So in case you haven’t seen it, Jalopnik did a review of the TLX SH-AWD and the gist of it is that they found it didn’t deliver a sporty experience at all. They gave it a “D” grade in the enthusiast category. This conclusion, however, doesn’t seem to be based off any attempt to drive the car in a sporty manner but rather pure conjecture based on normal driving.

Though I do not own one, I’ve had the opportunity to both drive an ride in a TLX SH-AWD being driven very aggressively on excellent winding highways and I can tell you firsthand that Jalopnik’s assessment is so incredibly off that it’s shocking.

Sure, it’s not nearly as sharp or aggressive as something like an Audi S5 or BMW 340i M-Sport, but to say it’s a complete disappointment and isn’t fun at all couldn’t be more wrong.

Now since I don’t want to retype basically the same information, here is the comment I wrote under the article (in quotes) with some added notes:

“The thing about the TLX SH-AWD is that it can be super fun but you totally have to reprogram the way you drive. So in most cars, when you get understeer you get off the throttle and decrease steering input. In a TLX SH-AWD, however, when you start to get understeer you have to introduce throttle. The torque-vectoring then pushes you around the corner and the feeling is almost magical. If you really push the car by giving tons of throttle in corners it’s super fun, but it’s hard to know the car is even capable of such a feat without experience beforehand. When you really start getting into the limits of throttle and grip in corners the chassis really comes alive and you start to see the potential as a sport sedan. Takes a lot of speed though.”

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This is basically the same as how you drive some of the understeer-y Audis with the engine way out front. Use the AWD system to correct understeer and the chassis will allow the car to rotate. The playfulness of the SH-AWD system is hard to explain, it really needs to be experienced.

“With some proper tires on it, the TLX AWD can even out perform more powerful RWD sports cars on really twisty roads because you can get on the throttle so quickly, sometimes even before the apex of the corner, and let the system bring the car around. The car even transitions into oversteer in tighter corners. At very low speeds you can get some truly uncomfortable levels of G-forces.”

It’s really not that hard to make the SH-AWD oversteer, especially in the wet. The setup for the AWD system is way more aggressive than you would expect. It also has far, far less body roll than one would expect from the cushy ride at low speeds.

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“As for the engine and transmission, they really wake up in Sport+ mode versus the other modes. The Sport mode on the TLX is like the normal mode in a BMW or Audi while Sport+ in the Acura is the only true sport mode.”

While this could be a criticism of the TLX – that it has to be in the most aggressive driving mode for the engine and transmission to be responsive – it’s also not fair to keep the car out of it’s most aggressive mode before complaining about how the transmission and engine are boring and laggy.

“So basically what I’m saying is 1) combat understeer with throttle and 2) they didn’t drive it nearly hard enough.”

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Basically it’s clear that they made no effort to actually drive the TLX SH-AWD in a sporting manner before decrying it as lacking any sort of sporting pretense. Between the docile transversely mounted engine which introduces almost no vibrations into the cabin and the suspension which seems soft over bumps I can kind of understand why the layperson would come to the assumption they did, but not a professional car reviewer.

Here’s a passage from the review:

If you did get to drive the A-Spec aggressively and wanted to work the paddle shifters, though, the lag time seems like it wouldn’t be ideal or even safe on twisty roads. Given, I always quickly gave up on the paddle shifters and I had such little time with the car that I didn’t test if there was a large lag time in downshifts as well.

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I’ll totally agree that the paddles are laggy in normal driving, but putting the car in Sport+ totally fixes this. The transmission tuning and paddle response is so incredibly different in Sport+ versus the other modes that I’m actually suprised it wasn’t mentioned in the review. Almost makes me think they didn’t even try Sport+ mode.

Moreover, this is what Alanis says in the review:

Because I had this car around the time Hurricane Harvey hit and I live in central Texas, things were flooded here for days. There was no time, nor was it safe or practical, to take the A-Spec out on one of the two good roads we have down here in cow town for our aggressive-driving test.

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The TLX AWD can be thrown surprising quickly into corners and can accelerate very hard out of them. The acceleration through and out of corners is something that cannot be delivered by any RWD sports sedan. Sure, all of the magic and driving experience comes from the AWD system, but that doesn’t make it a bad car. The docile nature in normal driving doesn’t mean it then lacks enthusiast or performance qualities.

The first time I drove a new WRX in was in traffic it seemed like a awful car. The interior was crap, the steering seemed numb, the engine was laggy and unrefined, and the suspension bounced around. I didn’t take that impression and immediately start telling everyone that the WRX is just a terrible poser economy car. No, I made sure I had a chance to drive the crap out of one and see how amazing it is.

I’m not saying the TLX should get a “A” in the enthiast category or that I wouldn’t rather be in other sport sedans, but giving it a “D” and making the headline that it doesn’t deliver really just are simply incorrect assessments based on flawed methodology.

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I just don’t understand why someone who didn’t even have the chance to drive the car aggressively would automatically then claim its a bad sports sedan.