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2013 Acura TL

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Acura has revamped the TL just in time for the summer sales rush with a Special Edition, which packs more tech for less money. The most noticeable exterior changes to the Special Edition are the handsome 18-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels and a subtle boot-lid spoiler.

The Special Edition dresses up the mid-range TL line nicely, giving the front-wheel-drive model some of the stance and aggression of the SH-AWD model that packs a larger engine and adaptive, torque-vectoring AWD.

The current TL shape has been around since 2009 when a redesign took the crisp, chiseled looks and replaced them with some of the most unusual styling elements imaginable: the shield grille and the pinched tail being the key examples. It’s perplexing as to why this is the look that then populated the rest of the Acura line.

Basically: the TL grew up, got ugly and changed its priorities. No longer the slightest bit cool, the TL decided that refinement was the way to go.

Half the team did not get the memo, however. The SH-AWD model offers body control and traction the previous TL would’ve loved, and finally a six-speed manual was offered with that top trim level. Paired with the refinement and isolation inside the new TL, however, the sporty credentials just don’t stick.

With price pressure from the Hyundai Genesis , better performance in the Infiniti Q50 and far more badge kudos in the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 , where does the TL fit in today’s market?

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2013 Acura TL.

Exterior

Acura TL

A lot of mean things have been said about Acura’s new look, and they are all accurate. The shield grille is revolting even after a 2012 model year facelift softened the woodchuck appearance. Perhaps okay in isolation, the look of the TL is bloated and a total fail versus the BMW 328i and even the Kia Optima SX .

The rumor about Honda and Acura styling is that it’s a constant push and pull between the company’s Japanese executives and the American sales and design operation. The American-penned 2004 through 2008 TL was originally going to be the 2006 RL , but Honda bosses in Japan wanted it to be a Japanese design… and so on. The discord is clear as day with the results on the redesigned Acura, a mish-mash of grumpy and tired styles.

The overall proportions of the TL aren’t a deal breaker, and the deep shoulder cowl creates a sense of movement in profile. The car is visibly a front-drive design with extra-long overhangs both front and back. The hood uses some visual tricks to enhance its perceived length, but the result is unpleasant, as is the arcing front fender line. It looked bad the day it came out, and it still does.

The rear is where things go from awkward to catastrophic. The rear bumper is so long and enormous that it almost sticks out proud of the body. There’s then a slow fade from the giant bumper up toward the tapering trunk area. The rear trunk is the absolute worst part of this design. The rear end features a prominent center crease, from where it bulges out from all sides in a convex way.

The trunk, however, curves inward from this definition point. It is then trimmed in an odd piece of stainless steel where it meets the rest of the bodywork. Stainless trim is cool, but as used here is not. Combined with long horizontal taillights and flying-buttress rear columns, the result is like a 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado ’s nightmare. All nose and a huge butt is no way to win sexy friends.

Below all this mess, the rectangular exhaust finishers are built into the body and try to recapture some of the previous generation’s cool, crisp demeanor.

2013 Acura TL Exterior Features:

  • Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) front headlights with Auto on/off feature and Daytime Running Lights
  • Front bumper integrated halogen fog lights
  • LED illumination for: side mirror-integrated directional signals, side marker lights, brake lights and Center High Mount Stop Light (CHMSL)
  • Power moonroof with tilt, auto-open/close, auto-reverse and key-off operation
  • Heated outside mirrors with Reverse gear tilt-down function and integrated directional signals
  • Dual outlet exhaust finishers
  • 17x8-inch 7-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Bridgestone Turanza EL400 P245/50R17 M+S tires (TL)
  • 18x8-inch 5-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 P245/45R18 M+S tires (TL with Advance Package)

TL SH-AWD EXTERIOR FEATURES

  • 18x8-inch 5-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 P245/45R18 tires (TL SH-AWD®)
  • 19x8-inch split 5-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle RS-A 245/40R19 tires (TL SH-AWD® with Advance Package)
  • Front bumper mounted air ducts for front disc brake cooling
  • SH-AWD trunk emblem

2013 Acura TL Exterior Dimensions:

Wheelbase 109.3 in.
Overall length 194 in.
Overall width 74 in.
Overall height 57.2 in.
Track 63.2 inches (front) / 63.8 inches (rear)
Weight 3,740 pounds (FWD), 3,968 pounds (AWD)

Interior

Acura TL

Things get better inside the TL, which really shows off how well Acura can trim its cars. From the quality of the seats to the padded leather door-trims, Acura is right up there with loaded BMWs for leather craftsmanship. Five leather colors are available, including the elegant Umber color seen in the above photo. Special Edition models are all trimmed in black leather.

In terms of interior design, Acura does use high-quality plastics on their soft-touch panels and dashboards. All holds true for the TL. The design is decent, with a twin cowl setup divided by a flowing graphic up from the gear stick. There’s far too much shiny pseudo-metal defining the interior color schemes.

Pseudo-creases clutter the numerous silver plastic trim panels, making it look somehow even more fake. This is a shame because the exterior uses real stainless steel trims that have a nice matte finish.

This dash design and ergonomics are extremely dated versus the Infiniti Q50 and the new Lexus ES350 . The new style is authentic metals, leather for every touch point, a wide center console and more steeply-angled vertical control area. Some notable exceptions include the Porsche Panamera, in which the console inclines to become the center stack.

There’s a tangible sense of “Honda Was Here” about all Acura interiors. Among Honda buyers trading up, this is a benefit because they recognize all the switches and how things operate. The approach is too insular, however, with Acura seeming as out of touch with the competition as Cadillac was in the 1990s.

Regretfully, the 2013 TL Special Edition doesn’t replace the button-fest audio and climate solutions as it does in the similarly-priced 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite.

2013 Acura TL Interior Features:

  • Sport seats with leather-trimmed interior
  • 10-way adjustable power-actuated driver seat (8-way adjustable seat with 2-way adjustable lumbar support)
  • 8-way adjustable power-actuated front passenger seat
  • Heated front seats
  • 2-position memory function (presets for driver seat, side mirrors, radio presets, climate control settings, MID)
  • Front center console with adjustable armrest, dual-level storage and coin holders
  • Rear seat armrest with locking trunk pass-through
  • TL SH-AWD Only: Unique sport seating with additional bolstering for added support
  • TL SH-AWD Only: French seams with contrasting color Euro-style double stitch line on steering wheel, seats, parking brake lever, and shifter
  • 8-speaker, 276-watt audio system with a 6-disc CD changer, AM/FM radio, XM Radio with Note function, Bluetooth Audio, USB port and AUX jack connectivity, and HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface
  • Leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with illuminated fingertip controls and racing-inspired paddle shifters
  • Steering wheel-mounted controls (cruise control, audio, telephone, MID and voice recognition)
  • Tilt and telescoping steering column
  • Illuminated ignition switch, power-window switches, door-lock switches and overhead controls
  • Dual-zone, dual-mode adaptive climate control system with air filtration and auto humidity control system
  • Rear passenger ventilation controls
  • Power windows with driver and front passenger’s auto-up/down, auto-reverse and key-off operation
  • Remote control and driver’s door lock-operated window auto-open function
  • Power moonroof with tilt, auto-open/close, auto-reverse and key-off operation
  • Bluetooth HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface with active pairing and Dial-by-Number voice tags
  • Multi-Information Display (MID)
  • Maintenance Minder system
  • LED information display, electronic compass and exterior temperature indicator
  • LED backlit gauges with progressive illumination
  • Auto dimming day/night rearview mirror
  • Front windshield and front-side window defoggers; Rear-window defroster with automatic timer
  • 12-volt power outlets (front and center console)
  • Aluminum threshold garnish
  • Carpeted floor mats
  • Cargo net for trunk

2013 Acura TL Technology Package Features ($3,730):

  • Acura/ELS Surround 440-watt Premium Audio System with 10-speakers, DVD-Audio, CD, DTS, AM/FM tuner, XM Radio with Note function music reminder, Bluetooth Audio, Song By Voice, speed-sensitive volume control (SVC), and 15 gigabyte hard disk drive (HDD) music storage
  • AcuraLink Satellite Communication System
  • Acura Navigation System with 60 gigabyte hard disk drive (HDD), Voice Recognition and rearview camera
  • 8-inch full VGA high-resolution color display
  • AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting
  • AcuraLink Real-Time Weather with weather radar image maps, 1- and 3-day forecasts, and specific area weather
  • GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone, dual-mode adaptive climate control system with humidity control system and air filtration
  • Perforated full-grain Premium Milano leather seating surfaces
  • Keyless Access System (with Smart Entry and pushbutton ignition)

2013 Acura TL Advance Package Features ($5,930):

  • Technology package
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Blind Spot Indicator (BSI) * TL: 18x8-inch 5-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 P245/45R18 tires
  • TL SH-AWD: 19x8-inch split 5-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle RS-A 245/40R19 tires

2013 Acura TL Interior Dimensions:

Seating Capacity 5
Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.4/36.7 in.
Legroom (Front/Rear) 42.5/36.2 in.
Hip Room (Front/Rear) 55.7/54.8 in.
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 58.2/56.2 in.

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

Acura TL

All TL drivetrains carry over for 2013, meaning a front-drive model running a 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 with 280 horsepower and the AWD model packing a 3.7-liter version of the same engine with 305 horsepower. Acura only cites horsepower numbers, which is not a good sign.

The engines make 254 and 273 pound-feet of torque, respectively, both at 5,000 RPM. This means the engines need to be revved hard to make good progress, in contrast with more-responsive turbocharged V-6s or torque-rich V-8s of all kinds.

For a company that specializes in engines, these two are not terrific. They’re relatively powerful and smooth, but lack dual overhead cams or forced induction. As a result, efficiency suffers. The full mpg numbers are below (in the Pricing section), but 17 mpg city/ 20 mpg combined for the manual SH-AWD model is surprisingly bad. It is far worse than competing mid-size cars.

The six-speed automatic is the only transmission for all models except the TL SH-AWD with Advance pack.

Although the SH-AWD model can transfer 100% of power left to right, it defaults to a far more boring 90:10 front to rear torque split. This can shift to 30:70 under extreme circumstances like a drag strip launch, but generally the car feels and drives like a front-drive model.

2013 Acura TL Drivetrain Specifications:

Trim Level TLTL SH-AWDTL SH-AWD Advance
Engine Size and Type 3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 SOHC VTEC3.7-liter 24-valve V-6 SOHC VTEC3.7-liter 24-valve V-6 SOHC VTEC
Peak power 280 horsepower305 horsepower305 horsepower
Peak torque 254 pound-feet273 pound-feet273 pound-feet
Transmission 6-speed automatic6-speed automatic6-speed manual
0-60-mph 6.9 seconds, est5.7 seconds, est5.5 seconds, est
Top Speed 150 mph, limited150 mph, limited150 mph, limited

Pricing

Acura TL

The TL Special Edition falls between the base TL and the TL with the Technology package, both far below the SH-AWD model in equipment, price and performance. In addition to the below Tech and Advance packs, there are a handful of dealer-installed body-kit options for a total of about $1500 on all TL models.

2013 Acura TL Prices:

TRIMMSRPEPA Fuel Economy Rating (city/highway/combined)
TL$35,90520/29/23
TL Special Edition$37,40520/29/23
TL with Technology Package$39,63520/29/23
TL with Advance Package$41,83520/29/23
TL SH-AWD$39,45518/26/21
TL SH-AWD with Technology Package$43,18518/26/21
TL SH-AWD with Advance Package$45,38518/26/21
TL SH-AWD 6-Speed Manual with Advance Package$43,18517/25/20

Safety

Acura TL

The Acura TL is generally a very safe car without any glaring safety issues and a Top Safety Pick credit from IIHS. Acura proudly reports a Good score from the newer, harder small-overlap test, but the video below looks really gruesome. It is hard to believe that this is a crash that equals a “Good” IIHS score.

The door’s metal skin is ripped right off the car. Second to an explosion or a door ejecting passengers on impact, it’s hard to imagine a worse scenario after a violent collision that completely crushes the A-pillars of the TL.

2013 Acura TL Safety Features:

  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control (Electronic Stability Control)
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with location and pressure indicators
  • Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
  • Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure
  • Impact-absorbing front and rear crumple zones
  • Collapsible steering column
  • Dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags (SRS); Side curtain airbags; Dual-chamber front-seat side airbags with passenger side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS)
  • Active head restraints for front seats
  • 3-point height-adjustable front seat belts with automatic tensioning system and load limiters;
  • 3-point rear seat belts
  • LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) child seat mounting system
  • Child-proof rear door locks
  • Theft-deterrent system with electronic immobilizer

Competition

Acura TL

The TL competes with a huge number of superior cars in the $35,000 to $45,000 price range.

2014 Infiniti Q50

Infiniti Q50

The new G37 packs a fresh nameplate for 2014 as well as numerous technical solutions not available on them Acura, including radar-based collision-prevention and adaptive cruise control. Q50’s are fundamentally rear-drive, offering a better performance solution for fast drivers. An AWD model will also be available with this new-generation Infiniti.

2013 Lexus ES350

Lexus ES

Occupying a far less sporty market segment, most buyers who like the TL’s interior refinement would be much happier in the Lexus. Not only does it pack fresh, GS -inspired looks, the interior of the ES350 is roomier, quieter, smoother-riding, more stylish and equipped with far better technology. A hybrid ES300h is also offered, delivering a combined EPA rating of 39 mpg that nearly doubles the TL SH-AWD’s 20 mpg combined rating.

Conclusion

Acura TL

So the Acura TL faces some challenges from upstart luxury cars, as well as the real threat from the German makes as they expand their sub-$40,000 offerings. The Acura represents the ultimate Honda-style performance sedan and is far more accomplished than its $50,000 RLX sibling in every way.

Yes, the TL SH-AWD models record some extremely quick sprint times, dropping to the mid five-second range for the manual cars. The driving experience is totally isolated with good noise suppression, but also little tactile feedback from the wheel, seat or pedals. It’s quick but loses serious ground to competing cars when the total price for the SH-AWD and the extremely poor gas mileage are considered.

In light of the styling and image issues, plus the dated and plastic-ridden interior, means the Acura TL is a lot like a 1960’s “Banker’s Hot Rod.” Also an old advertising tagline for a Buick , this description actually applies nicely to the TL.

Until the much-anticipated launch of the 2015 Acura NSX, in fact, this may be the quickest Acura or Honda production model in the firm’s history. Is it the best? No, absolutely not.

Buyers with fewer premium badge aspirations would be much happier in a loaded Accord , in most cases, and save themselves over $10,000 in the process.

Category RatingDetails
Driving BIsolated Cabin Lacks Feel, But Ride Is Hard and Jolting
Performance AImpressive 0-to-60 MPG Times In the Low 5’s For AWD Models
Look DStyling Is Vile Inside And Out; Ugliest Luxury Car On The Road?
Value CGood Value Special Edition But Far Better Competitors At $45,000 Loaded Price
Overall B-Neither Sports Sedan Nor Luxury Car, Acura TL Is Lost In The Rough
LOVE IT
  • Great acceleration in SH-AWD models
  • Good seat comfort and support, tasteful optional leathers
  • Special Edition saves $2000 versus the front-drive TL with Tech pack
LEAVE IT
  • High-RPM torque peak means lots of revving and poor fuel economy
  • Manual cars seriously rare: only available on absolutely loaded SH-AWD Advance, not the Special Edition or any front-drive TL models
  • Long overhangs, front fender detailing and nose/tail styling all need a complete re-do

Press Release

New Acura TL Special Edition Debuts with Key Feature Upgrades

Acura TL

TORRANCE, Calif. – The new 2013 Acura TL Special Edition is now on sale with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $37,405. Joining the TL line as a mid-2013 model, the TL Special Edition offers a step up from the standard TL, with the addition of highly desirable feature upgrades, creating an incredible value in the luxury four-door sedan segment.

The front-wheel-drive TL Special Edition features distinctive 10-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels, a color-matched deck lid spoiler and trunk-mounted Special Edition badging. Standard keyless access with pushbutton start adds convenience and ease of use. The TL Special Edition is available in four exterior colors: Bellanova White Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, Graphite Luster Metallic and Silver Moon Metallic. All exterior colors are matched with a leather-appointed Ebony interior with contrast stitching.

KEYLESS ACCESS SYSTEM

The TL Special Edition’s standard Keyless Access System lets the driver enter and drive the car without having to handle a key or fob. The Keyless Access Remote has a unique digital identity that is automatically communicated to the car; the driver simply pulls one of the front door handles while the remote in his/her possession and the door unlocks and opens. When carrying the fob (or if all doors are unlocked), the trunk can be opened by pressing a button located on the TL Special Edition’s rear spoiler.

The system identifies which of the two supplied fobs is in use each time the driver’s door is opened (even if it is already unlocked), and then automatically sets the driver’s seat, outside mirrors, climate control and audio system (including audio system presets) to a profile preset by the driver using that fob.

Once the driver has opened the door and is seated, the Keyless Access System allows the TL to be started with a push of the Engine Start/Stop button positioned on the instrument panel. When leaving the car, a press of the soft-touch button on the outside of the door handle locks all doors. Alternatively, a press of the Lock button on the Keyless Access Remote will also simultaneously lock all doors. The Keyless Access System will not allow the transmitter fob to be locked in the interior or the trunk of the TL.

Powertrain

Acura TL

The front-wheel drive TL Special Edition features an all-aluminum 3.5-liter V-6 with single overhead camshaft cylinder heads and 24 valves, with the intake valves actuated by Acura’s VTEC® (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control®) system. This compact and efficient engine produces 280 horsepower and 254 lbs-ft of torque (SAE net). A Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission operated by a straight-gate style console-mounted shifter is standard. For more spirited driving, a racing-inspired steering wheel paddle shifter system is standard and works when the transmission is in "Drive" or "Sport."

Interior

Acura TL

The 2013 TL Special Edition’s interior exemplifies Acura’s driver-oriented sport-sedan thinking, matched with outstanding luxury. Sweeping shapes and high-quality materials blend a luxury aesthetic with a feeling of advanced technology. A 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat and an 8-way adjustable power front passenger’s seat are standard.

A power moonroof, 276-watt audio system with eight speakers, and dual-zone, dual-mode automatic climate control system with automatic humidity control are also standard. The 2013 TL Special Edition comes well-equipped with standard technology features including a Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® wireless telephone interface, USB port connectivity, and a high-resolution Multi-Information Display (MID) on the center cluster.

Safety

Standard safety equipment on all Acura models includes Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction control, ABS, dual-stage/multiple-threshold front airbags, front-side airbags, side curtain airbags for all outboard seating positions, front seatbelts with automatic tensioning system and load limiters, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Daytime Running Lights (DRL).

The TL recently earned the top-level rating of TOP SAFETY PICK+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including a GOOD rating in the IIHS’ new small overlap frontal barrier crash test. The new IIHS small overlap frontal barrier crash test is designed to simulate a collision between a vehicle traveling 40 miles per hour and a fixed object, such as a utility pole, where only 25-percent of the vehicle’s front structure is engaged by the opposing object. According to a 2009 study by the IIHS, such small overlap crashes accounted for nearly 25-percent of frontal crashes resulting in a serious injury or fatality.



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