The Acura TLX has been kind of an automotive Jimmy Durante. All you could do is stare at its proboscis. It’s looks were hurt by its parrot beak grille. Even though TLX was a good premium brand mid-size sedan, it was hard to love. The 2018 Acura TLX gets a much needed mid-cycle facelift that transforms its presence. (Acura began replacing its parrot nose grille texture in 2016 with the launch of the freshened 2017 Acura MDX).
Designer and now Acura Vice President and General Manager, Jon Ikeda, says that you can tell when a design team is having a good time they do great work. Fun and inspiration have brought out the best in TLX looks.
Under the skin, the 2018 Acura TLX is basically carryover with tweaks made the engineers thought were necessary. Base engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder making 208 horsepower. The upgrade engine is a 3.5L V6 with 290 horsepower. But the story is not about the mechanicals. The story is about the style.
Appearance Changes More Extensive Than for a Typical Mid-Cycle Freshening This freshening is a classic front and rear six. This means that the front and rear ends have been restyled, but roof, doors, glass are carryover. Thankfully, the parrot’s beak grille texture is replaced by a pentagon grille with a mesh grille texture. This relatively conservative approach yields a very attractive front end. In addition to the new grille, the front fascia has large air inlets at the vehicle corners providing a distinctive and aggressive face. Bright accents highlight the air inlets which also include driving lights. The hood is all new and more curvaceous than previously. LED headlamps are standard.
Depending on trim level, a tasteful chrome side sill garnish provides finesse fir the body side.
The rear appearance is upgraded with new tail lamps, bright exhaust tips and a rear diffuser. Chrome accents are added balancing the accents in the front fascia.
2018 Acura TLX Gets the Latest Driver Assistance Safety Features The interior is updated with new seat trim. The instrument panel has been tweaked and all of the latest safety features are available AcuraWatch is standard. AcuraWatch includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Unfortunately blind spot monitoring is not standard but included in a $3,700 Tech Package. AutoPacific research finds blind spot is a feature wanted by over 75% of drivers and greatly helps in avoiding lane changing accidents.
Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which allow integration of many of your smartphone apps to the dual center screens of the TLX.
2018 Acura TLX A-Spec Trim Acura is particularly proud of its TLX A-Spec package that should appeal to younger, more enthusiastic drivers than will choose the more chrome-laden standard, Tech or Advanced packages. The A-Spec an appearance package with a sport tuned suspension. Believing that the target buyer wants differences defined as “sporty”, A-Spec includes a dark surround for the grille, exclusive front and rear fascias that lose the bright highlights, round bright exhaust tips, red accent piping for the seats, LED fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, wireless charging, and ventilated front seats. The A-Spec does have a color combination available that should be striking – bright blue exterior with a red leather interior. This is a bold combination that few carmakers allow these days. Kudos to Acura for making this selection available.
Attitude Change at Acura An aside on the story of Acura. 31 years ago Acura was launched as the first Japanese premium brand. At first, Acura was very successful with the Legend mid-size near luxury car and Integra sporty hatchback – names that still resonate among American car buyers. VP Ikeda says Acura is returning to its performance oriented roots – Precision Crafted Performance. He hopes to instill the fun and passion in Acura’s design and engineering that was evident 31 years ago. Maybe, they will bring names back – at least Legend and Integra.
The 2014 Acura RLX is the highest scoring Executive Luxury Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The RLX designers, planners and engineers knew exactly what their target buyers wanted and designed the RLX to meet those needs. The Acura RLX is at the top of the list against a strong group of executive luxury entries such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS Sedan, Volvo S80 and the Audi A6. RLX sells in such small numbers but, even with small sales, the car scores well in AutoPacific’s IVA research battery.
RLX owners clearly did not want their vehicle any different. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the 2014 Acura RLX led in five satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another two.
The top five highest ratings by RLX owners are: same passenger room, same exterior size, same seat fit, same wheels, and the same cargo space.
Every vehicle cannot be perfect. RLX owners want more distinctive exterior styling than what they have now as well as more interior storage compartments. RLX owners also wants simpler information and entertainment technology. The RL and RLX have always been technology laden products, but their technology has gone beyond what their owners can cope with.
Early in its life, Acura was a brilliant attempt to establish an upscale Japanese brand that was a smart buying decision. The Acura Legend and Acura Integra carried the brand at first with the Legend being a very rational buying desicion vs. a Mercedes 300 or BMW 525.
Unfortunately, Acura lost its way when it went further upscale and changed from using names for its vehicles to alphanumeric nomenclature. This was a move that Honda insiders once admitted cost $1.5 billion in lost sales revenue and damaged the Acura image immeasurably. At the same time the third generation of the Acura range topper was launched replacing the well-liked Legend. This was the RL. It had boring style, was heavy, slow and expensive. It had completely abandoned the Legend’s Unique Selling Proposition. Wags called it the “Ruined Legend”.
The RL never caught on except with buyers heavily engaged in technology. Adding the Super Handling All Wheel Drive System as an optional drive package helped handling, but was very heavy. The engine did not have the oomph to handle all the weight. RL sales slumped into the range of hundreds per month – an unsustainable level.
Now we come to the introduction of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid in Spring, 2014. The front wheel drive RLX was launched in early 2013 as a 2014 model. The RLX is arguably better styled than the RL it replaces. However, it is still a very heavy car (3,933 lbs base) and with its standard 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 it is a lot of weight to push around. The solution? Add a Sport Hybrid model as the new top-of-the-line RLX – the Sport Hybrid system adds 350-lbs to the weight of the car, but the power of the hybrid powertrain more than offsets the weight gain..
Officially, the hybrid is a mouthful – Sport Hybrid – Super Handling All Wheel Drive. The hybrid absolutely transforms the car.
With one of the most technologically advanced powertrains in the industry, the RLX hybrid puts out a combined 377 horsepower. Impressive. We won’t go into the details of the technology much beyond the fact that it has Honda’s Earth Dreams Three Motor Hybrid System combining the RLX’ 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 with one 47-horsepower and two 36-horsepower rear electric motors. The resulting 377-horsepower combined with the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission makes the car into a dancer.
Think of Disney’s Fantasia. The front drive RLX can be the dancing hippos in tutus. The Sport Hybrid with SH-AWD plus DCT in sport mode becomes a completely different car. A star. The transmission downshifts in the blink of an eye anticipating what you want it to do. Fantastic!
The Sport Hybrid adds equipment not available on the front wheel drive car: larger front brakes, electric air conditioning, power distribution monitor added to the 8-inch color display, head-up display, Chestnut wood trim, premium audio system with 14 speakers, electronic gear selector, unique wheels, smoked chrome plating for grill.
The front wheel drive base car gets 20/31/24 (City/Highway/Combined) mpg with a city range of 370 miles and highway range of 575 miles from its 18.5 gallon fuel tank. The hybrid is rated at 28/32/30 mpg giving city range of 425 mile and highway range of 475 miles from its 15.1 gallon tank. While the hybrid does get much better city fuel economy, its smaller fuel tank hurts its maximum range. Clearly the hybrid in the RLX is about technology and performance, not maximum range.
While Acura has not released pricing the the hybrid, the 2014 RLX with the top of the line Advance Package is priced at $60,450, $12,000 higher than the base RLX. Given this price range it’s reasonable to expect a price of between $65,000 and $70,000 for the RLX Sport Hybrid. Given the dynamic improvement the hybrid system gives the car, this may be worth every penny.
Acura’s MDX has been the shining star in their lineup for years now. Having invented the three-row crossover, Acura has polished that shining star in their lineup for the 2014 model year with an all-new model.
I know, it really doesn’t look all that new. Trust me, it is. I’ve seen it from the inside out. Everything you can’t see is new and even the exterior (YES, it is!) is new. The MDX is a formula not to be messed with and Acura knows this quite well. So, they made an all-new MDX but modernized the exterior a bit and significantly improved the interior. The MDX is one of the few crossovers that has enough cojones that men of all types need not fear that it looks like they are driving a glorified minivan.
AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand. Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.
TSX Outpoints Lincoln MKZ for IVA Win: The 2012 Acura TSX comes closest to the ideal of any Luxury Mid-Size Car. The TSX is 29 rating points higher than the second place Luxury Mid-Size Car – the Lincoln MKZ. Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding. Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive. Ninety-percent or more of TSX owners rate these characteristics ideal: exterior size, driver’s seat comfort, tires, and safety features. Eighty-percent or more of TSX owners find these additional characteristics ideal: interior lighting, exterior styling, wheels, ride and handling, interior storage compartments.
A Few Shortfalls – Some Could Have Been Corrected by Selecting Available Options: The TSX is derived from Honda’s European Accord so it is a bit smaller than the North American Accord. About 30% of TSX owners want more passenger roominess. About 22% want more power and acceleration – a want that could have been satisfied by opting for the 3.5L V6 engine. About 15% of the owners want more infotainment/entertainment technology, but 12% would give up available technology for better ease of use.
You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/consumer-s-ideal-cars-revealed-in-2012-iva-awards-112116/
For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact email@example.com and title your email “IVA Results”. A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.
The previous generation Acura RDX was a moderately successful contender in the small crossover SUV (XSUV) wars. The RDX was a bit pricey – almost $33,000 – coming from a premium Japanese brand. It was heavy. It was powered by a very thirsty turbocharged 2.3L 4-cylinder engine. Competition had left the RDX behind and with its source vehicle – the Honda CR-V – being updated for 2012, 2013 is the obvious time to re-do the RDX.
Honda is expecting sales on the order of 30,000 units per year for the new RDX. This is not an unreasonable number for a product selling in one of the growth segments in the American car and light truck market. In fact, this sales volume seems a bit timid for a brand forecasting a 45% increase in sales for the 2012 calendar year.
The upcoming Acura ILX sedan is expected to boost Acura consideration among Generation Y buyers – those under 33 years of age. The ILX will be the smallest and least expensive Acura (starting at $27,000 and topping out around $33-$34,000) and is forecast – by Acura – to generate sales on the order of 2,500 per month or 30,000 ILXs per year (Acura managers say 30-35,000 per year is “about right”). By adding the ILX to the Acura lineup and a refreshed RDX crossover SUV Acura hopes to improve sales by 45% in the 2012 calendar year achieving total sales of 180,000 units. A 45% bump is impressive in anybody’s book, but this comes after 2011’s traumas of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the floods in Thailand which damaged Acura production in Asia and component supplies for vehicles assembled in the USA.
2013 Acura ILX
The ILX’s GenY target is a youthful customer with a mature mindset who wants a “Near Premium” small sedan. They see themselves as individuals with taste. They live in and around big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas. They will sacrifice acceleration for fuel economy and innovative design.
While you might not know it from some of the creepy ad shots initially floating around on the ‘net, in the tin, the updated RDX is an improvement. The 2010 RDX takes its midpoint change with nips and tucks inside and out.
Looking like it stopped off at the tailor’s on the way to our drive event, the exterior changes involve typical revisions to headlights, taillights, fascias, and grilles, and the unloved Acura beak is now firmly in place. Despite the family grille, this is a nice example of minor changes, a tuck and crease here and there, that refine the overall look. With that nose, we may not call the new RDX beautiful, but it does look more refined and expensive than the outgoing car.
With the second generation, launched for 2009MY with a 201HP I4, much of that sweetness continued. With the 2010MY, the TSX is available with a 280HP 3.5L V6, mated to a five-speed automatic.
Though perhaps poorly timed, Acura gave in to criticism that their smallest sedan needed a V6. Acura expects that 20% of sales will be of this faster TSX, which seems a reasonable plan. But in the midst of today’s decimated car market and with no near-term relief from a nearly 10% unemployment rate, Acura expanded the TSX line with a more expensive, less efficient model. Market conditions may see the car not get the recognition it deserves.
As we noted in our December 2009 I4 TSX review, TSX has a sweetness hidden beneath a nice (once you get past the beak) but subtle and easy to overlook exterior. That evaluation stands, as opting for the V6 won’t make you stand out at the TSX owners club. Visual cues are limited to larger wheels (eighteens for the V6), revised front fascia, and a V6 badge on the decklid. Acura is betting TSX owners looking to step up are a naturally conservative, subtle lot.
It’s rare when two same class heavyweights are introduced concurrently. Both the 2009 Nissan Maxima and 2009 Acura TL were launched this summer and both are very nice entry luxury entries. The cars are very similar, but the positioning of each is very different.
2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Acura TL
Side view of Acura TL and Nissan Maxima are spookily similar.
The Maxima, a derivative of the front wheel drive Nissan Altima and assembled at Nissan’s huge car/truck plant in Smyrna, Tennessee is the range topper for Nissan cars in the USA. The Acura TL is front wheel drive with optional SH-AWD – “Super Handling All Wheel Drive”. The TL is the middle of the Acura car lineup and Acura’s highest volume vehicle and is assembled alongside the Honda Accord in Marysville, Ohio.
You might think that a better comparison would be the Acura against Infiniti with the TL lining up against the Infiniti G37 sedan. But the G37 sedan is based on a rear wheel drive platform. The TL vs. the Maxima is a more real product-to-product comparison.