In the middle of Acura's sedan lineup is the 2014 Acura TL, a heavy-hitting competitor in the midsize luxury sedan segment. Built in Marysville, Ohio, the TL combines Japanese and American styling and power. The latest design dates to the 2009 model year, the first of the fourth-generation TL. Although the TL did receive a slight freshening two years ago, it's starting to feel rather stale. In its defense, the TL is a remarkably well-equipped car, with only a few options to move its reasonable $37,000 sticker price upward. The TL also has an impeccable resale and reliability record, something that still eludes some other luxury brands. Moreover, the TL offers a sporty ride without being harsh -- an attribute that is harder to find as manufacturers push performance over comfort.
What's New for 2014?
The 2014 Acura TL carries over unchanged.
What We Like
Optional all-wheel drive; impressive acceleration and performance; proven reliability
What We Don't
Mediocre fuel economy from both V6 engine choices; front-wheel-drive models suffer from understeer when pushed too hard in the curves; snug rear seating
The 2014 Acura 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 (Super Handling 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 rates the front-wheel-drive TL at 20 miles per gallon city/29 mpg hwy. The SH-AWD model is rated at 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Acura TL comes in three trims: TL, TL Special Edition and TL SH-AWD. The TL and TL SH-AWD can be equipped with two packages, the Technology and Advanced Package, while the AWD models can also be ordered with a manual transmission.
The TL ($36,925) comes well-equipped and includes a power moonroof, HID headlights, 8-way power driver's seat with 2-way power lumbar support, 8-way power passenger seats, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt down feature, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather trimmed seating, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate controls, manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an 8-speaker 276-watt audio system with 6-disc CD changer and Bluetooth audio, USB port connectivity and Bluetooth cellphone connectivity.
The TL Special Edition ($38,425) adds distinctive 18-in alloy wheels, color-keyed rear spoiler and Special Edition badging.
The Technology Package ($40,655) adds Acura ELS 440-watt audio upgrade, AcuraLink telematics, voice-activated navigation with 8-in LCD view screen, GPS-linked solar-sensing climate control, keyless access with push-button start and premium perforated Milano leather seating. Adding the Advanced Package ($42,855) brings heated and ventilated front seats, a blind spot monitoring system and 18-in alloy wheels.
The TL SH-AWD ($40,475) gets a larger 3.7-liter engine, sport seats and 18-in wheels, while the TL SH-AWD with 6-speed manual ($44,205) adds a manual transmission and the Technology Package.
The TL SH-AWD with Technology Package ($44,205) adds an automatic transmission and the Technology Package, while the TL SH-AWD w/ Advanced Package ($46,405) adds all the SH-AWD features plus the Technology and Advanced Packages.
For 2014, 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.
In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the TL scored four out of five stars if the frontal and side-impact crash tests, and five stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the 2014 Acura TL its highest rating of Good in all its tests, and ranks the TL a Top Safety Pick.
Behind the Wheel
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 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 good 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 2014 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 may have a hefty asking price, but unlike many competitors, the TL is actually a car you could own and enjoy for 10 years with little hassle. Acuras are firm and fun right out of the factory. And 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. With a 240 hp 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder, the basic 3 Series is easily overshadowed by the base-level TL.
Audi A4 -- The base model A4 is a fun vehicle but in no way matches the TL's performance. Also, customers may be disappointed with the A4's continuously variable transmission, 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.