12 Uneventful Months

by Micah Muzio on November 30, 2018

Current Odometer: 12,305 miles
Latest MPG: 22.13 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.42 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

After twelve uneventful months, Kelley Blue Book’s 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec has departed. Sharing common underpinnings with the utterly reliable Honda Accord the TLX promised an event-free ownership experience when it arrived in November 2017. No surprise, that’s exactly what it delivered.

Sweet Predictability

Look at the “Days out of Service” number above. That’s right. Zero. Literally nothing went wrong. Or at least nothing we opted to have fixed. On January 31st, 2018 my boss, Michael Harley, noticed a slight defect in the reflective surface of the passenger side mirror. It was such a subtle blemish I completely forgot to mention it at our car’s first and only service visit. Whatever.

In the final few months of our loan, we also noticed slight pulsing from the brake pedal when slowing from high speeds. If I had to guess, that might be due to subtle warping from the time Lyn Woodward used our TLX A-Spec to chase a pair of Porsches and a Dodge Demon along Los Angeles’ famed Angeles Crest Highway. Like the mirror blemish, the brake pedal vibes were innocuous enough we opted to leave them be. If it’d been a two-year test I suppose we would have investigated… eventually.

Fuel Efficiency

Where maintenance and repair costs were concerned, our TLX was a monument to frugality. Fuel efficiency was a bit less stellar. Equipped with a sweet 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 and Acura’s Super-Handling all-wheel drive, our car achieved an EPA rating of 20 MPG in the city and 29 on the highway.

Over the 11,676 miles we added to its odometer our long-term TLX A-Spec averaged 21.42 MPG. Our best showing was 28.29 MPG, accomplished by Gentle Andy Bornhop on a mellow trip to Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Averaged out, it cost 18 cents per mile to keep fuel in the TLX. Ok, 17.69 cents if you want to be exact.

Safety First

Among the highlights of our long-term loan was the AcuraWatch suite of advance safety and driver assist technologies. The adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist features worked in unobtrusive, helpful fashion. We especially appreciated the forward collision warning system, whose orange flashes in the gauge cluster and Head-Up display unambiguously alerted the driver without needlessly startling them.   

Peaks and Valleys

The Kelley Blue Book editorial team voiced consistent praise for the TLX’s hearty V6. We also appreciated the enhanced agility and traction afforded by the Super-Handling all-wheel drive system. Yes, even in perpetually temperate Los Angeles. Conversely, the 2-screen infotainment interface and an efficiency-tuned but fun-sapping 9-speed automatic transmission inspired disdain. Um, that might be too harsh. Let’s go with mild annoyance.

Blessed with smart entry, blind-spot monitoring, a tech package, and the sporty A-Spec package, our 2018 TLX tester rang in at $45,750 including a $950 destination and handling fee. Poll the KBB editorial team and some among us thought that amount should’ve bought more excitement. It’s ironic but the TLX’s dutiful predictability can be a turn off for those who demand serious passion from their luxury sedans.

What we have here is a classic head versus heart conundrum. In A-Spec guise, the Acura TLX has a certain flair but grander thrills can be found elsewhere. Sorry heart. Even so, extended exposure revealed a beautiful consistency from our 2018 TLX. It delivered comfortable, predictable, reliable service from arrival to departure. That kind of humble excellence is easy to overlook. But it makes a sturdy foundation for a thriving long-term relationship.

Total fuel costs - $1,982.17 divided by miles driven 11,203 = .18 cents per mile. Well, 17.69 cents if we want to be exact.

Car arrived with 629 miles we added 11,676

11,203 measured miles divided by 523.126 gallons = 21.42 mpg average


Interested in buying your very own version of this car? Research the Acura TLX.



Make the seat drop

by Micah Muzio on November 20, 2018

Current Odometer: 12,200 miles
Latest MPG: 22.1 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

For hauling plus-sized cargo in our long-term 2018 Acura TLX the rear seats can be lowered, creating a passthrough from the trunk to the cabin. In olden days, seatback releases were typically located on top of the seats in the passenger area. But time and experience have made car designers wiser.

In keeping with the modern fashion, the Acura TLX sedan features seatback releases in the trunk. The benefit of that arrangement is that you don’t need to leave the trunk area when loading large gear. Here’s the rub. The TLX’s rear seats are not spring-loaded, requiring a firm push to drop…and it’s a long reach inside.

Even if your arms are long enough to push the seatbacks down through the TLX’s trunk, you’ll probably have to walk to the side of the car to remove the rear seat headrest anyway. With the front seat set for my utterly average 5’ 10” frame, the rear seat headrests wedge against the front seatback when lowered. So, while I appreciate the thoughtful inclusion of seatback releases in the trunk the overall execution is lacking. The fact that execution merits a written entry in our long-term TLX coverage lets me know that life has clearly gotten too easy. #blessed


Gooseneck Hinges

by Micah Muzio on November 13, 2018

Current Odometer: 12,070 miles
Latest MPG: 19.2 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

Hinges are boring…until they crush your luggage. Is a hinge-related crushing waiting to happen in your sedan? Go look at your trunk hinges right now! I’ll wait.

You back? Cool. When you closed your car’s trunk what did the hinges do? Some cars use complex hinges that essentially collapse on themselves outside of the trunk area when the when the trunk lid is closed. Other cars use “gooseneck” hinges that pivot from inside the trunk.

Why does any of this matter? Because complicated hinges allow stress-free trunk closing without threat of crushing what’s inside but they are more expensive. Meanwhile, gooseneck hinge arms descend menacingly toward whatever is inside the trunk when the lid is closing. Cram your trunk full of eggs and, after those goosenecks intrude, you’ll be one step closer to an omelet. 

In the case of our long-term Acura TLX, its trunk features hinges of the gooseneck variety. But before channeling your outrage into a protracted tweet, hear me out. The travel of those hinge arms is completely contained in shrouds. With some simple trunk package Acura cleverly gets to have their hinge cake and eat it too. Cheap hinge, zero crush. Thanks, TLX! My eggs and I appreciate your thoughtful trunk. 


ELS Audio: Worth the cost? 

by Micah Muzio on November 6, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,830 miles
Latest MPG: 24.9 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

KBB’s long-term Acura TLX came equipped with an ELS Studio Premium Audio System. It has 10 speakers including 4 mids, 4 tweeters, a center channel mid-range speaker and a nearly 8-inch subwoofer. With its DTS Neural Surround feature, the system can mimic 5.1 surround sound audio from a stereo audio source. Those seem like very convincing credentials on paper but does the ELS audio system actually sound good?

In my opinion, our 2018 TLX’s ELS audio system sounds merely OK but it’s far from my favorite in-car audio experience. Why should you believe me? Look, I’m no Elliot Scheiner (Grammy award-winning producer who helped design the system) but I have spent the past 2 decades recording music and the past 11 years reviewing cars. Every day I experience a range of automotive audio solutions then, later in the day, spend hours recording and mixing music. So, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

Consistency is key when testing. My go-to test track is Owner of a Lonely Heart by the band Yes. Not only is it an impeccably recorded track but it features radical stereo panning tricks, a distinct hi-hat for assessing high frequencies, a tight kick drum for the low end, and enough variety that I honestly never tire of hearing it.

With “Owner” playing at a moderate volume on the ELS Premium Audio System it’s immediately clear that the high frequencies are over-accentuated. Boost the treble setting and the sound quickly turns harsh. For the sake of my ear drums the standard middle setting is the play, allowing the hi-hat to ring clearly without making me wince.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, adjusting the dedicated subwoofer setting was largely ineffective. Even maxed out, it didn’t add much low-end thump from the kick drum. In a blind taste test, it would be hard to discern much difference between the minimum and maximum settings. Granted a modern track with more-prominent sub-bass might stand a better chance of kicking the TLX’s occupants in the gut but playing old, reliable Yes there was a distinct lack of impact.

I mentioned earlier some interesting panning effects with my beloved test song. Right around 2:35 Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin’s solo begins, leading into such radical shifts from left to right you can easily imagine the audio engineer twisting the pan knobs. I’ve enjoyed this bit played on other premium audio systems but in our long-term TLX that panning magic doesn’t quite translate. A narrow sound stage from the ELS system really saps the fun out of daring 1980’s stereo recordings.

Regarding ELS’s DTS Neural Surround Sound feature, it holds zero appeal for me. I’m more interested in hearing the artist’s intention than the artificial and oddly phased output of non-native 5.1 audio. As you might guess, Neural Surround Sound is the first thing I deactivate when boarding our 2018 TLX A-Spec. 

What I really want is an adjustable mid-range control. The ELS system’s true weakness is a lack of rich mids. Dialing up the bass setting helps add heft and depth to the music but not without excessively hyping the lows…obviously. All told, our car’s ELS premium audio system lacks mid to low-mid range body as well as sub-bass thump.

Versus the TLX’s standard 7-speaker solution, ELS’s audio system is clearly a step up. Though taking that step requires the $3,700 Technology Package. As a single component in a larger feature set that includes leather, navigation, and other niceties, ELS premium audio is a minor bonus. But if it were available as an ala carte option, my answer after listening to all that lusciously crafted Yes would be “no.” 


Confessions of a left foot braker

by Micah Muzio on October 30, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,129 miles 
Latest MPG: 20.32 mpg 
Lifetime MPG: 21.09 mpg 
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41 
Days out of Service: 0

Left foot braking. It’s a habit mostly reserved for terrible and excellent drivers. Average drivers tend to use their right foot for both the accelerator and brake. I consider myself, perhaps foolishly, a member of the “excellent” category. #humblebrag

Operating the brake pedal with one’s left foot is a common technique in motorsports, rally racing in particular. On the rare occasions where I need to balance a car’s lateral trajectory as it drifts across loose or slick terrain, it’s nice to have a well-calibrated left foot. Racing Mercedes on ice is a good example. And so, I practice daily. 

What does all this left-foot foolishness have to do with Kelley Blue Book’s 2018 Acura TLX? Not much, aside from the fact that the TLX’s brake pedal is sized and positioned for a perfectly neutral left-foot braking driving position. With my left foot hovering over the “whoa pedal”, a phrase I’m immediately ashamed to have written, my body is relaxed. There’s no strain in my calf and the transition from brake to dead pedal is effortless and unimpeded. 

I have no delusions that Acura designed the TLX’s pedals with my left-foot braking in mind. Nonetheless, the car’s foot controls fit me well. As they say, there’s a butt for every seat. Or, in this case, a foot for every pedal. 


Memory Seat

by Micah Muzio on October 22, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,126 miles
Latest MPG: 20.32 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.09 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

In my ongoing series “Micah Muzio Appreciates the Little Things” we turn our attention to memory seats. The advent of power seating adjustment allowed for minute alterations to one’s driving position. But the real power of power seats emerged once memory functionality arrived.

KBB’s long-term 2018 Acura TLX includes this wondrous memory seating technology. And I love it. Here’s how it works. Adjust the driver seat to your liking. Press the button near the door handle labeled “set”, then press either button 1 or button 2. To recall your ideal seating position, press the corresponding button, 1 or 2, again. Simple.

Why am I dazzled by such basic technology? To be honest, I hate sharing. And sharing is an annoying constant among long-term vehicle fleets. Every time I hop aboard our 2018 TLX I must adjust the seat and mirrors…except that I don’t because of, you guessed it, memory seats!

Pro tip: Try saving your seating position to both button 1 and 2. That increases the odds that some other staffer won’t overwrite your ideal position. Just don’t try that in my TLX. As noted, I hate sharing. 


250 miles to Vegas

by Jason Allan on October 17, 2018

Current Odometer: 11,720 miles
Latest MPG: 30.01 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.21 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

If you can tear yourself away from the casinos (or they’ve taken all your money), gorgeous views and great hikes await at Red Rock Canyon just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. Our 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec in Still Night Blue Pearl looks particularly good against the red rocks and blue sky (below), and it was outstanding on our 500-mile roundtrip from Southern California. Excellent seats, Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist were key highlights, while total trip fuel economy of 30.1 mpg was a bonus.

On the flip side I noticed a shudder during light to moderate braking at highway speeds. I’ve alerted the editors and we’ll keep an eye on it.

2018 Acura TLX A-Spec at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas,


Eco Mode with Gentle Andy

by Micah Muzio on October 8, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,895 miles
Latest MPG: 28.29 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.12 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

I work with a dude named Andy Bornhop. He’s nicer than me and probably you too. Gentle Andy, as no one calls him but probably should, recently snagged KBB’s long-term Acura TLX for a fun frolic to Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Besides spotting two California Condors that day, Andy emerged with some TLX-related insights. They are as follows. 

-In addition to highway cruising, Andy enjoyed semi-sporting stints along Mil Potrero Highway and Hudson Ranch Road, just west of Pine Mountain Club. I say “semi-sporting” because Andy smartly refrained from 10/10th-ing his journey; a kind accommodation for his wife. That’s Patty with a Y.

-With the power of personal restraint, long freeway runs, and our TLX’s Eco Mode, Andy generated a stellar average fuel economy figure of 28.29 mpg. For perspective, I rarely break 20 mpg. Then again, I drive like a jerk.

-According to Andy “The TLX worked great, but I didn’t push it too hard, thus explaining the great fuel economy of that tank.”

-Andy also noted some interesting behavior from the transmission. Thus sayeth Andy “One thing I remember from that day: On paddle downshifts, sometimes the automatic rev-match throttle blip would cause a slight forward surge in forward momentum, surprising me and causing me to brake harder than expected for the upcoming corner.”

-As in all scenarios, Andy treated Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Acura TLX with kindness. Besides some subtle transmission weirdness, the TLX repaid Andy’s kindness with efficient, fun-loving kindness of its own. We could all stand to be a little more like Andy. Correction, “Gentle Andy”.


Go Go Gadget Sun Visor!

by Micah Muzio on September 24, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,532 miles
Latest MPG: 21.35 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.89 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

Our long-term Acura TLX features extendable, sliding visors that manage the sun’s blinding rays through the front side windows. As I’m describing this elemental feature, it sounds super unimpressive. But simple things often have a profound impact, like a high-velocity paint chip penetrating the international space station’s hull.

Simple or not, extending sun visors are not ubiquitous. It’s baffling to find fixed visors in cars that should know better. I’m looking at you, obscenely expensive Bentley Bentayga. With the freedom to make the wrong choice, Acura made the right choice. As a result, I’ll never have to lodge a sun-blocking towel in our TLX’s window. My retinas and dignity remain intact, all thanks to humble sliding visors.  


Lumbar Support

by Micah Muzio on September 10, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,487 miles
Latest MPG: 16.70 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.46 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

If I’m seated for too long my lower back hurts. Yes, at 40 years old, I’m officially an old man. There are two methods to avoid this fate. 1: Lean the seat back like I’ve joined the US luge team. 2: Employ an obscene amount of lumbar support.

In another era I’d just jam a basketball between my lower back and the seatback but Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Acura TLX has a more dignified solution. Built-in power-adjustable lumbar support. Motored to the maximum forward position the seat lumbar adjustment provides the support I desperately require. Extended jaunts to exotic California cities like Chino and Hemet have proven the TLX’s lumbar-related excellence.

It should be noted, however, that adjustable lumbar support is not included for the front-seat passenger. I’ve taken that fact as a divine cue to always drive. Nonetheless, if discomfort strikes my passenger’s lumbar region I’ve got a backup plan. A sad, inflatable lumbar pillow I purchased specifically designed for less thoughtfully-crafted seats. Yes, at 40 years old, I’m officially an old man.


Brake Hold

by Micah Muzio on August 31, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,326 miles
Latest MPG: 16.70 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.46 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

Oh, no. Another stop light where I have to maintain consistent pressure on the brake pedal to keep from rolling into traffic. Has this ever happened to you? It has!?! Well, have I got a solution for you. It’s called Brake Hold and it’s a handy dandy feature available on Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Acura TLX.

Here’s how it works. You press the Brake Hold button…and that’s it. Whenever the driver brings their TLX to a complete stop it’ll just stay there until the accelerator is pressed. Simple. When motionless, your braking foot is now free to stretch and move about the cabin as its owner sees fit.

I really do like Brake Hold as a feature but I have one complaint. Every time the vehicle is started I have to press the Brake Hold button to reactivate the feature. As a guy who loves Brake Hold want to take any guesses how much I like needless button pressing? Ugh, there’s got to be a better way!

To be clear, having to leave your foot on the brake pedal when stopped is not an actual problem but, since we’ve solved historically-vexing issues like exploding engines and spontaneously-failing brakes, automotive engineering efforts have shifted. As a lazy, lazy man I fully embrace the wonders of Brake Hold. I can’t wait to see what non-problem we solve next. Maybe a system to press the Brake Hold button for me. (Fingers crossed!!)


You can’t please everyone

by Micah Muzio on August 11, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,100 miles
Latest MPG: 15.51 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.57 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

My co-worker, Jason, took our long-term Acura TLX for a quick lunch outing today. I was curious to hear his thoughts on the drive. Here was his assessment. “I started out not liking the TLX and I still don’t.”

That sounds harsh but Jason has his reasons. Jason isn’t dazzled by Acura’s attempt to infuse a sporting personality into the TLX. The steering and powertrain delivery haven’t captured his heart. Those complaints are doubly vexing for Jason given his enthusiasm for the rest of Acura’s lineup, especially the new RDX. The real problem though, is Honda.

You see, the Acura TLX shares its structure with the latest generation Honda Accord. The Accord’s class-leading competence has made it a perennial sales-leader and a repeat Kelley Blue Book Midsize Car Best Buy. As a side effect, its TLX platform-mate shines a bit less brightly. Darn overachievers, making the rest of us look bad.

In a vacuum, our 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec is a perfectly fine car but common lineage sparks comparison. Like ranking Baldwin brothers, try pricing a TLX…then price a similarly-equipped Accord. The TLX’s price premium naturally raises expectations; expectations that aren’t met by Jason’s elevated, Accord-tuned standards. 


All-Wheel Drive: Not Just For Snow

by Micah Muzio on July 27, 2018

Current Odometer: 9,609 miles
Latest MPG: 18.28 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.72 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

I live in southern California. I also frequently drive Kelley Blue Book’s all-wheel drive 2018 Acura TLX A-Spec. Are the traction enhancing abilities of all-wheel drive necessary in SoCal? No, but I have discovered a use case.

Following a recent trip to the supermarket I was pulling out cautiously from the parking lot. The pavement was uneven and my view of the street was blocked by a line of parked cars. Creep. Creep. Creep. As the nose of the TLX entered the roadway I spotted a vehicle barreling my direction. And so, I mashed the throttle.

In a front-wheel drive car mashing the throttle on uneven pavement would have resulted in spinning tires, complete with distracting noise and an unwelcome lack of acceleration. But in the Acura TLX, with its super handling all-wheel drive, I simply accelerated. And quickly, I will add. No drama. Just propulsion.

A potentially dicey encounter with a speeding car magically transformed into a brilliant demonstration of the value of all-wheel drive. Now imagine a similar scenario but amplified by wet, slippery roads. If it ever rains in LA again I’ll report my findings.  


AcuraSensing: Keeping Safety Safe

by Micah Muzio on July 7, 2018

Current Odometer: 8,666 miles
Latest MPG: 19.60 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.85 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

One advantage in buying a modern automobile is the availability of advance driver assist technologies. In the case of Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Acura TLX an AcuraWatch suite of safety and convenience features comes standard. Included in that suite are adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking. Each system works in helpful, predictable fashion but let’s focus on forward collision warning for a moment.

The system helps warn the driver of an impending collision. Many car makers offer similar systems but Acura’s collision warning system works particularly well. Let’s say the car ahead stops suddenly while you, as the driver, are momentarily lost in thought…perhaps mulling that shocking Bachelorette finale. When our long-term TLX senses this kind of collision is likely, it warns the driver in a tiered fashion.

First come conspicuous orange flashes in the gauge cluster and reflected on the windshield. After that, if needed, an audible chime, well, chimes in. The visual warnings are obvious but not startling. The warning chime escalates as necessary. Truly, the worst that can happen during a moment of impending doom is a distractingly aggressive alert that triggers panic rather than action.

In driving KBB’s 2018 Acura TLX, I’ve found AcuraWatch’s mellow alert hierarchy to be well tuned. It informs the driver of threats without needless intensity. While jockeying through tight lane changes on LA’s competitive freeways I’ve had countless casual warnings. Audible alerts are reserved for the most egregious and aggressive maneuvers. In some competitive vehicles, persistent warning chimes inspire the driver to deactivate safety features. And that improves safety for no one.

More critically, I have yet to experience automatic emergency braking when not absolutely required. If you want to experience distracted driving first hand, try suddenly slamming on the brakes and see how (or whether) the driver behind you responds. If you dislike rear-end collisions and whiplash you’ll want a car with a smartly calibrated automatic emergency braking system. Put another way, if a safety system makes a bad situation worse, is it really a safety system?


Arm Rests

by Micah Muzio on June 6, 2018

Current Odometer: 8,118 miles
Latest MPG: 21.69 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.97 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

Arm rests are so simple, their function and name are one in the same. And yet, there are nuances that make some arm rests superior to others.

Take our long-term Acura TLX. As the driver you have one arm rest on the door and another atop the center console. Cool. Two arm rests. But what are those arm rests covered with? In the TLX’s case, its pleasing leather under which hides a cushy, elbow-absorbing substance…of some sort. I’m sure Acura’s engineering team knows exactly what that substance is called. Regardless of name, it keeps my overprivileged arms happy. 

Going further, the arm rests in our 2018 TLX sedan sit at the same height. That seems like an obvious design requirement but in many cars the arm rests are not level. With my arms properly aligned the final piece of the puzzle is the relationship between arm rest height and the steering wheel. Select driver memory position #1 and the TLX’s seat adopts the perfect Micah-position, wherein both hands grasp the steering wheel in a casual 8 & 4 orientation while also merging my elbows with those sweet even-height arm rests.

Do arm rests deserve this level of scrutiny? Maybe not. But over the literal long-haul few features contribute more to comfort. So, let’s give credit where credit is due. The humble arm rest deserves an attaboy. 


A Twisty, Winding Road

by Lyn Woodward on June 2, 2018

Current Odometer: 8,118 miles
Latest MPG: 23.92 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.72 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

From the exterior, our long-term Acura TLX A-Spec looks like a super sporty, high-performance car. As Acura describes it, “the aggressive A-Spec package…delivers distinctive character that expresses the thrill of performance.” We’re not 100 percent sure what that means it delivers exactly, so, when a bunch of colleagues announced a Saturday morning drive on Los Angeles’ famed Angeles Crest Highway (a notoriously twisty, winding road 15 miles north of downtown), which typically teems with heavily modified sports cars and motorcycles, I thought I’d take the TLX out and observe, first-hand, just how sporty it was.

With my TLX lined up beside such enthusiast hardware as a Porsche GT4, a Porsche 911 and a Dodge Demon, it didn’t take long to realize I may have brought the automotive equivalent of a spork to a knife fight.

Save for the 19-inch wheels and a suspension specially tuned by the engineer responsible for the original NSX, most of the A-Spec features such as red-leather trimmed seats, aero kit and the dark chrome pentagon grille are cosmetic. Even with a fairly robust 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and SH-AWD (the SH stands for super handing) not a lot of the A-Spec additions, including those cool red leather seats, helped me quickly squirt with much confidence around the roads carving asphalt scars through the Angeles National Forest.

The suspension wobbles the 3,800-pound TLX around like a bowl of Still Blue Jell-O. A graceful sensation it’s not. Thankfully, all-wheel drive did help me put the power down to all four corners, but it did nothing to improve stability. The front tires felt as though they were working overtime, and the back end frequently got away from me. More grip from a better tire than our all-weather Michelin Green-Xs would have helped a lot around those serpentine passes -- they howled continuously in protest. 

The steering wheel offered little resistance, so steering felt like a constant exercise in intense mental meditation. Making smooth inputs was increasingly challenging as the tach moved closer to redline. Using the manual paddle shifters delivered marginally more control than the nine-speed automatic – it struggled to make appropriate downshifts fast enough for approaching curves.

Chassis settings, especially in Sport Plus, didn’t get nearly as firm as I’d have liked under aggressive driving conditions, and body roll besieged the out-gunned TLX. And as the day wore on, braking reaction significantly diminished. A lot of fade made executing extreme turns increasingly unpredictable. (If you intend on driving the TLX regularly in any kind of high-performance capacity, upgrade the brakes.) Toss in the fact that this technical road was somewhat unfamiliar to me as a driver, and the entire morning was a white-knuckle experience.

On my way down the mountain I eased up on the throttle, allowing the brakes and my psyche to cool off. As it turns out, the A-Spec is primarily an appearance package, and not much more. 

Driving home on the highway allowed me to appreciate the TLX A-Spec for the sports-esque sedan it’s intended to be. While I won’t be flogging it around on track day any time soon, the head-turning Acura still offers a spirited driving experience, even if it’s not quite the hair-on-fire rush of two-seater adrenaline your GT4-driving friends get. So, by all means, use the Porsche for the hard-core mountain road driving, then pick up all your sporty-car-owning friends afterward and drive them to brunch in the sporty-looking TLX A-Spec.


1st Service

by Micah Muzio on May 24, 2018

Current Odometer: 7,494 miles
Latest MPG: 21.52 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.71 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $85.41
Days out of Service: 0

9:01AM: Arrive at Acura dealer without an appointment. Greeted by friendly dude who documents the vehicle’s mileage and retrieves the service writer.

9:02AM: Service writer, Jerry, arrives. I inform him of the “Maintenance Due Soon” warning illuminated on my dash. Jerry listens attentively then conducts a detailed walk around of the vehicle. Identifies a small chip on the front fascia. Notes that our 2018 TLX could use a car wash.

9:08AM: Pleasant chit chat at Jerry’s desk inside. Jerry adds my information to the dealer’s database and notes the vehicle is actually owned by Honda. I’m terrible at lying and, after some light prodding from Jerry, I ultimately reveal my position at Kelley Blue Book.  

9:09AM: I immediately lament having ruined this dealer service test by outing myself as a car reviewer.

9:10AM: On second thought, maybe being a car reviewer will get me out of here sooner.

9:15AM: More pleasant chit chat. Jerry wraps up the paperwork. Says it should take about 2 hours to complete the vehicle’s first service. That service includes an oil and filter change and a range of inspections.

9:17AM: Jerry leads me to the dealer waiting area and politely offers me coffee. I decline and settle in.

9:18AM: Glance at waiting room TV. Ah, this is where people still watch those perky morning news shows. “Back to Jill with the weather!!”

9:19AM: Headphones on.

9:25AM Plow through the morning’s emails. Check Instagram. More emails. Repeat.

10:00AM: Glance at waiting room TV. Oh, right. TMZ is still a thing.

10:01AM: Turn up headphone volume.

10:06AM: Jerry arrives. Update. My car is being worked on. Very pleasant.

10:07AM Return to Instagram/email loop.

10:25AM: Open iPhone news app.

10:26AM: Horrified I quickly close the iPhone news app. Oh hey, TMZ is on!

10:32AM: Jerry appears once again to explain Acura’s multi-point service inspection. Our long-term TLX is in perfect condition. Fluids, brakes, lights. All primo. Hooray!

10:34AM: Text wife about daughter’s illness. She’s finally keeping down food. Much rejoicing. 

10:36AM: Glance at waiting room TV again. Oh, right. Larry H. Parker is still a thing.

10:46AM: Jerry alerts me that my vehicle is ready. We conduct a 2nd walk around of a now pristine clean 2018 Acura TLX. Jerry notes a ding on the hood, revealed only after the dealer’s complimentary wash and vacuum. Rocks and freeways are a dicey combination. 

10:48AM: Jerry and I are back at his desk chatting about our favorite cars. He’s excited about a new customized Mustang and, naturally, the Acura NSX. Grand total for tire inspection, inflation, and rotation, an oil change, and the previously-mentioned multi-point inspection? $85.41.

10:49AM: I think Jerry hooked me up on that price. Your results may vary. Try hinting you’re a car reviewer.

10:50AM: The keys are in my hand.

10:54AM: After some more pleasant chit chat Jerry walks me to my car, opens the door, and wishes me a good day. The whole service experience took less than the predicted 2 hours. Neat.

10:56AM: Take pictures for this long-term update.

10:57AM: Glance at Jerry as I’m pulling away. Oh, right. Professional service is still a thing. 


Mastering the Fuel Lid

by Micah Muzio on May 1, 2018

Current Odometer: 7,144 miles
Latest MPG: 18.54 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.72 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Let’s get nitpicky for a moment. In many modern cars the fuel lid is released by pushing on it. Simple. In the Acura TLX the fuel lid is released by pressing a button inside the car, placed low near the driver’s left knee. On several occasions I’ve walked to the fuel pump, paid with my card, pressed the fuel lid, remembered that little button, hurdled the pump hose to reach and press said button, then returned to my original fueling task. Total delay 15 seconds. Oh, tragedy of tragedies, right?

Fair enough, pushing a button versus the fuel lid itself is a trivial concern. But among modern cars, success is a game of inches. Every detail counts. If this were the only car I drove, pressing the fuel release button prior to exiting the vehicle would be an ingrained behavior. But it’s not. (stupid privileged vehicle access!!) So, with great regularity I forget the button, remember the button, press the button, swear to remember to press the button, then forget all about the button. It’s like a Groundhog Day sequel, focused solely on a single microscopic inconvenience.

All that said, I’m a big fan of the TLX’s capless fuel filler. There’s no cap to unscrew, dangle, and potentially bang into the fender...perhaps befouling it with gas residue in the process. Just cram the nozzle into the receptacle and start fueling. Delightful. Details like our TLX’s capless fuel filler might seem trivial but, remember, success is a game of inches. Every detail counts.


Push-Button Transmission

by Micah Muzio on April 24, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,881 miles
Latest MPG: 19.34 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.87 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

In the 1950’s the push button transmission was a magical vision of the future. In 2018, the traditional mechanical gear selector is an increasingly rare beast. Like many Honda and Acura vehicles, our long-term 2018 Acura TLX is equipped with a totally futuristic push-button transmission. If only my grandfather was alive to see this!

The push-button approach has many advantages. Remove the bulky linkages and replace them with thin electronic wires and you free up lots of center console space. Buttons are also cheaper than mechanical linkages. So yes, all hail the humble button!

Acura has taken steps to physically and visually delineate our long-term TLX’s transmission buttons from each other. Park is rectangular, Neutral is a rectangle with a scalloped mid-section, Drive is a circle, and reverse is a recessed button that must be pulled to activate.

While visually distinct it takes some effort to tactilely identify and operate each button. More critically, a button-operated transmission lacks the immediate physical confirmation you used to get with an old-school gear selector. Throw the lever to reverse and, by feel alone, it was clear reverse had been selected. Press the TLX’s reverse button and the selection isn’t quite so clear. We’ve learned to glance at the gauge cluster for an “R” confirmation but doing takes more time and is less intuitive than the quaint old lever.

More vexing is how to activate our Acura’s various drive modes. Let’s say you’re approaching your favorite, rarely patrolled, off-ramp. You’d like to engage the TLX’s Sport+ mode to maximize the fun. From experience I can tell you, doing so by feel is a non-starter; even with the Dynamic Mode button’s textured surface. More than likely you’ll have to take your eyes off the road and look down, to the left of the cupholders, to identify the correct button. No bueno.

Like everything in life, the Acura TLX’s push-button transmission has its pros and cons. Cost savings and design flexibility are awesome but those benefits seem trite when making a u-turn, wondering if those rapidly approaching cars will slow while you figure out reverse. Either way, the mechanical transmission lever’s days are numbered. Buttons are here to stay. And so, we’ll adapt. I suppose adaptation is a small price to pay to live in the future. 



by Micah Muzio on April 11, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,666 miles
Latest MPG: 21.76 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.83 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Current Odometer: 6,666 miles. With that many 6’s its best to stay alert. Evil is afoot! No worries, our long-term 2018 Acura TLX has AcuraWatch, a suite of active safety features that mitigates driver-related idiocy. Highlights include lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a complete stop.

After living with these systems for a few months now I can confirm they work as advertised. How’s that for an anticlimactic result? Ok, we have had a few occasions where lane keeping assist incorrectly identifies road textures as lane markings, leading to incorrect warnings and steering reactions. For the record, those incorrect warnings are easily ignored and the automatic steering inputs easily overpowered.

Dealing with the occasional false positive is annoying but that’s simply the state of the technology. Lane keeping assist still has some growing up to do. In the meantime, if so inclined we can disable AcuraWatch with a few quick button presses. Then again, if the system prevents a single fender bender a few false positives don’t seem so bad. And so, in that spirit, we plan to leave the safety nannies engaged…at least until the odometer rolls past all those 6’s. 


What does the boss’s, boss’s, boss think?

by Micah Muzio on March 27, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,065 miles
Latest MPG: 24.82 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.22 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

When an executive 3 levels up the corporate food chain asks to borrow your long-term Acura TLX, the smart answer is “yes”. Thankfully, unlike some institutional requests, this particular car loan yielded solid intel. The aforementioned executive, named Mr. Wulf…no really, piloted our blue TLX from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back. Here then, are Mr. Wulf’s vehicular insights, distilled into convenient bullet points. 

-The Acura TLX is a nice, midsize sedan but passenger space feels just a bit tight. (Keep in mind, Mr. Wulf’s personal fleet includes a Jeep Wrangler and a Ford E-Series van. Once again, no really…an E-Series.)

-Bluetooth connectivity worked fine but the infotainment setup proved challenging. Specifically, the physical buttons were too small, causing Mr. Wulf to accidentally press multiple buttons simultaneously. 

-While traversing California and Nevada’s interminable highway 15, ride quality, handling dynamics, and acceleration all proved perfectly respectable. In particular, the TLX shined while overtaking the inattentive, rolling blockades that clog the route to Vegas. Seriously, if you’re driving 52 mph, get out of the left lane!

-In total, Mr. Wulf found our long-term 2018 Acura TLX to be a luxurious, competent car though he wondered if its price premium was justified. After all, the latest generation Honda Accord is an outstanding sedan in its own right. Assuming it was outfitted with the same features as our TLX, Mr. Wulf would likely choose a cheaper 2018 Honda Accord. 


Apple CarPlay Highs and Lows

by Micah Muzio on March 11, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,632 miles
Latest MPG: 21.81 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.97 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Apple CarPlay allows iPhone users, like yours truly, to utilize their phone’s communication and entertainment abilities via a familiar interface, projected on their vehicle’s embedded screen. It’s an amazing bit of technology that brings phone-like functionality and Apple’s superior design sensibilities right into your vehicle; in this case, Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Acura TLX.

Here’s the thing. Apple CarPlay mimics the iPhone, which uses a touchscreen. In the TLX, CarPlay is presented on the upper screen which is…not a touch screen. So, while I can see there’s an Alan Alda interview on the ID10T podcast, I can’t simply press what I see to select it. Instead I have to select that sweet Alan Alda interview with a cursor controlled by the TLX’s rotary knob selector. It’s better to have Apple CarPlay than not have Apple CarPlay but the TLX’s implementation makes me pine for a touchscreen interface…as Jobs intended. 


Fuel Economy. Is it me?

by Micah Muzio on March 4, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,334 miles
Latest MPG: 15.55 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.98mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

After the latest fill-up, I couldn’t help but notice that my personal fuel economy score is far below the average for our Acura TLX; having eked out a shameful 15.55 mpg over the course of 223.2 miles. It’s the kind of performance that sparks introspection. Am I piloting our 2018 TLX like some deranged race car driver, clawing my way to first place in a race that never was?

For the rest of Kelley Blue Book’s editorial team, fuel economy in the low to mid 20’s is the norm. That jibes with our all-wheel drive V6-powerered TLX’s 23 combined MPG rating. Then I come along and singlehandedly ruin the planet and America’s energy independence. For shame. With 8 months or so remaining on our TLX loan, here’s hoping a less assertive right foot can help me make amends. 


Sitting in the hot (or cooled) seat

by Micah Muzio on February 16, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,111 miles
Latest MPG: 18.35 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.50 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

When you forget to bring a jacket on an unexpectedly brisk and blustery day, there are few greater joys than heated seats. Our 2018 Acura TLX’s front seat not only heat but also ventilate. Describe this magical seat technology to a younger version of myself and I might’ve decried it as needless decadence and a sign of “peak capitalism”. These days I’ve made peace with occasional decadence and enjoy having such adaptable, accommodating perches in our long-term Acura sedan.

Control for the seats’ climate functions occurs through the TLX’s lower infotainment screen. Press a virtual button at the bottom of the screen and a menu appears, offering 3 intensities of seat heating and cooling. It’s a simple interface but an argument could be made that a dedicated button would be simpler, versus temporarily robbing the touchscreen of all its real estate. Then again, virtual buttons minimize clutter on the dash. Either way, in daily use we love having perpetually temperate posteriors so much that we’ll brave those digital buttons. Hmm, after rereading the previous sentence, maybe we have hit “peak capitalism”. 


The Blemished Mirror

by Michael Harley on January 31, 2018

Current Odometer: 3,734 miles
Latest MPG: 23.25 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.37 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

While washing the car this past weekend, I noticed a black streak on the passenger-side exterior mirror — telltale sign that moisture has tarnished the silver backing on the glass. The mirror is undamaged, so it appears to be a manufacturing defect. Since the tarnishing is limited to one side of the mirror, it still functions well (the mirror doesn’t auto-dim, so that’s a moot point). Assuming it doesn’t grow, we will wait to have the mirror replaced at its first service in another few months.


Jewel Eye LED Headlamps FTW

by Michael Harley on January 5, 2018

Current Odometer: 2,592 miles
Latest MPG: 23.04 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.76 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

It’s hard not to miss Acura’s Jewel Eye headlamps on the nose of the TLX. Each headlight pod contains five different light-emitting diode (LED) lamps that emit a light that is brighter, and whiter, than traditional halogen or high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. Acura has each headlight pod programmed so that the three outer lamps on each side are illuminated for low beam, and all five – ten lamps in total – when high beams are selected. The clusters also double as daytime running lamps, but at a lower output, during the day. While Acura isn’t the only automaker touting LED headlamps, its design casts a very wide and deep beam. The Jewel Eyes also illuminate reflectors (e.g., street signs and lane markers) hundreds of yards into the distance, which is exactly what drivers need when navigating dark roads at night.


Stellar Engine Mated to a Joyless Transmission

by Michael Harley on December 16, 2017

Current Odometer: 1,883 miles
Latest MPG: 19.34 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.87 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 0

Acura has a history of offering spectacular engines (the 1.8-liter four with VTEC in my old ’94 Integra GS-R comes to mind). The story is no different with the 3.5-liter V6 under the hood of the TLX, which is rated at 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque (at 4,700 rpm). With direct injection, VTEC on intake and exhaust valves, and variable cylinder management, the “J35Y6” is strong, reliable, and smooth. Unfortunately, Acura has mated it to a 9-speed automatic that is determined to maximize fuel efficiency – transmission software keeps the engine at 1,500 rpm nearly continuously. This leaves the V6 spinning far below its torque curve, which means downshifts are required anytime power is requested even if the drive mode selector is in its Sport setting. It’s a real shame, as the engine feels and sounds great above 4,500 rpm.



By Michael Harley on November 2, 2017

Acura introduced its mid-size TLX sedan for the 2015 model year as a replacement for its discontinued TL and TSX sedans. The all-new four-door jumped into a fiercely contested segment, destined to battle heavy hitters such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Infiniti Q50 — a formidable task. While sales of the well-received TLX peaked the first year at more than 47,000 units, they have fallen nearly 30 percent as the model ages over its lifecycle.

Breathing new vigor into the TLX, Acura updated it for the 2018 model year. In addition to the obligatory tweaked styling, which helps differentiate it from the 2017 model, the automaker added a slew of innovative technology (including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, inductive charging pad) and made its AcuraWatch suite of safety options (Collision Mitigation Braking System with automatic emergency braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and Road Departure Mitigation) as standard equipment.

Standard TLX models arrive with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 206 horsepower, but those seeking a bit more grunt will choose the optional 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower – both engines are naturally aspirated. Front-wheel drive is standard, but Acura’s sophisticated Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) with a torque-vectoring rear differential is offered on the options list.

A-Spec option rewards the boy racer

New for the 2018 model year is the A-Spec option that transforms the TLX from mild to (almost) wild. The enhancements include a new front fascia with round LED fog lamps, aggressive side sills, and rear fascia with large exhaust finishers on each side of a race-inspired rear diffuser. Sinister-appearing 19-inch wheels, wrapped in wider tires, complete the visual package. The cabin is fitted with more aggressively bolstered sport seats, brushed trim, and exclusive interior colors and upholsteries. Beneath the skin, the A-Spec boasts a sport-tuned suspension, retuned electric steering, and a rear stabilizer bar to enhance handling. The engine, transmission, and brakes are untouched.

Don’t consider the TLX with A-Spec a track-ready sport sedan like a BMW M3 or Audi S4, as that wasn’t the engineering objective. Instead, Acura wanted to offer its driving enthusiasts something a bit more engaging — visually, and in terms of driving dynamics – than the standard model.

Superman colors polarize our long-term A-Spec sedan

Base price on the 2018 TLX with a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive is $33,000 (plus $965 destination). We opted for the performance-oriented A-Spec package ($2,900) that requires the larger six-cylinder engine ($3,200) and Technology package ($3,700) — a combined $9,800 bump in price. Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive ($2,000) was a must-have upgrade with the 290-hp powerplant, which brought our as-delivered price to $45,750.

Choosing a color with character, we ordered our long-term test vehicle in Still Night Blue Pearl over Red leather (Superman, the famed DC Comics fictional superhero, would be proud as the vibrant color scheme matches his nearly perfectly). Note that the bright blue hue is only offered with the A-Spec package (those who don’t want the performance upgrades, but insist on blue, will have to accept a less lively Fathom Blue Pearl paint). There is no question that the color combination garners attention and opinions — you either like it, or you don’t.

Acura touts the TLX as a performance luxury sedan and says that the A-Spec package “amps up the sporty character.” The driving enthusiasts on our team are looking forward to putting “Superman,” our bold blue 3 Series fighter, to the test over the next 12 months.

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