2018 Acura TLX Driving Impressions

With either engine, the TLX rides and handles better than average, but the difference between the two is dramatic, so one of them is way better than average, guess which one.

We found the four-cylinder with front-wheel drive to have the crispest cornering, partly because it weighs about 500 pounds less than the V6 model. Excellent suspension tuning complements taut, precise steering. Bumpy roads do not upset it. Nimble low-speed behavior and on-highway stability are helped by Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steer system, which is standard with the 2.4-liter model.

Not only that, the engine is eager to rev, and the 8-speed dual-clutch automated transmission is brilliant. A torque converter eliminates jerky shifts, so it feels like a conventional automatic. It might be the first twin-clutch with a torque converter.

There is no denying the thrust of the V6 is stronger. Its 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque is impressive, and is well contained by the optional Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. The torque peaks at 4500 rpm, so the acceleration will remain strong at higher rpm.

But the 9-speed automatic brings the engine down. We criticized Acura’s implementation of the German ZF transmission in our 2017 review, and Acura says it was improved for 2018, and indeed it’s more willing to engage from a stop. But it’s dynamically inferior to the 8-speed automatic in the BMW 340i, the 7-speed dual-clutch in the Audi A4, and even the 8-speed DCT (dual clutch) in the 4-cylinder Acura TSX. The upshifts are too slow even with the driving mode at its most aggressive, and the downshifts too are in no hurry. Besides, nine gears seem like too many when manually shifting.

The TLX A-Spec uses only the V6. It gets stiffer springs and dampers, and a larger rear anti-roll bar, but you can’t feel that much of a difference, compared to the base TLX with its inline four. We can’t help but imagine an A-Spec with the smaller and lighter four-cylinder, but it doesn’t exist.

Active Sound Control system pumps in a throaty intake song.

**Based on current year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid models only) and other factors.

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