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

Oh, and these things are pretty fast, too.

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Chris Velazco/Engadget
Chris Velazco/Engadget

Acura just pulled back the curtains on a pair of premium sedans -- the 2018 TLX and its sportier A-Spec cousin -- and they feature a more sporty, aggressive look than the -models they replace. Fortunately for you road warriors, Acura did more than just give those bodies a makeover: The company redesigned its in-car interface in response to complaints about its complexity. If that seems like a silly thing to get worked up over, just remember that you're probably going to get stuck with your car's software and interface for at least a few years. It's about time car company's started making these infotainment systems less terrible.

In fairness, Acura had a fair bit of work to do. In addition to the usual instrument cluster, the TLX has two other displays: a big, bright screen for glancing at information and a touch panel below that. The problem is, Acura has had trouble figuring out what kind of information should go on each screen, and people didn't really know where to look either. "It was kind of hard 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 lots of focus testing, Acura mixed things up. Audio controls and related info are now solely located on the touchscreen for easier access, freeing up the bigger screen for navigation (another important feature that was confusing to get to) and data provided by Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay. The company also redesigned the menu invoked by the car's jog dial: It's now an easy-to-parse list, which should hopefully make for fewer mistakes and even fewer accidents. All told, Acura claims this revamped interface is 30 percent "faster" than the older iteration, but we (or our sister site Autoblog) will be the judges of that.

Beyond a software redesign, both the TLX and its A-Spec variant pack active road safety bits (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, along with adaptive cruise control that works even at low speeds (appropriate for the sort of traffic that's sure to happen here in New York). Getting all these features as standard sounds like a pretty good deal, but we'll have to wait to be sure: The 2018 models won't hit lots for a while yet.

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