Now in the fourth model year of its current generation, the 2018 TLX gets a slew of visual updates and a reworked multimedia system. Drivetrains carry over, with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine available with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive can also be had with the V-6, as can an A-Spec performance package — a $2,900 option that’s new for 2018. We drove a V-6 TLX AWD in regular and A-Spec form at a Kentucky media preview (Cars.com pays for its travel and lodging for such automaker-held events).
The TLX’s engines — a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter V-6 — boast direct injection but not the turbochargers that are ubiquitous among competing sports sedans. We’ve driven the four-cylinder in past TLXs, and despite its modest numbers (206 horsepower, 182 pounds-feet of torque), it features lively revving and surprisingly adequate midrange oomph when paired with Acura’s responsive eight-speed automatic transmission, which got the engine to higher revs in short order. Acura says it retuned this transmission for 2018 to improve refinement, but we’ve not driven it yet; the 2018 V-6 we drove had a nine-speed automatic.
The optional 3.5-liter V-6 makes heartier numbers (290 hp, 267 pounds-feet of torque), but neither drivetrain replicates the immediate thrust of the turbo four-cylinders in the BMW 330i or Audi A4. The V-6 makes up for it on the back end with a silky crescendo of power that builds as the tachometer swings clockwise; Acura officials told us it’s enough to hit 60 mph in the high 5-second range. That’s on par with manufacturer-estimated times for the German rivals, and the TLX does it with swift accelerator response — an underrated benefit given the maddening pedal lag in too many luxury cars.
The V-6’s nine-speed transmission, also retuned for 2018, is a mercurial bedfellow. Sometimes the transmission shifts smoothly and other times it hunts for gears on downshifts or refuses them outright. A driver-selectable Sport mode improves decisiveness on gear choices but can’t seem to coax faster kickdown.