Pros: Optional all-wheel drive; impressive acceleration and performance; proven reliability
Cons: Mediocre fuel economy from V6 only engine choices
What's New: Unchanged for 2013
In the middle of Acura's sedan lineup is the TL, a heavy-hitting competitor in the midsize luxury sedan segment. Built in Marysville, Ohio, the TL combines a blend of Japanese and American styling and power. The latest design dates to the 2009 model year, the first of the fourth-generation TL. Last year, Acura gave the TL a facelift and added new features. The 2013 Acura TL arrives unchanged.
Available in seven trim levels, the front-wheel drive TL starts at $35,905 and the SH-AWD all-wheel-drive TL starts at $39,455. Add Acura's Technology or Advanced packages and the sticker price will climb quickly.
Comfort & Utility
Determined to be a driver's car, the TL interior uses what Acura calls a dual personal design to give both the driver and front passenger the feeling of having his or her own personal space.
An available Advance Package incorporates ventilated front seats, larger wheels and a blind spot information (BSI) system that alerts the driver when another vehicle is detected behind the driver in the adjacent lane.
There's something about Acura interiors that is unlike any other interior in the automotive industry. Some might find the TL interior and its many dash-mounted buttons overwhelming. Customers not turned off by the clutter will find the technology-laden TL exemplary.
Both the TL and TL SH-AWD models can be fitted with an optional Technology Package, which includes navigation with voice recognition, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting, AcuraLink Real-Time Weather and a 440-watt Premium Audio System.
The storage capacity of the TL's navigation system is now 60 GB. Other improvements include expanded map coverage and a brighter screen. The revised system allows 15 GB to be used for music, which is enough for 3,500 songs. The Song By Voice system allows the driver to choose music by artist, album, song title, genre, play list and composer.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2013 TL is available in two variants. The first is a front-wheel drive, 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The second and more powerful setup includes Acura's SH-AWD (all-wheel drive) and a 305-hp 3.7-liter V6 paired with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the front-wheel drive 2013 TL at 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The SH-AWD model is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Both engine choices were enhanced for the 2012 model year, posting improved fuel economy ratings over previous models. The increases are thanks to friction-reducing technologies applied to the cylinders of the 3.5-liter and revised air intake manifolds on both the 3.5 and 3.7-liter V6s.
For 2013, the TL features six airbags and active head restraints for both the driver and front passenger. And like most of the Acura lineup, the TL is built with Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure technology.
ACE is an Acura-exclusive body design that enhances occupant protection, especially in frontal crashes. ACE uses a network of connected, high-strength structures to more evenly distribute crash energy throughout the front of the vehicle. This enhanced frontal crash energy management reduces the forces transferred to the passenger compartment and can help to more evenly disperse the forces transferred to other vehicles in a crash. This improves safety not only for TL passengers but also passengers in other vehicles as well.
The TL isn't quite as composed as the BMW 3 Series, but it's perhaps more exhilarating. The power output in the TL feels more raw and unrefined compared to its competitors. This is especially the case in the 305-hp 3.7-liter SH-AWD model with the 6-speed automatic transmission. The TL is just as at home cruising down the highway as it is roaring around a track, even if few owners will ever use it that way.
For customers who aren't performance obsessed, the TL is still sure to please. The automatic transmission is taut and forgiving, both V6 engines are smooth, the SH-AWD system rarely encounters a road surface it can't master and the cabin is quiet and comfortable.
Aside from its sporty and luxurious amenities, one of the 2013 Acura TL's best features is its heritage. Some sports sedans have racing pedigree or have long been the vehicle of choice for the world's elite drivers. The TL has something better and more tangible: reliability.
Underneath all the amenities, the TL is a Honda Accord. Hondas are world-renowned for reliability and longevity. The TL might have a hefty asking price, but unlike many of its competitors the TL is actually a car you could own and enjoy for ten years with little hassle. Acuras are firm and fun right out of the factory. And unlike some other cars, they tend to remain that way.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 3 Series: As the gold standard of the midsize luxury sports sedan, the 3 Series is a force to be reckoned with. Starting at $36,500 with a 240 hp 2-liter inline 4-cylinder, the basic 3 Series is easily overshadowed by the base-level TL.
Audi A4: Staring at $32,500, the base model A4 is a fun vehicle but in no way matches the TL's performance. Also, customers might be disappointed with the A4's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is less responsive under hard acceleration.
We're not convinced the standard 3.5-liter, front-wheel drive TL is worth the sticker price. Instead we recommend that shoppers interested in the TL go full-bore and buy the SH-AWD-equipped TL. It's an extra $4,000 but well worth the money considering its performance and handling advantages.