With its 2018 TLX, Acura learns the value of good software design


Acura just pulled back the curtains on a pair of premium sedans – the 2018 TLX and its sportier cousin A-Spec – and they feature a more sporty and aggressive look than the models they replace. Lucky for you road warriors, Acura has done more than just give these bodies a makeover: the company has redesigned its on-board interface in response to complaints about its complexity. If that sounds like a silly thing to get upset about, remember that you’re probably going to get stuck with your car’s software and interface for at least a few years. It’s time for automakers to start making these infotainment systems less terrible.

In fairness, Acura had quite a bit of work to do. In addition to the usual instrument cluster, the TLX has two other screens: a large, bright display for viewing information and a touchscreen below. The problem is, Acura struggled with figuring out what kind of information should appear on each screen, and people weren’t sure where to look, either. “It was a bit difficult for them to tell what information was where,” an Acura spokesperson told me. “So it was really hard for them to use it.”

So, after many tuning tests, Acura mixed things up. Audio controls and associated information are now only located on the touchscreen for easier access, freeing up the larger screen for navigation (another important feature that was difficult to access) and data provided by Android Apple Auto and CarPlay. The company also redesigned the menu invoked by the car’s jog dial: it’s now an easy-to-analyze list that should hopefully make fewer mistakes and even fewer accidents. All in all, Acura claims this revamped interface is 30 percent “faster” than the old iteration, but we (or our sister site Autoblog) will be the judges.

Beyond a software redesign, the TLX and its A-Spec variant incorporate active road safety elements (collectively known as AcuraWatch) as standard equipment to keep drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe. We’re talking about a collision detection system with automatic braking here, as well as an adaptive cruise control that works even at low speeds (suitable for the type of traffic that will certainly happen here in New York). Getting all of these features as standard seems like a pretty good deal, but we’ll have to wait to be sure – 2018 models won’t be out in abundance for some time.

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