Obscured in the shadows cast by showier models, Acura’s midsize TL doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Call it a very good outlier in the near-luxury sport-sedan segment, where BMW’s 3 Series rules.
Two things set the TL apart from its rivals — its front-wheel-drive architecture (AWD is available, and more about that in a moment) and Acura’s commitment to six-cylinder engines.
Enthusiasts prefer the rear-drive for its superior driving dynamics. Here in the North, though, front-wheel-drive have obvious advantages. Regarding the cylinder count, Acura’s been right all along; the V-8 is disappearing before our eyes.
As it happens, the TL is in the final year of its current life span. You can tell because there’s a new, 2013 Special Edition (SE) trim.
Automakers often use special editions to shine one last light on a car before moving on to next year’s model. Special editions juice last-year sales by bundling desirable options into value-priced packages.
The TL’s SE package comprises a modest collection of convenience and cosmetic add-ons — keyless access and pushbutton start; a color-matched deck lid spoiler; 10-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels; the requisite trunk-mounted badging.
It amounts to $3,000 worth of premiums for a $1,500 bump, says Acura.
It’s worth noting that the base TL ($36,030, including destination) comes standard with power everything, a brilliant audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and — perhaps my favorite feature — world-class xenon high-intensity discharge headlights.
They light up my driveway like the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Also standard in the TL quiver is a handsome, well-appointed cabin suitable for four full-size adults, a sport-tuned suspension and one of the most accurate and communicative electrically assisted steering systems in the business.
The TL is, as they say, a “driver’s car.” The suspension is tuned to reduce body roll in the corners, but is compliant enough to smooth out potholes. Sport seats cradle passengers’ backsides, holding them tight when the going gets rambunctious.
The SE package is only available on FWD TLs. If you want AWD, you’ll need to fork over another $3,550 for the TL SH/AWD.
Acura’s Super-handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH/AWD) system popularized torque vectoring in the States. Without getting into the weeds, I’ll just say it’s the most surefooted system I’ve driven this side of a Porsche Carrera 4.
A 280-horsepower V-6 powers FWD TLs. It’s mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which can be optioned with steering-wheel paddle shifters. AWD trims get a 305-hp 3.7-liter V-6 that can be had with the automatic or a no-cost optional 6-speed manual.
Eight cylinders be damned. The engines are quiet, smooth and strong enough to satisfy any sensible person. The transmissions work with the usual Acura efficiency.
All TLs are eligible for two options packages. TheTechnology package adds handsfree keyless entry, perforated leather, navigation with real-time traffic and weather, rearview camera and 10-speaker surround sound audio. The Advance package adds heated and ventilated front seats and a blind spot monitoring system.
With or without AWD, Acura’s TL is a legitimate near-luxury, sport-sedan contender. It deserves all the attention it gets.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 Acura TL SE
Vehicle base price: $35,905
Trim level base price: $37,405
As tested: $38,300
Optional equipment: The TL SE is a self-contained package; the test vehicle included no optional equipment.
EPA ratings: 20 city/29 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified