’t it?)

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            I was able to build a CR-V Touring AWD for $35,960. I did not add any “accessories” like cargo mats and window rain gaurds to arrive at that price. Just AWD and the optional wheels, to make a “loaded” example.

            The RDX build, with premium wheels and AWD, was $39,418.

            So, about $3,500 premium for an Acura with a V-6 instead of a Honda with an I-4.

            If the CR-V had an optional V-6, what would it cost? Not $3500 I’m guessing, but it would be safe to assume it would put it within spitting distance of the Acura.

            So, no, as far as I’m concerned, that isn’t that much of a difference. It certainly isn’t $7,000. If having a V-6 was important enough, I’m sure moving up to an Acura to get it, paying $3500 more, wouldn’t be so hard to justify.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        RDX IS a V6 CRV, and that’s exactly what we wanted. It’s rapidly becoming the only “upscale” SUV you can get with a V6 under $50k. It’s certainly not perfect (could use some more features, better styling, and less wind noise) but for the price (our 2015 was loaded for $38k) I defy anyone to beat it.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Yea, an RDX is on our short list. It’s a little expensive compared to a CR-V, but so what. Luxury cars by definition are not the best at value. And against its real competitors- the Murano, Edge, Venza etc- it’s competitively priced and equipped.

      • 0 avatar
        tlccar

        Sorry, the CR-V is nothing like an RDX. Fit and finish, comfort, overall feel and drive in the RDX are worlds apart. And that V-6? Nothing replaces 2 cylinders like 2 cylinders. Turbos and extra horsepower in a 4 cylinder will still be that. A 4-cylinder. Step on the gas in that V-6 and you know you have something special. Remember that building 300k+ units vs. 50k makes a huge difference in the quality and overall fit and finish. Knock the Acura all you want – you get what you pay for, plain and simple.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    With any luck, maybe Lexus will see this grille trend and start downsizing those cow catchers they employ on everything now.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Are you calling pedestrians cows? The front ends have to be “pedestrian-friendly”, as ludicrous as that sounds. But there’s nothing in the rules to prevent making the front end as menacing as possible, so people will think twice about stepping in front of one.

  • avatar
    George B

    My theory of decreased Acura TLX sales is that US market no longer supports near-luxury brands. A car brand is either a full luxury brand or it’s a mass market value brand. The Sloan ladder of success doesn’t work in the 21st century. Buyers either stretch the limits of their credit to lease real luxury or they don’t bother and buy whatever model offers good value. The Acura TLX doesn’t offer enough brand cachet to escape competition from the Honda Accord Touring and other loaded mass market cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Exactly. I mean, even BMW, Land Rover and Volvo had to evolve from being semi-luxury purpose-built cars (with cloth seats and manual A/C) to the tier-one brands that they are now. And those at least have brand gravitas.

      In a world where “Accord Touring” and “Fusion Platinum/Sport” solve most of your luxury sedan needs, Acura, Lincoln and Buick, in particular, had better smarten up, or they may not last.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I also think that Acura in particular puts itself in a tough spot because it’s always appealed to a left-brained demographic by pitching itself as the smart, reliable alternative to a more expensive luxury car. My 2008 TL was a great car, pretty much never let me down other than the battery, and was as steal compared to its marketing competitors (IS/G37/Germans), but once I had a nice, reliable car with leather and a decent sound system and good sound isolation and a V-6, why would I need another one? I test-drove the new TLX and thought it was fine, but not notably better than my old car, and I didn’t see any reason to spend another $25k over my trade-in to, essentially, buy a newer version of my car. So I picked up a GTI instead.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I think this is right, and I think a big part of the reason is that the full “luxury” brands have gone downmarket. They’ve released bottom-feeder products and they’ve invented aggressive subsidized lease deals for their volume products. An Acura still has a lot of features that a BMW lacks at the same price point, but as every car has started to feature “the basics,” the difference in features-for-money has become less important and the brand has become more important. Yesterday’s TL customer is today’s $329/month 328i lessee.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Don’t count out the role the CPO luxury car has had in eating away the middle ground. If you can get a 3 year old BMW or Mercedes with 20-30k miles and a warranty for less money than a new Buick or Lincoln or Acura, that is a lot more appealing to many customers.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        It’s really the leasing that kills the Japanese upscale sedan. Why look like a poor buying a Japanese car (which will last 150k miles with little work) when you can look rich leasing a German one with a 60k half-life? Unfortunately that leaves those of us who don’t want to lease out in the cold.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I guess across the broad market this is true, but for me personally the techy touches (DSG over CVT, LED headlights, general luxury touches) and better looks (100% subjective) are worth the premium. Doesn’t hurt that the plethora of aftermarket and OEM upgrades for the Accord port over as well. But I’m a very limited market.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        I do think that the TLX is worth the premium over a spec’ed out Accord. My impression from when I was looking is that transaction prices don’t end up being all that different, particularly given the limited selection of loaded Accords on dealer lots versus the volume-model TLXs languishing with Acura dealers. For me, better leather, sound deadening, transmission, dealer experience, and less likelihood of losing my car in the parking lot would lead me to the Acura if the Honda were the alternative (and did back when I had my Acura).

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    You remember those flash bulb blocks you’d put on an old camera? That’s what I see when I look at that photo up above.

    Might also point out – Acura has already HAD this grille design, just in more calm form. They’re just making a revised statement of what they showed from 2001-2004.

    https://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2009/08/05/08/18/2004-acura-rl-3.5l-pic-32250-640×480.jpeg

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “Might also point out – Acura has already HAD this grille design, just in more calm form. They’re just making a revised statement of what they showed from 2001-2004.”

      Well, only in the sense that all of their grilles have been pentagonal since that time. Their worst grille, though, if you ask me, was the weird one on the 2007-2009 MDX.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “those flash bulb blocks you’d put on an old camera”

      s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/9f/b6/bc/9fb6bc117eb69a605423da0d59924559.jpg

      Swingin’ Seventies!

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        I used the horizontal aligned one on my Polaroid manual advance camera, circa 1990. We stopped being able to find them anymore at the store after a while.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Acura has had almost a decade to come up with the successor to its signature pull tab beak and this is the best they could manage? In some ways on the MDX it looks even less cohesive than the previous one, especially in the Beck-songed ad where it’s flying around.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I think what you all say about Acura is true and obviously shoppers agree. They do have a significant advantage over Volvo, Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac, Lexus and Infinity and that is price. Maybe that tho is also the problem. If you are seeking a status symbol, the “cheap one” isn’t going to cut it.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Will the new grille fix the TLX’s road noise problem?

    • 0 avatar
      aaroncooke

      I think the 15 TLX really fixed the road noise issues of the previous gen TSX/TL cars. I’ve had both TSX and TLX and this is one area the TLX seems to really shine. Ride quality and road noise are pretty Lexus-like this time around, in my opinion. Perhaps this is at the expense of a car that is not as engaging to drive as my previous TSX (which was a 6 speed).

    • 0 avatar
      tlccar

      What road noise problem? The TLX is one of the quietest cars I have ever driven!

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    I really want Acura to be good, like Lexus good but still engaging like Honda (was). I’m hoping my Accord can hang on for as long as it takes for Acura to remember how to make cars. I remember in the late 90s, as a civic owner, I rode in my girlfriend’s father’s Acura (TL maybe?). I remember it being just a fantastic car.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I’d rather see the rear end of the car, with actual exhaust pipes that look attractive. Every time I see a TLX’s dingy exhaust pipes pointed at the ground under the rear bumper, I think it looks so cheap. Even the “sport” version of the TLX, with the silly ground effects, can’t get this minor cosmetic necessity correct.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Acura needs to bring back real model names and the legendary 1st generation Legend reliability — dealers were losing money on their service departments supposedly.

    Getting rid of the silver bucktooth was a good first step, but there is so much to be done before they can regain their former glory.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    They need a new ad agency, since their ads generally suck, especially the current one with the screaming horn sounds and flashing, epilepsy-inducing graphics. Their marketing people couldn’t spell clue if you spotted them the C, the U, and the E.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      ALL ads suck, not just every car maker’s ads, but other products too. I mentioned that in a baseball website about the new Major League Baseball ad for the upcoming season. I mentioned they should have hired Mel Brooks! Seriously, the older movie directors were more creative than the ad agencies putting out the stuff we see today.

  • avatar
    tlccar

    Poor Acura, always getting heavily criticized and the s*** end of the stick for no good reason. The TLX is probably one of the most underrated sedans ever. It is NOT a Honda Accord. It was designed from the ground up as its own car. Very few people even realize this. In its first year the transmission had some issues with computers having to be reprogrammed, and Consumer Reports pounced on this, giving it a horrible review and not recommending it. I am certain this has had a bad effect on the TLX sales and it is totally unfair. What Acura needs to do is rename RLX back to Legend, make the ILX the Integra and offer it in all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual. Having an entry-level car that people know and sells well as well as your flagship that people know and sells well only boosts sales for the rest of your vehicles that are already selling!! Acura lost the two cars that made it what it was in the first place!

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “It is NOT a Honda Accord. It was designed from the ground up as its own car.”

      LOL no. it rides on the same architecture as an Accord.

      lemme ask you- what’s the “why buy” for a TLX over an Accord?

      That’s Acura’s problem.

      • 0 avatar
        VTECV6NYC

        Valid points, Jim. I’ve bought two Accord Tourings – 2014 and 2017 – and didn’t even look long at Acura’s TLX. The opportunity to have SH-AWD was appealing, but I thought the Accord had better styling, and the lack of features: old nav system, Apple and Android CarPlay, and heated rear seats, made it a somewhat easy choice. That I care little for the concerns of others about what I drive helps too.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    From what I can see of that nose, it’s certainly better looking than what they’re currently carrying.

  • avatar
    headphone lampshade router

    Trickle down the NSX layout; RWD with hybrid motors up front.

    Combine that with some weight out of the cars and you’ll have something pretty swell.

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