2013 Acura TL Elite SH-AWD
3.7L V6 SOHC 24-valve
305 @ 6300
273 @ 5000
11.4 / 7.6
When value for money is the primary objective, prestigious brands always start the rally against their competition with a handicap. Acura on the other hand is considered a prestigious brand that is all about good bang for the buck. Even in the category of performance executive sedans where competition is steep, Acura seems to have an alluring product. The 2013 Acura TL Elite SH-AWD competes head on with the class leading BMW 335i xDrive, the surprisingly good Cadillac ATS AWD 3.6L and the sporty but now aged Infiniti G37x. Considering what comes with the Elite trim level in the Acura, at $49,750 it is the most affordable one which is clearly a big advantage.
The Acura TL packs a 3.7lt V6 V-Tech engine that outputs 305bhp and 273lb-ft of torque and the SH-AWD system is one of the best you can get. The Elite trim level comes fully loaded with tons of airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, 6-speed autobox with paddle shifters, full leather upholstery, power moon roof, blind spot monitoring, rear view camera, navigation, the amazing ELS sound system and lots more.
The exterior design looks upscale enough to make it in the executive sedan segment and the rear with the dual exhausts does give away the fact that there is some serious power under the hood. The front grille is an Acura trademark and it looks like it’s going about with a piece of ID in its mouth.
The interior is top-notch quality, fit and finish are excellent and everything is well within reach. The driving position is fully customizable, so getting comfortable is really easy and then you can start enjoying the drive in the very snug seats. Visibility, despite the low roof line, is good and the rear view camera and blind spot monitoring system aid the driver’s confidence.
The rear bench is made for two adults and only a small child can sit in the middle. Legroom is adequate but the available headroom is not the greatest. The rear seats are not foldable but you do get a ski trap in the middle to pass through longer items from the trunk, which at 371lt is not the most spacious in the class, but it is enough for loading your weekend getaway gear.
The 3.7lt V6 DOHC V-Tech engine is the heard of the TL, as the 305bhp and 273lb-ft of torque produced are alive and kicking. What is astonishing though is the way the power is delivered. It feels like it runs on vitamin-enriched smoothies as it is extremely refined and feels very healthy. The performance is addictive and the soundtrack of the V6 constantly triggers your “chills” bio-sensor. It also gets good mileage; on the highway, we averaged 8.2lt/100km and in the city 11.9lt/100km, for a combined fuel economy of 10.5lt/100km. So despite the premium unleaded requirement, running costs are very reasonable.
Throttle response is instant thanks to the naturally aspirated engine and the 6-speed automatic transmission is quite sporty by default. Oddly, switching to sport mode doesn’t make a hell of a difference but you can then use the paddle shifters to take over and enjoy the rev-matching technology that allows you to drop two gears at once.
On the road, the Acura TL feels like it is on rails as the grip is impressive. The SH-AWD system keeps sending torque to the grippiest wheels so even in bad weather conditions traction is unsurpassed. The brake pedal feels crisp and the brakes bring the TL to a complete stop from 100km/h in 46 meters. The stability control can be switched off to have some fun but even when left on, its operation is very discrete. The chassis feels rigid and even though the TL is setup to handle, it is also comfortable enough for the daily drive. You can feel it work its way over pot-holes and bumps but thanks to the quiet suspension bushings and squeak free cabin, comfort levels are very acceptable for a high performance sedan.
All controls have good weight and feeling to them, the steering, the brakes, even the switches and buttons all feel properly engineered but somehow there is no drama, no DNA element to make you form a love relationship with it and that is perhaps the only problem with the TL.
It might not be an all-new car but it does still feel fresh and has lots of things going for it. The performance, the handling and the value are truly the highlights. Realistically, it is about $10k less than the king-of-the-hill BMW 335i xDrive, but the truth is, it is not $10k less of a car.