When shopping for a sports sedan, it is easy to forget the Acura TLX. That is too bad, because underneath the TLX is actually an excellent machine that is a blast to drive.

The all-new 2018 TLX A-Spec is the sportiest version of the TLX and is our favorite. The A-Spec option is available on both front-wheel drive and SH-AWD variants of the V6-powered TLX, although we are not sure why anyone would not pick the SH-AWD model. The A-Spec model comes with more aggressive styling along with firmer suspension tuning and unique wheels and tires

The TLX A-Spec’s unique styling begins in front with a matte-black grille and blacked-out LED headlights. At the rear, you get a black rear spoiler and smoked LED taillights along with 4-inch-round dual exhaust tips.

Inside, the TLX V6 A-Spec features more aggressively bolstered front seats, a thick-rimmed steering wheel, red driver’s meter highlights, black headliner and pillar treatment, brushed aluminum-look interior trim, stainless steel driver’s footrest, and front and rear door sill trim.

The Acura TLX continues to be offered with a choice of engines. Standard is a 2.4-liter, 206-horsepower inline-four mated to an eight-speed transmission. The optional engine is a 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V6 mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. You also have a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Our car had the V6 engine with the AWD system. That is absolutely the preferred combination whether you want to do track days or have fun on the street.

The Super-Handling All Wheel Drive is the most sophisticated torque-vectoring AWD system in the industry, and it works so well that feels magical. SH-AWD enhances cornering grip, power delivery and all-weather handling and control through dynamic distribution of engine torque to all four wheels and independent control of torque delivery to the left and right rear wheels. Go into a tight corner such as Laguna Seca’s Turn 2, aim for the apex and floor it. The advanced system figures out the correct balance and adjusts power delivery to reduce understeer. What you end up with is perfect balance every time. On the street, the experience is even more impressive because often you may not be able to adjust to the situation. The system works even better in tricky situations such as when the road is half wet and half dry. It is remarkable how well the SH-AWD system can put the power down without fuss.

The A-Spec comes with Michelin Primacy 245/40R19 tires (compared to 225/50R18 on other V6 models). The TLX V6 A-Spec also benefits from a retuned electric power steering system and damper settings. Models with SH-AWD also get a quicker steering ratio for increased response and a stiffer spring rate and rear stabilizer bar for improved body control. The combination works great although the car is still on the soft side. We would prefer the A-Spec version to be more hard-core but on the plus side, the ride quality is superb.

The 3.5 liter V6 is strong and has plenty of high tech features although it is only a SOHC design. It features i-VTEC only on the intake valves and has a very high 11.5:1 compression ratio. It pulls hard in the lower rpm range and seems to be tuned more for everyday driving rather than the race track. It is strong, but very efficient, with an EPA highway rating of 29 mpg on the highway.

The best part of the TLX is that it is affordable compared with some of its European competition. The base TLX starts out at $33,995 while the V6 AWD model starts out at only $39,195. The A-Spec will cost you a bit more at $45,795.

While the TLX may not be the first vehicle to come to mind when you think of a sport sedan, it is definitely worth a test drive just based on the fantastic SH-AWD system. The rest of the package is just a bonus.

Engine: Direct-injection 3.5-liter SOHC V6
Horsepower: 290 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 267 @ 4,500 rpm
Front suspension: Independent McPherson strut
Rear suspension: Independent multilink
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, with paddle shifters
Axle ratio: 3.52:1
Curb Weight: 3,680 lbs.
Base MSRP: $39,195

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