By on April 11, 2017

2018 Acura TLX front - Image: Acura

“We’ve really upped the ante in terms of styling, emotion and road presence,” Acura general manager Jon Ikeda said, talking about the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX shown by Honda’s upmarket brand at 2017’s New York International Auto Show.

And for once, an auto executive’s hyperbole matches reality.

The 2018 Acura TLX’s ante has been upped. It appears as though the grille that’s somewhat awkward on the refreshed Acura MDX is far more cohesively adapted to Acura’s affordable 3 Series alternative.

Given the anonymity of the first TLX, which ran for three increasingly less successful model years through 2017, an aggressive exterior is a positive step in the right direction.

“Shoppers who rejected TLX often did so on the basis of the design not being aggressive enough for a sport sedan,” Acura spokesperson Matt Sloustcher told TTAC. “We think the new design direction and especially the A-Spec will strengthen the product.”

Yes, the A-Spec. Acura doesn’t upgrade the powertrain for A-Spec buyers, but it’s more than just cosmetics. The A-Spec trim is optional on V6-engined TLXs with either front or all-wheel drive. Expect the standard kit made obvious in the accompanying images: “exclusive” front fascia, LED fog lights, lower side sills, rear diffuser with dual-exhaust, decklid spoiler, and dark 19-inch wheels. But Acura is also fitting A-Spec TLXs with a sport suspension; aggressive damper settings, Acura says, with A-Spec-unique power steering. AWD A-Specs will have stiffer springs and a rear stabilizer bar.

In other words, not all TLXs will drive like the TLX A-Spec. Nor will they look like the TLX A-Spec.

2018 Acura TLX interior - Image: Acura

But the general theme of styling that finally allows the TLX to stand out in a parking lot full of Camrys will fortunately reach across the lineup.

Of consequence inside is a new infotainment unit, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Acura says the new system is 30-percent faster, but some buyers will still be put off by a controller below the touchscreen that operates the higher screen.

Collision Mitigation Braking System with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise, and road departure mitigation will be standard across the 2018 Acura TLX line.

Every V6 trim level, not just the upper grades, will now offer all-wheel drive, known in Acura speak as SH-AWD. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder continues as the standard powerplant.

Gone are the days when Acura managed to sell more than 100,000 copies of its TL and TSX on an annual basis. That was more than a decade ago. The TLX, which replaced both of those cars, isn’t the major player in Acura showrooms now. That’s a role filled by Acura’s crossover duo: MDX and RDX.

2018 Acura TLX rear - Image: Acura

Yet even as the TLX lost its early momentum, it didn’t become a dreadfully uncommon car. Only six premium brand cars sold more often in 2016, and the TLX outsold the Audi A4, BMW 5 Series, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz CLA, and every Cadillac car, among many others.

We’ll give credit where it’s due: the 2018 Acura TLX won’t be as likely to fade into the background. If luxury sedans can hold onto their current market share, perhaps the TLX refresh can hold onto what remains of Acura’s car business.

Perhaps the TLX could have done a better job of holding on to Acura’s car business if it looked like this from the get-go.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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49 Comments on “NYIAS 2017: 2018 Acura TLX Is What The TLX Always Should’ve Been...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Now they just need to hire someone with a brain, to market them.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Tim’s already got the free marketing gig lined up, apparently.

    • 0 avatar
      NotFast

      And a transmission that doesn’t suck (I’m looking at your, V6).

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Or someone to teach them the slogan which I believe will embody the wave of the future – “Go manual or go Brougham!”

        If you’re charging this much for a luxury car, make it luxury, don’t try to sprinkle in a few sporty bits. You are impeding your sales.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      For $5 put the name “Legend” on them and they’ll double their sales. Or a least bring the Legend back on the next iteration.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Hmmm. You might be on to something with this. I’m on board if we get those classy gold emblems which distinguished those Legend owners with more opulent tastes.

        Some people might think we’re being sarcastic but this make sense. An enthusiast is not going to buy this because it’s an automatic and not really outstanding performance wise in any way. The guy who will buy this would also buy a gold emblemed Legend. He wants the Acura name and luxury. If anything, the low right height and curb and pothole prone rims are going to turn off some of the people who would buy this car.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Thornmark is #2 fanboy.

        Who’d pay almost $40,000 for 182 lb-ft of torque today? Got to be the lowest torque rating for the price!?

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Said the guy that buys Buicks – the Edsel brand of today. The largest lot of unsold sedans in recent history.

          As Lutz said, Buick is a dead brand. Too bad they killed Pontiac and saved the Chinese dog.

        • 0 avatar

          Honda USA never gives up horsepower. I’m not counting the NSX as it is so rare as to not exist.

          Honda Europe has nice engines, but here…we get enough that the average buyer won’t complain and the Insurance Industry won’t give it a black mark.

          Acura could be something…but I recall the first integra, the Civic Si, and the first NSX, so I’m old, and since then, it’s all been a huge disappointment, save a drive in an TL SH-AWD last generation. The non SH AWD was a Buick, and I mean that as The Worst of GM, Buick…and the base stereo was un-listenable) The past RDX was fun, but the turbo engine never re appeared anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Can we dispense with this “slap a real name on the car and it’ll magically sell” nonsense already?

        The Legend sold because it was far more than a glorified Honda. You couldn’t get a Honda back then with a V-6, leather, a fancy stereo, all the power toys, and a sunroof. Now, you can. And that’s why the TLX hasn’t sold. They could call it the “Acura Mega Multiple Orgasm” and it’d still be a thinly disguised Accord that sits on Acura lots, gathering dust.

        It takes more than a name to move product.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          I don’t disagree. You have to appeal to what the target buyer wants. My point is that this half tail nod towards sport on a car like this is costing sales to people who want the luxury features, comfort, and name of an Acura.

          If they’re going to ignore enthusiasts just go all out and do it. I think we’re in a transition phase and you will see that.

          Ditch the spoilers and exhaust tips, raise the ride height 2 inches, add more tire side wall, slather some walnut inside, and bring back the Legend name and this sells better.

        • 0 avatar
          Frylock350

          @ FreedMike,

          It works when said name has a sizable fanbase that can afford a new car, hasn’t bought other vehicles from the brand, has a strong emotional connection to the name, and enough time has transpired that there’s lots of pent-up demand.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          >>It takes more than a name to move product.<<

          There's truth to that but also exceptions. Like the Mustang II, which was a Pinto based turd on wheels that sold outstandingly well – largely because of the name. And the opposite – the Ford Probe, a much better car that was meant to be the Mustang but sold relatively poorly w/ that unfortunate name.

          The Legend name was so strong Acura felt it had to rid itself of the name because it overshadowed the brand. My dad had two and wouldn't buy anything else – he kept them both until the end of his days.

          Most car names are retired because they have become debased – see practically every Buick model – the Legend was quite the opposite. If Acura ever returns the Legend to its stable I’m sure it will have a leg up on any alphabet X it would otherwise replace.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    CVT or 5/6/8/x-speed auto? Paddle shifters? Sport mode for shifting?

    Another site quoted the V6 as 3.5L, 290 hp/267 lb-ft. Are those the specs from last year?

    Any thoughts on how this competes with the old G37/Q50?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “2018 Acura TLX Is What The TLX Always Should’ve Been”

    “And for once, an auto executive’s hyperbole matches reality”

    Those are rather concrete statements from someone who apparently sat through a presentation and went over a spec sheet but had no seat time with the product.

    I personally think it looks worse. The beak wasn’t the problem with the TLX, it was the insectoid LED headlights and those remain. The A-Spec sounds promising, erm, pardon me…the A-Spec is the divine embodiment of TLX mastery that was always just beneath the surface.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Next year the Regal GS tells this thing to step outside.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Is that supposed to be a premium car interior? BMW and Acura really seem to have lost the plot.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The 2006 TSX I drove recently suggests this isn’t a new trend. The design was excellent and fit was fine, but “premium” apparently meant Nav + unconvincingly painting plastic to kinda look like metal. And 11 years later, the above photos suggest that is still the recipe.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Both my Miata and my Mustang have had silver plastic bits on the interior made to look like aluminum. But neither of those are luxury cars. Real luxury means having the real thing. Everything else is just a poser. Real metal, real wood. There’s no reason one should have to buy a Bentley to get these things.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I like the current TLX. Lowered and with the current OEM lip kit it looks really good. If Acura was serious about this A-spec thing they would have added a front LSD, or even better, the ATTS unit out of the defunct Prelude. None of that brake LSD nonsense.

    Regardless, if I had a 50 large budget and only wanted to buy new, this would be a decent third behind the GS350-F and Q50 Red Sport.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Unless they give this thing a larger back seat then it is not for me and not what it’s supposed to have been in the first place.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The need to give that grill back to the Kia Sorento they stole it from.

    And I bet it still feels like an Accord to drive.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I think it looks 100 times better than before, but I still wouldn’t choose it over my Audi 5. But hey, the dual exhaust tips alone are a huge styling improvement.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The most important question will be if they have resolved the reliability issues. The TLX has been on Consumer Report’s “don’t buy” list since it was released which is a very un-Acura place to be.

    Consumers will buy exciting cars that are unreliable or boring cares that are reliable but the market for boring and unreliable is quite small.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    That new grille reminds me of the ’59 Galaxie’s floating sparklies.

    But of course I’d much rather have this melted ice cream car.

  • avatar

    Yawn. I would choose VW, Opel or Ford over that.

  • avatar
    orick

    TLX isn’t that bad. The ILX is the lame duck in their lineup. I wonder how long it will take them to get the new ILX based on the new Civic out and make it competitive.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Car industry shills frequently refer to car styling as “emotional”.

    Rhetorical question: Why is it considered a good thing to view car styling as “emotional” while at the same time environmentalists are scorned for being “emotional”? Just wondering.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist78

    I never understood the rationality of switching from inspiring words (Legend, Vigor, and Integra) to alphanumeric labels, following the introduction of NSX. For a long time and to this day, I am hopeless in remembering which letters go with which vehicles and their pecking order.

    Steve Jobs hit the nail right on with doing away with confusing computer model ranges and their complicated subcategories when he returned to Apple in 1995. He simplified them into just four categories with clear distinction between them. That is something Acura should have done long ago…

    With a few exceptions, Audi and BMW use the alphanumerical and numerical sequences to show the placements of their models for decades. Audi makes it convenient to know the difference between A, S, and RS as well as Q, SQ, RSQ. Ditto for BMW. Mercedes-Benz reorganised its nomenclature system in 1994 and consolidated once again in 2015 to clearly and easily associate the vehicles and their positions in the model and price range.

    Looking at Lexus model range, one can see that the second letter (S, X, and C) refers to saloons, CUV/SUV, and coupés and that the numbers refer to engine displacement.

    Pontiac tried to do the alphanumeric names in the 1980s (6000, J2000, T1000, etc.)? It was a colossial fiasco and quickly abandoned a few years later. Then, Pontiac tried again in the early 2000s with G5, G6, and G8 before dearly departing to the pasture.

    Cadillac showcased its gorgeous concept cars along with marvellous names (Escala, Elmiraj, Cien, Sixteen, etc.) in the fantasy world. However, Cadillac in reality produced the lacklustre-looking cars along with anonymous alphanumeric labels. If that didn’t work out, try again: Cadillac recently switched to CT# and XT#, adding more confusion for the consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hall

      While all of those cases seem similar on the surface, I think there are significant differences.

      Lexus entered the market with essentially one model, the LS400, and then the ES to sell to the people who wanted an LS but couldn’t afford one. They stayed away from individual model names from day 1, and people are used to thinking ‘Lexus’.

      Audi and BMW, until recently, only had a couple of basic models, and like Lexus they never named them.

      Pontiac’s numerical model designations were an attempt to copy Audi (“it’s like the Audi 5000, but 1000 more!”), just like Acura and Cadillac’s current alphanumerics are an attempt to copy Lexus and the Germans. They did this because consultants told them their brand recognition was diluted by the individual model names, but in reality the buying public detected the me too-ism of it all, and I believe that diluted their brands much more than the model names–if the model names were ever a problem at all.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Bring back the Fleetwood!

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      The problem with logically lettered/numbered car ranges is that it leaves no room for models to slot in between.

      Citroen back in the 80s had the CX large car, then a BX midsize car, and an AX economy car.

      However they then wanted a sub-compact car that would sit between the AX and BX, and ended up with the ZX. The CX replacement became XM.

      (They then for their next generation went with names – Saxo, Xsara, Xantia before going back to numbers C1,C2…C6, and any ‘in between’ models got a mixture of their relative position and a name such as C3 Picasso or C4 Cactus)

      Peugeot had a similar issue, they sold the 20x, 30x, 40x series up until the 80s when their 205, 305 and to be released 405 range found themselves wanting to sell the ex-Talbot (Plymouth Horizon replacement) compact car that sat between the 205 and 305 in size. It ended up as the 309. Recent “niche” models such as crossovers now use the x00x notation, such as the 2008 and 3008 crossovers.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I’m not familiar with Citroen, but I guess Kia did it better using only odd numbers in the Korean market. K3 (Forte), K5 (Optima), K7 (Cadenza), K9 (K900). At least that leaves room for extra models, not that they need any more sedans.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Looks SO much better than the previous version!

    Now if Acura would simply add the Hybrid system they just introduced in the MDX, they’d have a truly unique, appealing offering in this segment.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “What the TLX always should have been…”

    You mean, it’s no longer an Accord in disguise? Great! Maybe it’ll sell now.

    Oh, wait…

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Looks better, but doesn’t solve what this thing needs: significantly more power (~325-350 oughta do it) and more brakes. Do a Type S with upgraded brakes and appropriate power and it will have my attention.

  • avatar

    “sporty” trim lines, that come standard with all the “why would I want to drive my car on my own” nannies?

    Can they be disabled? Because otherwise there will be no opportunity for sporty driving as the nannies sense impending death and collisions and kill all fun.

  • avatar

    Acura’s whole sales pitch at this point is “I’m not an enthusiast, I like BMW, but OOOHHH the Moneyyyyy..

    Sad !

  • avatar
    33873

    A step in the right direction, but something still looks proportionally “off” in the front. This car still doesn’t know what it wants to be. After looking at this car, I’m still completely satisfied driving my 07 TSX for the foreseeable future. It’s pretty sad when a brand new Acura is completely undesirable.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Acura designers – lol!

    The new grill shape/design is even worse than the “beak.”


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