By Barbara & Bill Schaffer? ? ? The Acura brand never seemed to be a performance brand in our minds. Instead, we?ve always thought of Acura as semi-luxurious, dependable and enjoyable to drive. There is certainly nothing wrong with those traits, in fact, the Acura brand cars have always been vehicles we have recommended as a good solid choice ? safe, reliable, comfortable and a good value. Recently we?ve noticed Acura advertising has concentrated on performance.? On closer inspection of the technical improvements, we didn?t see any big equipment changes, like turbo chargers, Brembo brakes and exotic suspensions and there were certainly no 400 horsepower engines wedged under the hood. Still curious, this called for us to spend some quality time behind the wheel in the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX AWD A-Spec. Much of the performance impetus comes from the company?s new NSX supercar. It seemed to take forever for Acura to bring this second-generation two-seater to market, but the result is phenomenal and worth the wait. The new NSX is a technological marvel with its weight-saving construction, all-wheel drive, nine-speed transmission and hybrid drivetrain which boasts three electric motors, a mid-mounted twin-turbo V-6 engine producing a total 573 horsepower. This is a car that accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and stops from that speed in 107 feet. The refreshed 2018 TLX sedan takes inspiration from that amazing two-seater NSX, but with a much subtler interpretation. In today?s market, a bit part of the performance equation seems to be the image.? The evolutionary design changes to the 2018 TLX boost the performance image with a new sportier look, which is said to represent the new face of Acura. All-new from the A-pillar forward the most eye-catching change of the TLX design is the A-Spec package diamond pentagon grill in a pattern that adds an interesting concave three-dimensional illusion that looks like the Acura emblem is sunk farther into the grille. We?ve never been big fans of the chrome bar across the top of the grill, and were glad to see it disappear on the updated TLX. Overall the new look is much cleaner and modern looking. Similar changes are made to add more of a performance look to the rear fascia. We give the new look two thumbs up. Lighting gets a major upgrade throughout the TLX with more powerful new 5-lamp LED Jewel Eye? headlights, new LED daytime running lights, auto high beams, and LED turn signals. New to the TLX trim for 2018, the A-Spec Package ($2,900) enhances the styling inside and out adding sporty bling. The package adds a retuned quicker and quicker responding electric power steering system and damper settings along with 19-inch wheels and tires plus other some driver aids. The rear end has a glossy black spoiler, smoked-color LED taillight and unique fascia with a lower diffuser and four-inch round dual exhaust finishers. The standard power is a 206-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine with an eight-speed Dual Clutch Transmission with a torque converter. However, we don?t think that qualifies as a performance version. Our test car was equipped with Acura?s super smooth 290-hp, 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine paired with nine-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters ? it fit the performance image much better. Buff testing lists the V-6 engine producing a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. While that?s a bit slower than most of the performance model competitors, it?s still feels quick and for most drivers it has plenty of power. Fuel economy performance is good, too, with an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. We averaged 25.7 mpg during our test period. Two-wheel drive variations have Acura Precision All-Wheel Steer?, with independent left and right rear-wheel toe angle control to enhance overall handling precision, low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. We prefer the Acura Super-Handling All Wheel Drive? ($2,000) which Acura claims is the most sophisticated torque-vectoring AWD system in the industry. It certainly worked for us on dry roads, providing excellent traction and precise cornering. We expect it would be great under slippery conditions, too, but we didn?t get any rain or snow that week. We like that Acura keeps its model choices simple. Only one model TLX is offered, but there is a choice of two engines, front- or all-wheel drive and three option packages. The $3,700 Technology Package is a ?must have? option package because it adds rain-sensing wipers, Acura navigation, Real-Time Traffic, Acura Link communications, blind spot monitoring, and cross traffic alert. Plus, it throws in the perforated Milano leather seating, ELS audio with features like HD and Song by Voice?. If you add the $3,850 Advance Package and the A-Spec package you get a boat load of technology and comfort that boost the car high in the Luxury column. The TLX is priced as low as $33,950, including the destination charge, for the four-cylinder version, with front-wheel drive. Load it up with the V-6, the AWD and the available option packages and price tops out at $46,700. This seems like a good value for a car so well equipped. We think performance is a relative term. The TLX is quick, looks good and is entertaining to drive through the winding mountain roads. It not going to win many stoplight acceleration tests or weekend track day races. Nevertheless, the TLX performs well and should keep the average driver more than happy with the results when some enthusiastic driving is called for. Yes, we think it?s a good performance car. And maybe as the Acura enhances performance, we might see a couple of turbochargers attached to the V-6 engine? Who knows?