It's a little strange to think that this otherwise ordinary Acura TLX will actually be one of the rarest cars I'll drive this year. Just 360 examples of this hand-built will be sold, making it one of Acura's (and Honda's) smallest-volume cars yet. But beyond the inherent cool factor of driving something so exclusive, a few days behind the wheel of this small-batch sedan reminds me that Acura's aging TLX still has a lot to offer, with or without that fancy red paint.
- Smooth V6 performance
- Solid roster of convenience and tech features
- One of the prettiest paint jobs available anywhere
- Navigation system is showing its age
- Sluggish transmission
- Relatively poor fuel economy
If you paused at the phrase "hand-built," I promise, you read that correctly. While normal TLX models roll off the line at Honda's Marysville Auto Plant, this one heads to finishing school at the nearby Performance Manufacturing Center -- that's the PMC in PMC Edition. There, these special TLX sedans are hand-assembled on the same lines where skilled women and men bolt together the Acura NSX, and every one of the PMC Edition cars is painted in the supercar's formerly exclusive shade of Valencia red -- a complex finish that takes five days to fully apply.
My lousy photos do not do Valencia red justice; this is one of the richest, most beautiful reds you'll ever see on any car at any price. No matter if it's sunny, cloudy or rainy, this deep red hue is really striking. I've never seen so many people doing double takes as a TLX drives by.
In addition to that paint, the PMC Edition is set off by its gloss-black roof, door handles and 19-inch wheels. A body-colored grille surround and larger exhaust tips round out the exterior changes, and inside, the PMC comes with black leather seats with Alcantara suede inserts, red stitching and a numbered plaque on the center console.
Sedan body style not your thing? Acura also, and plans to expand this sort of package to other cars in its lineup, too.
I suppose if there's one area where the TLX is showing its age, it's inside. That isn't to say the cabin is a bad place to be -- quite the opposite, in fact. It's just that some parts of the interior -- especially the multimedia tech -- remind you that this sedan isn't the new kid on the block anymore.
The upper display is set deep in the dash and houses the navigation system, with maps I remember seeing in Honda and Acura products from more than a decade ago. You control this screen through the large knob on the center console, while the secondary display above that dial is operated by touch and uses a much cleaner, better-looking interface. At least the PMC Edition comes with the full kit and caboodle of available tech niceties, including, , an upgraded ELS Studio audio system, real-time traffic information and the company's AcuraLink connected-car services.
The PMC Edition is basically a fully loaded TLX -- it combines the A-Spec, Advance and Technology packages offered on lesser models. You'll find heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic climate control, ambient lighting, a sunroof, memory seats and other features. This might not be a brand-new sedan, but it certainly does not want for features.
Overall, despite its tech shortcomings, I like the TLX's interior. It's quiet, the seats are really comfy, all of the controls are easy to find and the sound system is great. Plus, it's got the high level of quality and top-notch fit and finish I've come to expect from Honda and Acura products.
The PMC Edition is plenty nice to drive, too, though oddly, it seems to have forgotten about the "performance" part of its name -- mechanically, it's identical to other V6-powered TLX models. The naturally aspirated, 3.5-liter V6 produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain isn't exactly built for excitement, but it's linear and powerful, and well-matched to the TLX's driving style. The transmission is often slow to upshift and downshift, but pop the TLX into its Sport setting and things get a bit snappier without upsetting that smooth demeanor.
The TLX is a great companion for running errands in the city and cruising long distances on the highway -- the chassis is nicely tuned for all of these daily-driving duties. Get it out on a winding road and the TLX is more than able to hold its own, too. The steering is relatively quick and responsive, and the body motions are nicely controlled while cornering. Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive is standard on the PMC Edition, and it plays a big part in this car's engagement. Thanks to its variable torque distribution, power is always sent where it's needed most, allowing me to carry more and more speed through each passing corner.
Will the TLX win any performance comparisons against cars like the BMW 3 Series or Genesis G70? No. But I also think a lot of folks will initially write the Acura off before giving it a fair shake. After a week of driving around the greater Los Angeles area -- including some lovely canyon roads -- I can't find much fault with the TLX. It's not a thrilling car, but it doesn't need to be. It's every bit as competent on-road as a Volvo S60, and I'd much rather drive the TLX than anything from Cadillac, Infiniti or Lexus.
If there's one drawback to the V6 engine, it's that it isn't as efficient as turbocharged, four-cylinder options found in the TLX's competitors. The EPA rates the 2020 TLX PMC Edition at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. Now compare that with a 2020 BMW 330i xDrive, which earns 25/34/28 mpg city/highway/combined ratings, and offers 255 hp and 295 lb-ft from its 2.0-liter turbo-four.
Some folks have balked at the TLX PMC Edition's nearly $50,000 price tag, but I don't think it's quite so blasphemous. Yes, $50,945 (including $1,995 for destination) sounds like a lot when you consider the TLX starts at $34,025. Look at it this way, though: You can't get both the A-Spec and Advance packages on any other TLX, and if you did, it'd be pushing $49,000. Then, remember that the standard Valencia red paint is normally a $6,000 option on the NSX. Finally, compare all of this with a, which optioned up with the same level of equipment will cost you almost $60,000. Suddenly $50,000 for this special-edition TLX doesn't seem so egregious, does it?
Besides, it's not like Acura is betting the farm on this one special edition. Only 360 are being built, and I have no doubt they'll be scooped up by (1) folks who are interested in some other top-dollar TLX spec or (2) people who plan to hold onto the car for a while. After all, 20 years from now, when one of these shows up on Bring a Trailer or at whatever the 2020s equivalent of Radwood will be called, you won't remember it as just some ordinary TLX. The current , but this car's most valuable days are yet to come.