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Acura TLX: Emotion-Evoking Tactics

They call it a “major refresh,” but the new Acura TLX looks and feels more like a comprehensive makeover of the sport/luxury sedan. Although it carries over engines, transmissions, and other components from the previous TLX, the new car has been re-sculpted from the windshield forward.

A handsome “diamond pentagon” grille replaces the earlier face. The TLX also boasts new rear styling touches, as well as an upgraded model — the A-Spec — which features state-of-the art suspension modifications, quicker steering, 19-inch alloy wheels, and premium sport-tuned Michelin tires that combine to muffle road noise and improve the ride, response, and feel.

Engine sounds are enhanced to make music for enthusiasts’ ears. The musicality extends to the rhythm and tone of the driving experience, in which the TLX — particularly in the models with the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive — evokes tactical sensations and emotional driver responses. Overall, the feel is of heft and substance. New for 2019, the TLX A-Spec expands to 2.4-liter models.

The Acura TLX is available in six versions, all with front-wheel drive, starting with the standard model priced from $33,000 for 2019. It comes equipped with a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automated manual transmission that incorporates a torque converter for smoother starts off the line.

Basic equipment is extensive and features the AcuraWatch suite of safety technology, including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation.

Also standard are Apple CarPlay or Android Auto infotainment systems, SXM satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, motorized sunroof, power and heated front seats, and pushbutton starting. A 2.4-liter TLX with the Tech package, at $36,700 adds navigation, premium ELS audio system, perforated leather upholstery, blind-spot warning, and rear cross traffic monitoring.

Four versions of the TLX are powered by Acura’s 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. They range from the standard model at $36,200 with equipment similar to that of the standard 2.4-liter version, ranging up to the Advance trim level. That carries a price tag of $43,950, but includes a full load of equipment, including wireless cell phone charging, surround-view camera, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and a heated windshield.

Off by itself is the slightly less expensive but more engaging A-Spec model, which lists at $42,800. It was the version tested for this review and is aimed at customers who appreciate the nuances of sharper, more responsive handling as well as raspier exhaust notes.

The tested TLX was equipped with Acura’s state-of-the-art super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD in Acura-speak). It is available on any V-6 TLX model for $2,000, and not only delivers confidence in foul weather conditions but also enhances the driving experience even in fair weather climates.

Sure, almost anyone would be perfectly happy driving a TLX with front-wheel drive. But aficionados will appreciate the SH-AWD for the precise way it contributes to rapid lane changes and high-speed handling stability on curving roads.

The torque vectoring system, housed in the rear differential, apportions power to the rear wheels automatically depending on conditions. In a high-speed corner it slows the inside wheel slightly and increases power to the outside rear wheel to follow the driver’s chosen line. It also modifies the steering angle. The principle is the same as that used on the Acura NSX super car and the new Acura MDX Sport Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle.

Although the A-Spec with SH-AWD has the TLX feeling a bit as if it were understeering — that is, pushing forward in a straight line — it obeys the driver’s wishes if you trust it.

Though the TLX is marketed as a midsize sedan, its interior volume of 107.6 cubic feet (including the trunk) places it in the EPA’s compact class. To get a midsize designation, a sedan must have 110 to 119 cubic feet inside.

The Acura TLX competes in the so-called entry premium segment of the market against the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, BMW 330i, Lexus IS, and Infiniti Q50. It doesn’t bow to any of them.