The TLX A-Spec looks and feels bigger than it actually is.
It is odd to say that it is refreshing to road test a sedan for once, but with all of the crossovers on the market and the shrinking list of new sedans, that’s the reality we live in today. We had the pleasure of spending a week with the 2019 Acura TLX Elite A-Spec with SH-AWD, one of only three sedans offered by Acura this year; and yes, it was refreshing.
Launched for model year 2015 at the demise of both the Acura TL and Acura TSX, the TLX is sized somewhere in between the two outgoing models, and shares most of its DNA with the previous-generation Honda Accord (reviewed here). Last year, the TLX received a mid-cycle facelift to keep up with the styling of the rest of Acura’s lineup, and wears an enormous front grille as a result. Furthering that large grinning look is the A-Spec package as tested on our vehicle.
A-Spec is more than just an appearance package, and one that goes beyond the obvious unique bumpers/trim, exterior badges and interior A-Spec branding. More subtle upgrades are a piano black lip spoiler and rear diffuser, unique exhaust tips, smoked head and tail lights. Upgraded performance is added by unique wheels, wider tires, re-tuned steering and an upgraded dynamic suspension system. Inside the cabin, the TLX A-Spec touts a very aggressive, sporty décor. Heavily bolstered, Alcantara trimmed seats are surrounded by silver and aluminum accents, a black headliner and red lighting.
For the base model TLX with SH-AWD, Acura Canada will charge a very reasonable $37,690. For that price you get a luxury sedan with all-wheel-drive and the same powertrain and plenty of tech that can be found in our test vehicle. As tested, our top tier Elite A-Spec model holds an MSRP of $48,984 before fees and taxes, which is still a very impressive price point compared to the competition.
There is no shortage of technology in the TLX, with two screens mounted in the center console, another in the instrument cluster to provide vehicle information, and a satellite connected assistant and concierge system called AcuraLink that is mounted overhead. On screen infotainment in the dash is bolstered by both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, however this system is displayed on the top recessed screen, meaning it is not touch-operated and you have to use the huge scroll and navigation wheel to get around.
It takes a minute to get used to it, but Acura’s knob is one of the better non-touch interfaces for getting around Android Auto. Down below the knob, Elite models get a wireless charging pad, and a reasonably sized one at that. This is the first vehicle I have tested that has been able to wirelessly charge my Samsung Note 9 with a thin case on it, and still has room for a bigger phone. Using the native Acura infotainment system is not as easy, and it’s in dire need of full update.
Other standard tech goodies include AcuraWatch, which is their active safety suite. It includes lane keep assist, park assist, and other vision systems that keep a second set of eyes on the road for you. The most important tech of all, of course is the SH-AWD system that is a fan favourite over here in our office. SH-AWD stands for Super Handling All Wheel Drive, and it is one of the most capable systems on the market with respects to assisting with driving performance on the twists and turns. This system uses torque vectoring and has the ability to send 100% of rear-axle power to the outside wheel, which helps power the car through turns and significantly reduces understeer.
Being a sedan, obviously the TLX isn’t going to win any awards for how much stuff it can carry, but it still does a pretty good job thanks to the storage cubby under the trunk floor, the rear folding seats, and a trunk cargo volume of 405L. The passenger cabin is well sized for four adults, with the rear center passenger having to make do with a driveshaft hump in the floor. For young families, a rear facing Britax ClickTight car seat fit just fine, with decent leg room for the front passenger.
Hauling this 3,839-pound grinning beast around town is a breeze for the 3.5L direct-injected i-VTEC V6 engine that comes as standard equipment on SH-AWD vehicles. Galloping along with 290 horsepower at 6,200RPM and 267 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500RPM, the TLX is no slouch, and it sounds seriously mean when you open up the throttle. This is a great powertrain, no matter how you look at it.
Only one transmission option is available in the SH-AWD TLX, and sadly but not at all surprisingly it isn’t a manual one. In play here is a very well tuned nine-speed automatic transmission, that comes with paddle shifters mounted on the wheel. When I first started driving the TLX I thought it was a bit too smooth, too refined and almost a bit boring to drive. It had enough power, traction and gears to make for an effortless affair, but there was no flair to it.
Then I found the Dynamic button. It made the steering feel heavier heavier, the transmission held gears longer for more immediate response, the exhaust became more noticeable and the throttle felt livelier. Normally, sport modes take away from driveability of a vehicle in exchange for more aggressive throttle response, but in the TLX it all just comes together perfectly. The best part is that the TLX remembers your preferred drive mode each time you drive, so it can stay in Sport or Sport+ all year long without needing to re-enable it on startup.
Sport mode probably has a bit of an effect on fuel economy, but it is worth it. The TLX SH-AWD A-Spec is rated for 12L/100km in the city, 8.2L/100km on the highway, and a combined cycle of 10.3L/100km. These aren’t stellar numbers, especially considering that the TLX requires premium fuel. If you are looking for something a bit more fuel efficient, skip the A-Spec package and those numbers drop to 11.4, 7.7 and 9.8L/100km respectively.
The 2019 Acura TLX Elite A-Spec looks and feels bigger than it actually is. Dimensionally it is very similar to its luxury AWD competition found in the new BMW 330i (reviewed here), Volvo S60 (reviewed here), and the Mercedes-Benz C 300, but offers more usable space. It also costs significantly less than those competitors once you start adding on all of the top end option packages, which can easily offset the added fuel costs.
However, the current TLX is getting up there in age, and has some drawbacks (mainly related to the infotainment system) as a result. A fully redesigned model is slated for next year, so it may be worth the wait. Meanwhile, if you find yourself near an Acura dealership, take the 2019 model for a spin. If you push the Dynamic Mode button and there are any incentives at all, you might have no choice but to drive away with it.