2023 Acura TLX Review and Test Drive

User-experience shortcomings flaw an otherwise fun luxury sport sedan.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

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You may have noticed that sedans are not as popular as they used to be. As a result, some automakers are dropping them from their model lineups instead of redesigning them for a shrinking pool of customers; Acura is not immune to the trend. A decade ago, Honda's luxury brand offered multiple sedans. Today, only the 2023 Acura TLX remains.

A midsize luxury sport sedan, the Acura TLX last received a complete redesign for the 2021 model year.

Since my first drive in the 2021 TLX equipped with the standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine, Acura has unleashed a performance-tuned version of the car called the Type S. It has more power, more attitude, and more of just about everything that you'll find in other TLX models.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

The Type S tops the 2023 TLX lineup. Acura also offers a standard TLX with your choice of Technology, A-Spec, and Advance packages. The base TLX, TLX Technology, and TLX A-Spec have standard front-wheel drive. Acura's torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is an option on the A-Spec and standard on the TLX Advance and Type S. Across the 2023 TLX lineup, base prices range from the low $40,000s to the high $50,000s, including the destination charge.

For this 2023 TLX review, I test-drove the Type S in Southern California. It came with extra-cost paint, a Performance Wheel & Tire package, premium floor mats, and carbon-fiber dashboard trim, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $59,100, including the $1,195 destination charge. Acura provided the vehicle for this review.

The Design

The TLX, with its dramatic rear fender flares and long hood, is a visually appealing automobile; I believe it's easily one of the best-looking cars in its segment. However, a cramped back seat and reduced trunk space are the trade-offs you'll make for that sense of style.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

Inside, the TLX feels roomy and wide from the driver's seat, like a midsize car. The interior exudes quality, too, though the plastic on the lower door panels is obviously that material. However, I found the controls an ergonomic challenge.

For example, the Integrated Dynamics Selector driving-mode control knob lives in the dashboard's center as a focal point of the interior design. Unfortunately, this approach makes it too easy to mistake the IDS knob for a stereo-volume control knob, meaning I occasionally put the car into the wrong driving mode at the wrong time.

Below the IDS knob is a collection of buttons and switches to operate the transmission. There's also the True Touchpad Interface infotainment system controls; using them is mandatory, since the 10.2-inch display isn't touch-sensitive and the voice-recognition system isn't conversational.

Acura's approach with the switchgear results in a cascade of clutter beneath the climate controls and doesn't leverage expected benefits. For example, the TTI setup proves just as distracting as a touchscreen, and its touchpad and wrist rest take up just as much room on the center console as a conventional shifter would. Also, while Acura does provide a stereo-volume knob and a button for tuning the radio right next to the TTI touchpad, it is natural to reach for and twist the IDS knob instead.

In summary, it could take some time to acclimate to how this car works.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

The TLX Type S has 16-way power-adjustable, heated, and ventilated front seats, plus a heated steering wheel. Comfort is easy to come by, and the adjustable bottom-cushion thigh bolsters and seatback side bolsters help ensure a proper fit for enthusiastic driving. Acura wraps them in premium leather and decorates them with artificial suede, exposed stitching, and contrast piping. The test car also had genuine carbon-fiber trim and metallic-faced analog gauges. That said, the red needles and gauge markings made them challenging to read, especially in low-light driving conditions such as dawn or dusk.

The rear seat itself is comfortable, but the car's door openings are narrow, so there's not much legroom. Open the car's trunk, and you'll find 13.5 cubic feet of space, enclosed trunk-lid hinges, and a flat load floor.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

The Technology

Every 2023 Acura TLX has an infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlayAndroid Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and AcuraLink-connected services with a complimentary three-year subscription. However, if you want access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, that costs extra.

Additional upgrades include wireless smartphone charging, a navigation system, and one of two premium audio systems. The test car had the 17-speaker Acura/ELS Studio 3D audio system, which sounded great.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

Here's what the 2023 TLX doesn't have: a touchscreen display. Instead, you get something called a True Touchpad Interface, which pairs a 10.2-inch static dashboard display with a curved, touch-sensing pad on the center console. A smattering of main function buttons, a stereo-volume knob, and a radio-tuning button surround the touchpad. The location where you touch the pad corresponds to the exact location on the screen, a feature Acura calls "absolute positioning."

Acura claims the TTI is "more intuitive" and "driver-friendly," but I disagree. First, people know how to use touchscreens, but they're less likely to be familiar with a TTI.

Second, the TTI solution still requires hand-eye coordination and cognitive attention to use, so it's probably no less distracting than a touchscreen.

Third, since you're using a potentially unfamiliar system, you may need to think more about the means necessary to achieve the end.

Fourth, just as with a touchscreen, it's easy to select the wrong on-screen function accidentally.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

As you might expect, it took me some time to learn how to use the TTI and even longer for it to become second nature. Additionally, I found that I had to reference on-screen suggestions and prompts to effectively use the voice-recognition system, which drew my eyes away from the road.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

Overall, the TTI approach is unnecessarily aggravating. Fortunately, the AcuraWatch collection of driving-assistance and collision-avoidance systems is not.

AcuraWatch equips the TLX with forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, adaptive cruise control, and Traffic Jam Assist. At lower speeds, Traffic Jam Assist provides semi-autonomous driving assistance, but you need to keep your hands on the steering wheel for it to work. Automatic high-beam headlights and a traffic-sign recognition system are also part of AcuraWatch.

If you choose any TLX aside from the base model, you'll get a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors. In addition, the Advance package adds a head-up display and a surround-view camera system. Unfortunately, neither of these Advance-package upgrades makes their way into the TLX Type S. During a week of driving, I wished for a surround-view camera on multiple occasions.

I used the AcuraWatch systems extensively and experienced a few faults. Low winter light ahead of the TLX and pavement scars from old construction zones caused the lane-keeping tech to struggle occasionally. The adaptive cruise control resumed speed slowly after changing lanes to pass slower vehicles or when cars in front headed for the exit. Amusingly, the traffic-sign recognition system misread a speed-limit sign, telling me I could go 85 mph in a 65 mph zone.

Beyond AcuraWatch, the 2023 TLX has high safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it a five-star score in every evaluation except for a four-star rating for front-passenger protection in a frontal-impact collision.

Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the TLX highly: It was a Top Safety Pick+ for the 2022 calendar year. However, the IIHS has not assessed the TLX for safety in the new testing required to earn that designation, so check the organization's website for updates.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

The Drive

To understand what the 2023 TLX Type S brings to the party, you must know what other TLX models have under their hoods. The standard engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the front or all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The EPA rates this version of the car to return between 24 mpg and 25 mpg.

The TLX Type S employs a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 355 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, uses a performance-tuned version of the 10-speed automatic with rev-matched downshifting capability, and has standard SH-AWD. Plus, it expands on the standard TLX's Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Individual driving modes with a Sport+ setting. The official EPA fuel economy rating is 21 mpg, and my test car returned 20 mpg on the evaluation route.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

Dynamically, the Acura TLX Type S is a treat. This car is quick, accelerating to 60 mph in just over five seconds. It sounds excellent when revved, the torque-vectoring SH-AWD squirts the Type S out of corners with gusto, and the brake-induced Agile Handling Assist system helps to mask the uneven front-to-rear weight distribution. Plus, the Performance Wheel & Tire package provides significantly improved grip, and the rubber remains quiet near the limit of adhesion.

Unfortunately, a couple of quirks draw too much negative attention to themselves, preventing the Acura TLX Type S from joining the pantheon of great driver's cars.

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

First, when taking advantage of the TLX Type S's sporty nature, I found the Electro Servo brake-by-wire system introduced inconsistent braking pressure. For example, if you choose one of the Sport modes or shift manually, the TLX will downshift while you brake before and into a corner. When the downshift occurs, it slightly increases engine braking, which alters the necessary pedal braking. Naturally, you adjust by letting off the brake pedal just the tiniest bit. The brake-by-wire system often misinterpreted my intent, however, causing the brakes to relax more than I preferred just as I was turning into or rounding a curve, which meant I sometimes carried more speed than was desirable.

Second, the adaptive damping suspension sometimes felt unnatural to me when it responded to the road surface, as if it was struggling to determine how to handle a situation. As a result, the car's ride motions may not adequately communicate what's under the tire contact patches. In addition, it's worth noting that when the suspension was in Comfort mode, the car's nose was soft enough to scrape on speed humps, drainage dips, and driveway aprons.

Otherwise, my only complaint about the TLX Type S is that it allows more road noise to filter into the cabin on the highway than one might expect from a midsize luxury car. But if that's due to the optional performance tires, I could easily live with the added racket.

Is the 2023 Acura TLX a Good Car?

2023 Acura TLXChristian Wardlaw

The TLX offers good value: For example, starting this year, every 2023 Acura includes complimentary maintenance for two years or 24,000 miles.

However, the real value is in the TLX's price. My loaded test vehicle was slightly more expensive than an Audi S4 with Premium Plus trim but was less expensive than a base BMW M340i xDrive with no options added

In my opinion, the 2023 TLX is a good car. But it's best for solo drivers or front-seat occupants only, due to its small back seat and trunk. Think of it as a four-door coupe instead of a practical sedan and you'll find plenty of things to like about this car. But the True Touchpad Interface is unlikely to be one of them.

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.