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Acura adds A Spec trim to freshened TLX

Ikeda: “It's a challenging market but sedans remain a critical pillar of our brand, and the refreshed 2018 TLX you're about to see substantially elevates its emotion and character." Photo credit: ACURA

UPDATED: 4/13/17 11:05 am ET - adds details

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the type of automatic transmission in the 2018 Acura TLX equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. It is a nine-speed, not an eight-speed, automatic gearbox.

Acura is doubling down on its sedan-based reinvention with the release of the 2018 TLX.

The freshening of Acura’s volume-selling midsize sedan is aimed at juicing consumer interest in the car and the brand as a whole amid declining sales for both. A new A Spec trim package has also been added in the hopes that it will lure more performance-oriented buyers that once flocked to Honda’s premium brand.

The TLX debuted on Tuesday ahead of press previews for the New York auto show.

“It's a challenging market but sedans remain a critical pillar of our brand, and the refreshed 2018 TLX you're about to see substantially elevates its emotion and character,” Jon Ikeda, Acura’s general manager, said at the TLX launch. “It's the next step in our transformation as we sharpen our focus on Precision Crafted Performance, in everything that we do and everything that we make.”

Since Ikeda took over as Acura’s general manager in the summer of 2015, he’s tied the brand’s reinvention not to its popular crossover models but to its trio of sedans: the compact ILX, TLX and the larger RLX.

The 2018 TLX is the first production sedan Acura has released since then, and features the new face of the brand.

The brand could use the help. U.S. sales of the TLX fell 22 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Overall, Acura deliveries are down 16 percent so far this year.

While the 2018 TLX isn’t a wholesale reboot of the car, the updates do show hints of what Ikeda has been promising: a nod to the brand’s performance cars of yore with a new A Spec appearance package, a sleeker exterior design and a more exciting marketing campaign.

The A Spec kit will be available on front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive V-6 models. It comes with more aggressive front and rear bumpers, a retuned suspension and steering system, dual exhaust, 19-inch wheels wrapped in wider tires and other interior and exterior trim upgrades.

Regular TLX models will get slight exterior changes aimed at setting the base four-cylinder models apart from the V6 iterations. Inside, the dual-screen infotainment system gets an upgrade.

Mechanically, the two powertrain options remain the same; a 206-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder is matched with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission while the 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Pricing info hasn’t been released yet but the 2018 TLX isn’t expected to cost much more than the 2017 version. That means the four-cylinder’s base price will likely start around $33,000; budget just under $37,000 for the V-6 engine and another $2,200 on either car for all-wheel-drive.

The 2018 Acura TLX goes on sale in June.

You can reach David Undercoffler at undercoffler@crain.com -- Follow David on Twitter: @autonews_west

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