By on September 22, 2017

2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec San Marino - Image: © Timothy Cain

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

3.5-liter SOHC V6 (290 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm; 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm)

Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

21 city / 30 highway / 24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

12.0 city / 8.2 highway / 10.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

23.1 mpg [10.2 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $33,950 (U.S) / $38,135 (Canada)

As Tested: $45,750 (U.S.) / $53,135 (Canada)

Prices include $950 destination charge in the United States and $2,145 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Is it possible to move this elephant out of the room?

Perhaps not, but whether we try to move the elephant or allow him to stay, a review of the revamped 2018 Acura TLX, even in this top-spec V6 SH-AWD A-Spec trim, will forever be set against a backdrop that is the all-new 2018 Honda Accord, a veritable wooly mammoth.

It can’t be helped. Acura knows the new 10th-generation Accord offers features unavailable in the Acura lineup. The TLX, meanwhile, features an interior that’s more than a little reminiscent of the ninth-generation Accord’s cabin. Fonts, buttons, switches, two-screen format — the upmarket/downmarket connections are too obvious to be dismissed as simply the mandatory parts-bin sharing of a global automaker with justifiable cost concerns. The new 2018 Acura TLX and the old Honda Accord are remarkably similar cars.

But is that so bad? The Honda Accord is, with good reason, consistently one of America’s most popular sedans, and the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX is a particularly nice interpretation of that car. Besides which, the Acura TLX isn’t just an Accord. It’s not merely an Accord. The TLX’s more powerful V6, a nine-speed automatic, and a very effective all-wheel-drive system make sure of that.

True, the elephant hasn’t exited the premises. But now that it’s standing out in the hallway, we can judge the 2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec on merit, rather than simply distinguishing the degree to which the TLX is or is not a Honda.

2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec San Marino - Image: © Timothy CainPackaging

For just another moment, let that elephant alert us to the size of his, umm, trunk. See, despite virtually identical dimensions, the outgoing Honda Accord (of which thousands remain on dealer lots across America) offers four extra inches of rear legroom, an extra inch of rear shoulder room, 8 percent more passenger volume, and more than an extra cubic foot of cargo capacity.

Forget the Accord: the Acura TLX is by any standard a large car that doesn’t feel like a large car inside. Though undeniably easier to get in and out of than the Lexus IS350 we tested a week ago, the 2018 TLX doesn’t reveal itself as a car with notable space advantages when compared to the Lexus, a sedan that’s eight inches shorter than the Acura, bumper to bumper.

So if the TLX doesn’t gain an advantage over its smaller sports sedan brethren in terms of space efficiency, does it make headway in the athletics department?


Among Acura’s updates for the 2018 TLX, powertrain changes are notably absent. The optional 3.5-liter V6 — an upgrade from the standard 206-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder/eight-speed DCT combo — still produces 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque and is still linked to a nine-speed automatic that’s happiest in sportier drive modes and under heavier throttle inputs.

Admittedly quick when caned, the TLX’s 3.5-liter is a distinctly naturally aspirated unit, an engine that needs to rev, an engine that likes to rev and sounds great when doing so. Yet customers increasingly acquainted with low-rpm turbo punch aren’t going to quickly take a liking to the TLX’s off-the-line recalcitrance. There’s enough weight in a top-spec TLX, 3,838 pounds, to slightly degrade the impact of the TLX’s heady horsepower numbers.2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec San Marino - Image: © Timothy Cain

Indeed, there’s a persistent sense of mass when piloting the 2018 TLX V6 SH-AWD, a factor that stands in the way of Acura’s midsize sedan feeling truly nimble. Fortunately, under pressure, the TLX displays a pleasant dearth of body roll, steering that weights up nicely, minimal need for mid-corner correction, and an ability to put power down before, during, and when exiting a bend that mainstream sedan owners can only dream of.

Although the 2018 TLX lacks the final degrees of bite that would make it a true sports sedan — and on Michelin Primacy MXM4s, it lacks the necessary rubber, too — there are benefits reaped from Acura’s compromises. Ride quality remains ideal even on the A-Spec’s 19-inch rims: firm enough to never be floaty, soft enough to isolate brutal pavement. Observed fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon easily topped the Lexus IS350’s 19-mpg result. The nine-speed transmission, meanwhile, was reprogrammed for 2018 and now allows the TLX to settle into a serene and mature groove that does a fair job of squeezing the TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec onto a bridge that spans the Lexus IS350/ES350 gap.

2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec San Marino - Image: © Timothy Cain


Alas, there’s no getting around the fact that at this lofty $45,750 as-tested price point, the 2018 Acura TLX lacks the desired cues of a luxury car. Besides the aforementioned Honda connections, of which there are too many to count, the TLX cabin offers nothing to wow, nothing to remind you of the money you’ve spent, nothing that shouts, “I’m special!”

The Audi A4 has its Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, besides a tacked-on faux iPad, has the kind of interior design and materials that make it worthy of an E-Class price tag. Last week, the seats in the Lexus IS350 hugged so tight you had to know something must be up.

The Acura TLX’s interior, loaded up with all the equipment Acura can throw at it, leaves the impression normally left by a feature-laden and slightly cramped version of a conventional midsize family sedan.


Yet a quick, naturally aspirated, relatively affordable and unpretentious family sedan is evidently what many consumers are looking for. The TLX is America’s eighth-best-selling premium brand car, selling more often than the Audi A4, Lincoln MKZ, and Lexus IS, among many others.

In fact, Acura believes this MY2018 refresh will prove sufficient to drive TLX sales to the highest levels seen so far.

2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec interior - © Timothy Cain

On what grounds? The 2015-2017 TLX, tasked with replacing the TSX and TL, was a wallflower. “Shoppers who rejected TLX,” Acura spokesperson Matt Sloustcher told TTAC, “often did so on the basis of the design not being aggressive enough for a sport sedan.”

If the TLX sold in decent numbers when it was scarcely noticeable, Acura figures, the wide-grilled 2018 TLX will surely attract more attention.

Of course, price remains a leading factor across much of the TLX range, if not this specific tester. To get to $45,750, an Acura TLX buyer must select the V6, all-wheel drive, a $3,700 Technology Package, and then the $2,900 A-Spec package.

But with V6 power and AWD, the 2018 TLX is priced at a far more psychologically comfortable $39,150. Moreover, TLX pricing kicks off at $33,950, an attractive entry point for an upmarket brand. At that price point, a basic Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is embarrassed. We won’t truly know how a $33,950 2018 TLX stacks up, of course, until we’ve tested a 2018 Honda Accord.

You can’t keep an elephant that large out of any room.

[Images: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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44 Comments on “2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec Review – Pachyderms Promulgate Particular Problems...”

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Thanks for reviewing this, Tim. With a significant front end refresh, I imagine this TLX will be out there through at least the 2019 model year. That seems weird, usually the new TL(x) comes out a year after the new Accord, right?

    This isn’t a bad car, but it still seems to have the unappealing visual bulk of the final TL. It’s also about 10% heavier than the last TL that was pretty. I’m surprised it feels so small inside. How is it for tall drivers?

  • avatar

    “a distinctly naturally aspirated unit, an engine that needs to rev, an engine that likes to rev and sounds great when doing so.”

    Yea, this would definitely be the Honda for me.

    $38k for the V6 with AWD and $36K for the FWD V6 seems fine considering the new Camry V6 is $35K.

    • 0 avatar

      One thing that stands out to me is how reasonable these prices are.

      The Lacrosse’s MSRP is higher (I know, Buick dealers deal yada yada yada.)

      @ajla – BTW I wanted to tell you that you were spot on in yesterday’s comments about the Toyota 3.5 being like an Olds 307. I’ve owned both.

    • 0 avatar

      [$38k for the V6 with AWD and $36K for the FWD V6 seems fine considering the new Camry V6 is $35K.]

      It does seem like a good value considering MSRP on the predecessor a 2004 TSX w/Tech Pkg. was $34k USD—which adjusted for inflation is $45,000…that would get you into this spec as tested.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        “a 2004 TSX w/Tech Pkg. was $34k USD”

        Nah, I bought a 2004 TSX with Nav (no tech package), it was $26,990 with no nav, $28,990 with nav. I paid $29,500 ($25k + a dented Honda Civic valued at $4500) OTD in PA in May 2004.

  • avatar

    The muscular proportions remind me of the old IS-F…the ribbed hood is awesome…

  • avatar
    John R

    This car’s biggest problem will be the Genesis G70.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Maybe. Honestly, I wonder what percentage of Acuras are bought by prior Acura owners, who tend to be pretty loyal and unlikely to be swayed by something else in the category; more likely they will move up to a different brand (Lexus, maybe a German) or to a CUV.

      OTOH, for me personally as a 3-time Acura owner, I just can’t see how the TLX meaningfully moves the goal posts for me versus what I already have. Seems like a lot of the same old same old, as referenced in the article. V6 is the same as it’s been for the last 15 years, no significant new tech, etc. So why buy one? Cheaper to stay with what I have. Move it forward (say, a 3.0TT derived from the NSX??) and I’ll consider it, but for now it’s just not special enough to spend the money on.

      As I mentioned the other day though, for about the same money I can get the exact same tech (minus the butt coolers, for now) in a Honda Ridgeline. With a lot more versatility, and sidestepping the “what is Acura as a brand” baggage. THAT is appealing. Perhaps Honda/Acura doesn’t care if I do that instead.

  • avatar

    “Fonts, buttons, switches”

    Fonts, really?

    “It’s not merely an Accord.”

    Yes it is, and HMC dropped or doesn’t offer things on the Accord to allow this Mercury Sable to continue to exist. These are moves from the Old GM playbook.

    “Although the 2018 TLX lacks the final degrees of bite that would make it a true sports sedan”

    Duh it’s an Accord.

    “There’s enough weight in a top-spec TLX, 3,838 pounds, to slightly degrade the impact of the TLX’s heady horsepower numbers.”

    Time for fat camp?

    ““Shoppers who rejected TLX,” Acura spokesperson Matt Sloustcher told TTAC, “often did so on the basis of the design not being aggressive enough for a sport sedan.””

    Bullsh*t. Did they tell you that in survey? Fess up now.

    • 0 avatar

      Mercury Sable? These and the latest Camrys make me think of the W-Body Grand Prix more than anything, chiefly the sloping rear quarter windows. About as sporty too!

    • 0 avatar

      True dat.

      Power-folding mirrors and a truly premium sound system, for two, plus a higher level of interior fitment. (Although we’ll see about this stuff when the Accord breaks — perhaps the outside mirrors might be included in the driver memory settings.)

      Obviously, the one big advantage this car has over the Accord for now is the J35 V6 (and the SH-AWD), but word from rumor control is that the TLX and possibly RDX will be force-fed next go-’round.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, but I have a beef with HMC on both the J35 V6 and SH-AWD. Not offering a V6 standard just adds more evidence to the TLX is Accord argument.

        Dropping the V6 from Accord, where I don’t think it was ever standard, was foolish unless the take rate was something like 3%. There are buyers who don’t want or like Acura despite the fact Acura models are Honda models. I know a doctor in our church who loves his Accord and had a succession of them who does not like Acuras because he feels they are “too flashy”. I think he’s got a year or two on his Accord V6 (I think EX-L) lease, I do wonder what he will do.

        Deleting the AWD from Accord is also foolish from a volume standpoint. I would wager the 1000+ Honda dealer could sell more AWD Accords than the 300 or so Acura dealers do TLXs. Since both are built on the same assembly line, I find it odd HMC chose to do things this way. Purposely holding back a technology in order to give your pointless brand a reason to exist is childish at best. There are people who think Acura means something even though it doesn’t, there are people who want the “flash”, you can cater to both Honda and still come out a winner.

        I reiterate these are moves from the “Old GM” playbook. When will anyone in the automotive industry have the balls to point this out instead of kneeling down for Honda?

  • avatar

    The soon to be released 2018 Buick Regal GS would seem to be a
    much better value.
    310-horsepower, 268-pound-foot 3.6-liter V6, with a standard nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, for $39,990.
    Looking forward to an upcoming review.

  • avatar

    I wonder how this fares compared to a loaded up Fusion Sport? Specs seem similar, Fusion has the 2.7TT motor going for it.

    An aside: good god lightly used Fusion Sports are a steal right now. Is there something seriously horrible about them?

    • 0 avatar

      Sedan’s are almost at the point of “sedan = lot poison” – used anyway.

      Plus I think the Fusion is more of a “lease special” than Ford is willing to admit. That always gives a good supply of low mileage used models.

      Back in the late 1990s when Taurus/Sable sales volumes were falling Ford was goosing the numbers with super cheap leases (some of them only available to Ford employees) and as a result Avis Ford in South Field MI (which I lived about a mile from at the time) had a used car lot thick with Taurus/Sable sedans and wagons in almost every possible trim level and engine combo. They were stacking ’em deep and selling ’em cheap.

      • 0 avatar

        I was briefly flirting with the idea of getting a lightly used sedan (several beaters ago), looked at Maximas and Chargers and Epsilon Impalas. A used Fusion Sport at a firesale price would have looked mighty tempting.

    • 0 avatar

      Good question. The Ford is undeniably a bargain based on prices I’ve seen, and it has more power. I also think the current Fusion is a nice design, with a decent interior.

      So if I wanted an AWD mid-sized sedan, I’d consider a Fusion Sport, but I seriously doubt it approaches Acura’s quality and reliability, even though Acura seems to have slipped a little in those areas while Ford has improved.

      Our current cars are a 2010 Acura TSX, and a 2010 Ford Fusion SEL V6 (formerly my dad’s). They’re about the same size, cost almost the same when new, and were bought within two months of each other. They have very different powertrains, I4 and 6MT vs. V6 and 6AT, but are otherwise equipped almost identically.

      I know Ford has improved since 2010, but our Acura is clearly engineered and built to a higher standard. We’ve had the Ford for only two years, and it’s already had many more problems than we’ve had with the Acura in eight years — and the Acura has 44k more miles! The Ford has its bright spots, like an excellent stereo and strong powertrain, but overall it’s not in the same league.

  • avatar

    Don’t know if there’s something horrible about them, but new Fusion Sports are cheap too.

    New 2017s listed at $8k off msrp.

    That’s a good amount of car for $27k.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is the Fusion Sport was overpriced to begin with. Fusion is a rental car. It’s a good rental car, but that’s what it is. It’s interior has an old design. It’s not bad, but it is outdated at the 35k price.

      So it’s a rental car with an old interior design that was overpriced. When CUVs are hot.

      I want to go drive one and may like it, but the market has spoken on what it thinks of it.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, I read somewhere that Fusion Sports are severely torque restricted by the ECU/TCU to avoid overloading the under-specced AWD system. I.e. the performance you get isn’t anything like the specs would lead you to believe. Which makes the idea of modding one (if you’re into that sort of thing) almost a non-starter as well.

      Once I read that, I basically stopped considering it.

  • avatar

    For what it is worth, I was recently cross-shopping an AWD TLX with an AWD Lincoln MKZ. I realize, Lincoln does not do it for many of TTAC’s best and brightest, but I went with the Lincoln.
    The 9-speed and the V6 were nice on the TLX, but the drive experience (esp quietness), interior, and infotainment were significantly better in the MKZ for me. I was also a little worried about the reliability of that transmission. Finally, I noticed this very slight tremble in the Acura at highway speeds. I thought I was crazy, but I read another person’s review that noted the same thing . . .. And once I noticed it, it bothered me.

    I am also curious about how the new Regal and 2018 Accord stack up in the (shrinking) segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Congrats! It’s kind of funny, both the TLX and MKZ are based on pedestrian mainstream sedans, but the TLX (for the most part) gets a pass for this, while the MKZ generally doesn’t – and yet it’s a MUCH better car.

      I bought my ’14 3.7 V6 AWD MKZ the end of last year. I cross shopped it with the Regal GS which was similar money, and the MKZ beat it across the board, including a quieter (and significantly nicer) cabin, despite Lincoln not even bothering to market interior noise levels while Buick plasters “quiet tuning” on everything.

      There are a few areas where the ’13-’15 MKZ could better differentiate itself from the Ford, the main ones that you actually notice every day are the steering wheel design/leather (which was basically the same as a top trim Fusion) and the steering wheel control stalks. For ’16, both of those issues were corrected. The MKZ now has its own wheel, and the leather is as nice as anything else in the class. The switch gear also is now Lincoln specific, so no one can complain about the cheapie turn signal and wiper stalks now – they also are as good as anyone else’s.

      Despite the Fusion basis, the MKZ *especially* in Black Label guise is simply on a different planet than the TLX in terms of materials quality, which still can’t even be bothered to include wood that isn’t plastic for your $45K.

      Is it as good as the brand new A4 and relatively new C-class? No, but those cars also have the benefit of being much newer designs. Is it as good as the prior generation A4 and C-class? Absolutely. The old A4 wasn’t all that nice inside. The S4 at least had good seats, but the rest of the interior was pretty mediocre especially by Audi standards. The old C-class in its first few years was CLA level junk inside, and only post refresh did it begin go approach decent quality levels.

      The MKZ is VERY competitive with the Q50 and IS though, and in Black Label trim, beats them. The TLX is not, it’s still very much in Buick Regal territory, just like always.

      I’m very curious to see what the third gen MKZ looks like in a few years, as the current car is somewhat saddled with the new nose being grafted on to the old tail. Lincoln FINALLY seems serious about competing head on with the first tier players in the luxury segment. Acura is not serious.

  • avatar

    I was looking hard at a TL-SH AWD with a 6mt as it was basically the only non-German sedan you could get with AWD, an MT and a 6cyl engine (though I’m sure someone can think of another match). Seems like that particular use case has all but dried up. The only other car that comes close was the Subaru Legacy GT Limited sedan, but also discontinued. I’m sure Audi has some combination that would be acceptable, but I’ve had my share of German automobile ownership and don’t care to try again.

  • avatar

    As a TSX wagon owner who has had a TLX as a loaner, I’m a bit partial to the TLX so that’s my prejudice.

    If you go into an Audi dealer and mention VW they will chastise you. Not so Acura, they freely admit the association.

    It is my impression that the IS is more cramped than the TLX. I suspect it is due to the slightly narrower cabin and larger center console.

  • avatar

    A couple of things:

    -Is this the same transmission Chryco is using in the 200? Did you find it hunting around unless you pushed it hard?

    -The removal of the conventional gearshifter. OK.. if you are going to do that, put it up on the dash and give us the space back. Having all of those buttons on the console is useless.. DO we need to use up the top of the console for these buttons? I don’t care for that look/approach.

    • 0 avatar

      The first TLX I drove it was very noticable that it was hunting for gears on light throttle. The 2nd one I didn’t notice it. Maybe there was a software update?

      The center console also holds large cupholders and storage cubbies, not to mention the center arm rest. These probably take up the majority of space.

  • avatar

    I’ve been driving my AWD TLX for three months now and have been happy with it. The ride is very smooth and competent, much more so than the Q50, feels more nimble than the GS350 FS, far less boaty than the Genesis G80. I came off a 2014 BMW 535i lease. The TLX is no Bimmer in terms of HP and torque, but I found the ride to similar at about $20k less. So you can’t argue the value.

    And when I bear down on the throttle and steering in Sport+ mode, my wife makes an awesome sound.

  • avatar

    I just bought a used 2015 2.4 TLX with the Tech Package to replace a Ford Focus. Same car as the 2017, different grill. The 4 cylinder at 3500 lbs is a less ponderous than then V-6. While less engaging to drive than BMW’s or Audi’s these are comfortable, well-built sedans. They are also feature heavy for the money and cheaper operate. If you can wait 2 years, they are a steal as clean ones can be found with less than 20k on the odometer at a 40% discount. Actually paid more for the new Focus six years ago

  • avatar

    We replaced our 2010 TSX (gifted to a family member) with one of the first ’18s available in mid-June. Since this is my wife’s daily driver, the A-spec package was thrown out (she HATES alcantara seats). We went for a FWD V6 w/ tech, and paid just over $38K + tax for it. At that price, this car was certainly worth the premium over an Accord – the ELS stereo and extra sound deadening being the main benefits.

    I’m a die hard Honda fanboy, so you’ll have to view my comments in that light. I really appreciate this car for what it is, and don’t really care what it isn’t. It is a nice sized car with a fantastic J35 V6, and as long as you stay out of Sport +, the transmission behaves fairly rationally. No, it doesn’t handle nearly as well as an IS350 F-sport (Up until today, I owned one of those as well), but I’d argue that the purpose of the car is to be “spiritedly comfortable” rather than sporting. I’d also argue that the TLX V6’s exhaust note is an order of magnitude better than the IS’s at any speed, which actually makes it engaging to drive.

    In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the TLX is better at this mission than the IS350 is at its own. After 3 years with the F-sport, I realize that it’s been an easy car for me to live with, but it doesn’t ever make me want to get behind the wheel and just drive. The IS’s steering feel is nearly perfect, but the transmission only has two modes: “geriatric” mode and “meth head” mode. To top it off, the car is super quiet when it shouldn’t be.

    Long story short, our TLX is a nice, comfortable, decent-handling, sporty highway cruiser that has inspired me to sell my IS350. In pursuit of a more pleasurable driving experience, I ordered a BMW M2 – after all, we’ve got comfortable covered.

  • avatar

    Is this the “face” of a winner? I think not. Someone at Honda needs to turn the lights on in the styling department and stop sending money to the HondaJet Division.
    Who am I kidding? Acura isn’t a player anymore in a segment they established.

    • 0 avatar

      As difficult as it is for me to fathom human psychology, I think Acura is on the right track regarding the refresh. The TLX underpinnings and driving dynamics are already quite good:

      but the TLX needs to look the part. One internet argument is that Acura sales tanked after introducing the shield / beak. After this refresh, it would be interesting to see future sales numbers, and I’m sure Tim Cain will publish them in an upcoming article.

  • avatar

    Acura has lost its way from what it once tried to be. Aside from MDX buyers, I don’t know who they think they’re speaking to these days.

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