The new white knight at Acura looked sort of ordinary at first glance – a bit thick in the middle with an obtuse name no one can pronounce or remember.
Tlix, I think, or maybe TeeLIX. Either way, I don’t have a clue what in blazes it means.
Nonetheless, the white 2018 Acura TLX I had recently better darn sure be able to slay some of the dragons in the near-luxury, mid-size sedan segment.
If you haven’t paid much attention to that well-heeled group lately, it includes cars like the 3-series BMW, the Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-class and fresh, stylish entries like the Jaguar XE.
It didn’t look as weirdly intergalactic as some spacey Acura sedans from the recent past.
Some truly look like monsters when you’re chasing them – and Acura hasn’t been able to catch much in that class lately, but grief.
Last year, Honda’s luxury division continued its years-long struggle with sedans, with sales of the Tlix, er, TLX, down nearly 22 percent, according to Automotive News.
Now comes the 2018 model, refreshed with a much better grille, some mild restyling and supposedly a bolt or two of lightning from the recently arrived – and revived – NSX super-coupe.
I was eager to hear it crackle.
From about 10 feet, though, my TLX didn’t exactly shout “asphalt-shredding sports sedan.”
“Nice” kept coming to mind.
Still, it didn’t look as weirdly intergalactic as some spacey Acura sedans from the recent past – and that’s progress.
Up front, for example, the bizarre Joker’s smirk is gone, replaced by a big blacked-out grille flanked by odd five-projector headlamps.
A long hood with unusual raised definition lines kept things interesting, while several character lines tightened the TLX’s mostly flat sides.
For reasons known only to Acura, the substantial sedan also wore a tacked-on aerodynamic piece along the rocker panel that I thought kind of cheapened the car.
But, hey, Tlix flashed a small, tasty black lip-spoiler on the trunk, four-inch exhaust tips and fairly meaty 245/40 tires on 19-inch gray spoked wheels.
I figured there had to be some NSX crackle and pop in there somewhere.
On paper, the TLX really did seem to have some sizzle, with one of Honda’s creamy 3.5-liter V-6s spinning out 290-horsepower through a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive.
Out on the street, though, the 3,900-pound sedan never quite seemed to match the sum of its impressive parts.
The 3,900-pound sedan never quite seemed to match the sum of its impressive parts.
It felt plenty quick, jumping away from stops with decent surge and revving through the gears all the way to 6,500 rpm.
Stay on it and the highly refined engine would push the big sedan to 60-mph in 5.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver – about the same as a Honda Accord sedan with the V-6 engine.
With help from the smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic, the engine also can return 20 miles per gallon in town and 29 on the highway.
Likewise, the TLX turned into corners pretty aggressively, staying flat and composed as a Wall Street derivatives trader under oath.
Grip also felt excellent thanks to the car’s all-wheel-drive system and the steering – while a bit heavy – was quick and conveyed pretty good road feel.
But the big sedan never seemed crisp or flingable — a product, I think, of its weight. With all-wheel-drive, the car is nearly 300 pounds heavier than a rear-wheel-drive 3-series BMW, and the weight was evident.
Even in “sport” mode, the TLX felt sluggish at slow speeds, requiring a sharp stab of the throttle to light its fire.
Maybe the up-side to that weight, though, was the ride. The car stepped firmly, but absorbed most bumps with quiet, fluid sophistication.
In addition, we can’t complain much about the TLX’s $46,000 window-sticker for a well-equipped A-Spec model.
That’s about $10,000 less than a loaded BMW 340 and $4,000 under a top-of-the-line Lexus IS 350.
Although the black interior in my TLX felt a bit exaggerated – I think it got some of the exterior’s former excesses – it still seemed sort of upscale.
The swoopy dashboard, for instance, featured a big hood over the instrument panel and a second one over the car’s upper display screen.
Below that screen was a large center stack with a second display screen flanked by big climate-control vents. (Just in case you get bored driving, Acura gives you two screens to look at.)
Drivers must still use a touchpad on the screen to change stations – one of Honda’s dumbest ideas ever.
While the over-sized stack provided buttons for the climate-control system and a volume knob for the stereo, drivers must still use a touchpad on the screen to change stations – one of Honda’s dumbest ideas ever.
Like many higher-end vehicles, though, the TLX offered blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning that practically shouted “Eeek! Stop!” if I was a millisecond slow getting on the brakes.
Meanwhile, a broad console trimmed in gray “wood” provided buttons for shifting the automatic transmission and the door panels featured suede centers.
Similarly, black-leather seats with good bolsters offered perforated suede centers, while the leg- and head-room in back was good.
In fact, “good” kept popping up throughout my notes on the TLX when Acura probably needs “excellent” to deal with the tsunami of crossover vehicles swamping the auto industry.
While I never got singed by leftover lightning from the NSX, at least Tlix is a step in the right direction.