Test Drive: 2018 Acura TLX 3.5 SH-AWD A-Spec
When a carmaker names its performance version the "A-Spec," automotive writers are naturally going to say it has a "type A personality."
But that's the truth with the 2018 TLX A Type, a performance version of Acura's compact sedan that comes with a 3.5-liter V6, a quick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission with both a Sport and Sport+ modes, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), a firmer suspension, a thick leather wrapped steering wheel, supportive front sport bucket seats, and distinctive exterior and interior chrome trim.
On the road, the TLX A-Spec is a gas to drive, not least of all because of its 290 horsepower V6. This is a surprising choice by Acura, since so many performance cars of all sizes are going with small displacement turbocharged four cylinder engines. But using the V6 is a good decision — it delivers its power smoother than smaller turbos, which can sometimes feel a bit high strung.
Although not all-new, the TLX has been completely remodeled for 2018. The exterior lines have been beefed up and it features the new mesh grill with a large center emblem instead of the much-scorned chrome beak. The A Spec version also includes dual chrome-tipped exhausts and a sporty-yet-tasteful chrome-trimmed rear spoiler.
The TLX is also available as a four-cylinder version with Acura's Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system. Both include a dash with twin functional screens that reduce the requirement to keep rotating just one one for all needs. A convenient, easy-to-operate console-mounted knob runs much of the infortainment system.
Not so easy-to-operate is the transmission shifter, which is a collection of button and levers along the console. It is not intuitive and, even after several days of driving, I occasionally push the "Drive" button thinking it was the "Start" button. Acura uses the same design in other, vehicles, too, but I have no idea why.
By coincidence, Buick has also chosen a V6 for the new Regal GS, the performance version of its midsize lineup. Maybe there's a trend starting here.
The TLX starts at $33,950 and includes LED headlights, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, heated front seats, an electric parking brake, a proximity key, and adaptive safety tech. A-Spec versions can be ordered with front-wheel-drive, but we recommend adding Acura's excellent SH-AWD for increased traction on both dry and wet surfaces, despite the additional cost. Our well-equipped version, which an upgraded stereo, additional safety features and more, was priced just under $46,000.
2018 Acura TLX A-Spec
Base price: $33,950
Price as tested: $45,750
Style: Midsize sport sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (290 hp, 267 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic with multiple modes and paddle shifters
EPA fuel economy: 20/29
Length: 191.7 inches
Weight: 3,850 pounds
Final assembly: Marysville, Ohio