2017 Acura TLX SH-AWD Tech A-Spec Road Test Review
August 16 2019, North Shore Acura
Just the right combination of sport, luxury and value
When comparing Acura TLX sales against all Asian, American, British and Swedish D-segment competitors, it's by far Canada's most popular sport sedan. How has it become so successful? It delivers exactly what buyers in this hotly contested category want, while never forgetting that providing excellent value for money is just as important for premium buyers as it is for those just starting out.
For instance, try and name a German competitor that includes LED headlights as standard equipment? Let me help you out, there isn't one. In fact, despite much improved nighttime visibility and therefore important safety advantages you'll need to go right up into their respective top trim packages to get full LED headlamps, which in the TLX' class reaches well into high-$50k and even $60k range. This is the third year you'll find them standard on the $35,690 TLX.
State-of-the-art technology at a compelling price
Speaking of pricing, that window sticker number hasn't budged an inch since last year, while it's only grown by $700 since the then-new 2015 TLX arrived in September of 2014, despite our dollar tanking within those two and a half years. All the while the TLX has delivered both an efficiency-first focused four-cylinder front-wheel drive variant and a potent V6-powered all-wheel drive version, both incorporating state-of-the-mechanical-art eight- and nine-speed transmissions respectively, the former a dual-clutch design and the latter more conventional albeit with paddle-actuated control and auto start/stop technology.
For reasons unknown I've only ever driven the V6, SH-AWD-powered model since this car's inception, the first two in top-tier Elite trim and this current one in SH-AWD Tech guise. Those previous cars included some features I wouldn't want to live without during my long drives up country, such as adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, which is ideal for summer stints, plus LED fog lights and headlamp washers, which are near critical during nighttime winter drives, whereas auto-dimming side mirrors are appreciated no matter the time of year. Also part of Elite trim, perimeter/approach puddle lights, ventilated front seats, automatic seatbelt pre-tensioners, front and rear parking sensors, collision mitigation braking with heads-up warning, steering wheel haptic feedback for the lane departure warning and road departure mitigation add a lot of benefit for just $3,600 over the SH-AWD Tech.
Tech and Elite models deliver a lot of goodies for the money
The TLX SH-AWD Elite starts at $48,190 plus freight and fees, while the SH-AWD Tech I spent time in this time around hits the road at just $44,590. That Tech upgrade, which can also be had with the four-cylinder model, includes proximity entry for the rear doors, power-folding side mirrors, remote start, perforated Milano leather upholstery, a heatable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, voice recognition, AcuraLink phone connectivity, hard disk drive (HDD) media storage, a superb sounding Acura/ELS surround audio system with Dolby Pro Logic II and 10 speakers including a sub, heatable rear seats, forward collision warning, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and more.
Loads of features in base TLX
In order to help you appreciate the TLX value proposition further, some key features pulled up from the base model include auto on/off Jewel Eye LED headlamps, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated LED turn indicators, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, an acoustic windshield with a de-icer, active noise cancellation and active sound control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, a Homelink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, a monochromatic trip computer within the gauge cluster, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, satellite radio, a 10-way powered driver's seat with two-way powered lumbar and two-position memory, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, heatable front seats, leatherette upholstery, a capless fuel system, tire pressure monitoring, and all the usual active and passive safety features including a driver's knee airbag, while simply moving up to SH-AWD trim adds 18-inch alloys on 225/50 R18 all-seasons, a colour TFT multi-information display, Acura's very unique electronic gear selector, an eight-way power adjustable front passenger's seat, and the upgraded drivetrain.
Of note, Acura added a trio of new colours for 2017 including Lunar Silver and Modern Steel (a medium grey) available on base trims and above, and San Marino Red, which joins other available colours on Tech and Elite trims, although my tester was finished in Crystal Black Pearl, which is one of only two hues (along with Bellanova White) available when upgraded with the $3,495 dealer-installed A-Spec package.
A-Spec package delivers sportier styling and performance
The ability to get the A-Spec package on any trim is a great idea, as it can even make the well-equipped base car look like a top-line model thanks to a complete aero kit including underbody extensions front, side and rear, a rear deck lid spoiler, 19-inch multi-spoke alloys on 245/40 Pirelli P Zero or Michelin Pilot Sport all-seasons, and "A-SPEC" fender badges. It looks much sportier and those larger rims and rubber provide extra stickum for increased road holding without any noticeable harshness (or at least my tester's Michelins rode well).
I commended the TLX for its handling when it arrived and Acura has since had two-plus years to fine-tune it, with last year's car still capable of mixing it up with the Germans on a twisting back road and this new A-Spec enhanced 2017 even more entertaining thanks to its bigger shoes, while the aerodynamic add-ons didn't interfere with the car's impressive interior quietness either. The TLX trump card is once again its "Super Handling" AWD, which adds a literal twist of the outside rear wheel mid-turn for quicker more controlled high-speed cornering along with the feel of a rear-drive sedan. The fully independent front strut and multi-link rear suspension is nicely sorted too, incorporating amplitude reactive dampers for a taut, controlled feel, yet still absorbing road imperfections with grace and composure.
The nine-speed auto's paddles add nicely to driver engagement and the driver selectable Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) makes quite a difference when Sport Plus mode is chosen, while the 3.5-litre V6 sounds fabulous when revs climb and its 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque is very strong and wonderfully smooth.
Despite its strong performance the V6-powered TLX delivers great fuel economy at a claimed 11.2 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 9.6 combined, whereas the four-cylinder model's 9.6 city, 6.6 highway and 8.3 combined rating is even thriftier.
Spacious, refined and comfortable
Refinement is the key, the TLX enhancing its premium image further with high-quality cabin materials such as fabric-wrapped A- and B-pillars, soft synthetics that improve the look and feel of the dash and instrument panel, plus the door uppers front to back. Of course the door inserts are nicely finished in padded, pliable materials too, my tester's upgraded to a gorgeous Espresso Milano leather just like the seat upholstery for a truly upscale interior ambiance, while attractive woodgrain adds to the rich atmosphere.
To the TLX' additional advantage is a roomy cabin with more than an adequate supply of space up front and plenty in the rear, my five-foot-eight medium-build frame finding five to six inches ahead of my knees with the driver's seatback set for my admittedly below average height, with about three to four inches remaining above my head. Additionally, there were a good three to four inches next to my outside shoulder and even more beside my hips, so therefore it shouldn't be a problem to fit three average sized adults side-by-side in back. If there's no third person along for the ride you can lower a comfortable centre armrest that's filled with dual cupholders plus a tray for small items. I appreciated the Tech package's three-way rear seat heaters when taking notes, the rear seatbacks also very comfortable with good lower back and leg support.
The TLX also has a large 405-litre trunk, with rear seatbacks that can only be folded 60/40-split for expanding its capability. It's nicely finished too, with carpets all-round and a removable load floor with additional storage underneath, the spare tire replaced with a repair kit.
A superb car for great value
While it's easy to appreciate the TLX' many virtues I can't help but come back to its superb value proposition, which is an Acura selling point no matter which model you choose. The 2017 TLX continues to deliver exciting styling highlighted by fabulous looking standard LED headlights, entertaining yet highly refined driving dynamics, a high-quality interior filled with popular premium features, and much more, all for such compelling pricing that it's a consistent winner on the sales charts.