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2020 Acura TLX Review: Last of the First

Auto123 reviews the 2020 Acura TLX.

As we await the arrival of the second-generation TLX sedan, officially unveiled recently and expected to debut in the spring of 2021, the current model is still with us; we recently spent a week putting it through its paces. Here’s what buyers who want to get their hands on this generation of the TLX can expect.

Know, for starters, that the current, first-generation TLX has been with us since 2015. Which means it is one of the elder statesmen of the segment, even if it did get a medium-strength revision in 2018. At that time Acura gave the car a new diamond-pentagon front grille and diamond-shaped Jewel Eye LED headlights to freshen it up. I’m a fan of that look frankly, and find the front end far more enjoyable to look at than the more non-descript rear end. The inside, meanwhile, has changed less over the years, although technologies have been updated to keep the premium-car-buying crowd satisfied.

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2020 Acura TLX, profile
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, profile

Otherwise Acura is offering a new PMC (Performance Manufacturing Center) kit, which if chosen as an option means the vehicle benefits from a hand-made construction process, by which Acura technicians manually install mechanical, electronic, interior and exterior components, just like with the brand’s NSX supercar.

Whether you choose that luxury option or not, know that the TLX in its conception – and its pricing – is a premium sedan that doesn’t sit quite in the same luxury category as the European overlords of the segment. The level of refinement inside is high but not stratospheric, and the performance delivered from its guts is, while not sedate, nothing extraordinary for a premium-priced compact four-door.

2020 Acura TLX, front
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, front

The powertrains
The 2020 Acura TLX comes with a choice of two engines: a 4-cylinder turbo and a V6, the latter accompanied by all-wheel drive. The smaller unit is available only with the A-Spec and Tech A-Spec variants, while the V6 can be fitted in those trims as well as in the Elite and Elite A-Spec. Our tester for a week this spring was the Elite A-Spec version with V6.

Output of the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine is 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque, in conjunction with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Note that versions with this engine are front-wheel drive – the company’s lauded all-wheel drive system (called SH-AWD, for Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) can only be had in combination with the other, larger engine.

If 206 horses for a car that’s not the smallest or lightest model around sounds rather modest, well it is. And so you might want to turn to the other choice, a 3.5L V6 that produces a more respectable 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, working in tandem with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, the sprightlier 8-speed dual-clutch unit of the 4-cylinder powertrain cannot be combined with the V6, which means making do with a more-sedate transmission to manage the more-powerful engine. Bit of a shame, that…

2020 Acura TLX, three-quarters front
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, three-quarters front

Fuel consumption
Of course, one of the factors that can affect your decision-making in terms of what you want under the hood is fuel economy. Officially the 4-cylinder-powered TLX averages 10.0L/100 km and 7.1L/100 km (city-highway); the A-Spec version with that engine is slightly higher at 10.2L/100 km and 7.4L/100 km.

As you might guess, stick the V6 engine in and the TLX gets thirstier. Official numbers are 11.4L/100 km and 7.7L/100 km (city-highway), or 12.0L/100 km and 8.2L/100 km with the A-Spec treatment. My week in the Elite A-Spec version with V6 resulted in an overall average of 12.8L/100 km.

The equipment
Whichever version of the 2020 TLX you choose, you get a wide range of standard equipment, for instance automatic climate control, electronic handbrake, backup camera with multiple angles, 7-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated front seats with 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat and extensions for the front seat.

2020 Acura TLX, interior
Photo: Acura
2020 Acura TLX, interior

Also included are front collision alert and automatic braking, lane change warning with repositioning aid, tire-pressure monitor, 19-inch wheels, automatic low beam, windshield de-icing system, heated mirrors, LED fog lights, sunroof, LED headlights and adaptive cruise control, as well as an auto-dimming mirror.

Opt for the A-Spec Tech trim, and your TLX comes also with heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, retractable mirrors, rain-sensing wiper and a navigation system, as well as an upgraded 10-speaker audio system.

After that, the SH-AWD A-Spec model throws in an 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, start/stop function and electronic gear selector, while the Elite gives you auto-dimming exterior mirrors, chrome door sills, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, wireless charging for smartphones and ventilated front seats.

2020 Acura TLX, A-Spec logo
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, A-Spec logo

On the road
While the 2020 Acura TLX is aging, it doesn’t necessarily drive like an aged car. I would have liked to have the 4-cylinder’s dual-clutch transmission on hand to play with the V6, but nonetheless there is a certain dynamism to the drive. Not a lot, but some. Acceleration is quite good once you learn to coddle that transmission properly with your right foot, and cornering is livelier than you’ll get from a Lexus. Comfort is excellent and the suspension finds a nice balance between sporty firmness and floatiness.

At the same time, the TLX could use with some tightening up of its driving dynamics to bring it at least to the level of, say, the Infiniti Q50 – see our comparison between the 2020 TLX and the 2020 Q50. We look forward to Generation 2.0 to see if Acura decides to sportify the on-road behaviour of the model.

Otherwise, Acura’s SH-AWD system lives up to its expectations; it reacts to road and driving conditions and adjusts by sending up to 70 percent of torque to the rear wheels as needed. The result is a very confidence-inspiring ride wherein the car feels bolted to the road even on slippery surfaces and when getting aggressive on corners.

2020 Acura TLX, lower console
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, lower console

One last note: Acura has forsaken the traditional gear-shifting setup for a row of buttons that, while not dreadful, in no way represents an improvement over what came before, or even over a turn-knob like seen in several other models on the market. A design change for its own sake?

Prices
Pricing for the 2020 Acura TLX ranges from $36,180 to $47,980, before taxes, fees, etc. As a point of comparison, while Acura has not yet announced pricing for the second-generation TLX coming next spring, it has confirmed starting price will be somewhere just north of $40,000.

2020 Acura TLX, front grille
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, front grille

We like

Looks, especially the front end
Positive drive
Refined, comfortable interior
Plenty of power from the V6

We like less

Looks, especially the back end
Could stand being just a little flashier
Second row is smallish
No dual-clutch transmission for the V6

The competition

Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A4
BMW 3 Series
Genesis G70
Infiniti Q50
Lexus IS
Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Volvo S60

2020 Acura TLX, rear
Photo: D.Boshouwers
2020 Acura TLX, rear

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Photos:D.Boshouwers
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