Acura TLX A-Spec first drive review: character by committee

A jack of all trades, the 2018 Acura TLX is so balanced it fades among more daring, extroverted rivals.

A mid-cycle update rather than a full-scale redesign, the 2018 Acura TLX hammers yet another nail in the coffin of Acura’s hated shield grille. The new grille stretches more horizontally and sits higher on the front bumper. It looks lighter as a result, and gives the TLX a face that begs to be seen in person.

The rest of Acura’s exterior changes are much subtler. A new bumper here, taillights there, and bigger tires headline the updates. The result of this work is neither conservative nor too flashy. Want flashy? Acura is happy to accommodate with the new TLX A-Spec.

In the same vein as Lexus’ F-Sport line and BMW’s M Sport packages, the A-Spec offers style upgrades designed to give the TLX a more sporty look. It works.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec

The TLX A-Spec’s grille is matte black instead of gloss and wears a black chrome surround instead of a traditional chrome finish. The side sills and rear spoiler are more prominent and the 19-inch wheels look great.

Let’s talk about the absurd exhaust outlets. Acura integrated the 4-inch pipes into the rear fascia and the result opens our drool valve. The A-Spec’s rear bumper looks so good, I don’t even care that the exhaust outlets aren’t functional. Peek inside one and it’s clear that the actual pipe never even touches these artillery-sized outlets.

The standard TLX’s cabin is largely unchanged from the last time around. There’s a reskinned infotainment system that now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as ambient light piping along the sides of the center console and a new seat design on V-6 models.

The A-Spec treatment is just as dramatic inside. Black leather and Alcantara upholstery lend a subtle sporty whiff; another color scheme wears red leather with in-your-face confidence. Add a sport steering wheel, Alcantara door inserts, and new dash trim, and the TLX A-Spec’s cabin turns up the sporty wick.

Beyond the interior and exterior changes, the TLX A-Spec promises only mild hardware improvements.

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