Review: The 2020 Acura TLX PMC Edition Is the Best TLX Yet

That said, it still has a little ways to go.

I had just hopped out of this 2020 Acura TLX when a gentlemen having a smoke nearby decided to offer up his opinion to me about the TLX's shiny red coat.

"Man, that's one hell of a paint job! Candy apple red!" he said, with genuine enthusiasm. Actually, it's Valencia Red Pearl, which also happens to be a color available for the Acura NSX. That's not by coincidence. This TLX has some NSX love baked into it, and as my man said, it looks damn good.

At its core, the 2020 Acura TLX PMC edition is one of those end-of-lifecycle specials automakers like to roll out just before a new generation model of the car debuts. The formula is simple: add a special paint scheme, some trim bits and other minor touches, and load it up with every available option. Voilà, special edition!

But this particular TLX is different in that it's built on the same line as the NSX at Honda's Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio. That matters. This isn't just some half-baked sticker package, as the car gets a full-on build from PMC, which takes body-in-white TLXs and installs the powertrain, chassis, and other key components, sprays the car in Valencia Red, and fits all the exterior and interior trim bits, including a sweet set of 19-inch gloss black wheels. The PMC team then puts the car through the same rigorous quality-control process as the NSX before it's sent off to the dealer swathed in a fancy car cover. Only 360 will be available in all.

Walk around the 2020 Acura TLX PMC and the only chrome-look piece you'll see is the Acura badge; virtually everything else is finished in gloss black or Valencia. In addition to the wheels, the black door handles are an especially cool touch, as are its lip spoiler, rear diffuser, and dark chrome exhaust tips, which are part of the A-Spec package for the TLX.

This being the highest-trim-level TLX, it's propelled by a version of Honda's well-worn, naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower. The six is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, with its power routed through Acura's SH-AWD system. Sadly, PMC couldn't fit the NSX's twin-turbo six under the TLX's hood, and in fact, nothing was changed in that department. Not that the TLX is a dog, mind you, but you're not going to mistake it for anything more than a sporty sedan. Cars like our Four-Seasons Kia Stinger, with its own twin-turbo six, can handily outduel the TLX in most performance metrics. But if you're going on exterior style points alone, then the TLX PMC can easily hang with any sedan in its segment.

When you do want to get after it a bit in the 2020 TLX PMC, you can toggle it to Sport Plus mode and have a decent time out on the open road. No changes were made to the suspension, either, so it doesn't have a lashed down feel, though its all-wheel-drive system helps the car stay on line and track true under harder acceleration or cornering. It sounds good when you're getting into it, the nine-speed shifts well enough, and it brakes more than acceptably in most situations, as long as repeated hard stopping isn't part of the program. But in around town, in stoplight to stoplight driving, this TLX at least exhibited some odd behavior when the car slowed. It's didn't feel linear whether you were on the brakes or not, though we found it more of a mild annoyance than anything else.

As you'd expect, there are more unique touches in the cabin, including special sport seats, A-Spec trim, and—of course—a badge to let you know that this bad boy came straight from the floor of the PMC. The car also comes with Acura's Advance and Tech packages, which means basically every available option for the TLX is loaded onto the PMC version, as is the AcuraWatch suite of safety and collision-mitigation systems.

Despite all that, it's hard not to notice the TLX's dated interior. Though well-constructed, the 2020 TLX doesn't have Acura's new infotainment system, instead it makes do with the ol- looking, two-tier screen setup (it does come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The instrument panel could use a sprucing up as well. The seats get a thumbs up for comfort, but you're not going to mistake them for truly special, sport-inspired thrones. It's a fine cabin, but one that's outshined by those in newer Acura offerings like the RDX crossover.

So will Acura make a commitment to a completely revamped TLX sedan? If the four door Type S concept it recently revealed at Monterey Car Week is any indication, signs point to yes. Though sedans in general have been getting a cold shoulder in the market, a marque like Acura needs to keep a car or cars in its portfolio not named NSX in order to fully support its Precision Crafted Performance moniker. Because while only a handful of people can afford Acura's supercar, a lot more can drop 50 grand on a car like the TLX. With the PMC edition, Acura has shown a commitment to showcasing its precision and craftsmanship. Now the next TLX just needs some more performance to go with it.

2020 Acura TLX SH-AWD PMC Edition Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $49,945 (as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L SOHC 24-valve V-6; 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 20/29 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 191.0 x 73.0 x 57.0 in
WHEELBASE 109.3 in
WEIGHT 3,838 lb
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 134 mph (est)
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