Acura TL Holds Its Own in Crowded Midsize Luxury Market
Midsize luxury sedans are almost as plentiful as pumpkins are in fall.The 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Advance test car even looked a bit autumnal in its sparkling Mayan Bronze paint job. This is the top of the TL line and a fine driving car with a sporty edge. TL, which competes with the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes’ C Class, Infiniti’s G sedan and Lexus’s ES models, comes in two basic configurations. There’s the standard TL and the SH-AWD models that offer what Acura calls Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.The base TL, with six-speed automatic transmission and a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6, lists at $35,605, a reasonable bargain. Adding the SH-AWD raises the price to $39,155 and also gets you a 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6.
You can move up several levels of technology, but the more extras you add, the pricier the TL gets. The test car listed at $45,085. Add delivery, and it hit $45,970.
That’s a lot of money, but Acura delivers a pleasant, refined sedan. TL features smooth power delivery from its VTEC engine and a six-speed automatic that features SportShift, clutchless manual shifting. Its automatic shifts are nearly seamless.
TL is quiet inside and, with the SH-AWD, delivers superb traction on wet roads, plus a bit of sportiness in the corners. While the steering is less precise than the Infiniti or BWM, it feels on par with its Mercedes and Lexus competitors. There is moderate feedback and a moderately heavy wheel feel.
This is no lightweight. TL feels substantial and, at 4,001 pounds, it is. It rides on a 109.3 in. wheelbase, stretching out bumpy roads pretty well. Ride is controlled, but not soft. You still feel imperfections, but they don’t bother you much, despite the car’s sport-tuned four-wheel independent suspension. The SH-AWD Advance model also features 19-inch tires, up from the 17-inch tires that are standard on lower-level models.Braking is good, with four wheel discs, ABS and stability control. The all-wheel-drive system naturally works with all that to make sure you have traction no matter the road conditions.
One of the TL’s benefits that surprised me a bit was its gas mileage. The EPA rates this at 18 mpg city and 26 highway using premium fuel. I got 23.2 mpg in about 60% highway driving, but with up to four people and some luggage aboard about half that time. For a powerful V6, that’s good.
The test car featured leather seats, a darker reddish brown that gave the car a rich look. The dash was a brown textured finish with a carbon fiber look dash and door trim, all adding to the car’s ritzy feel. The steering wheel and shifter were leather wrapped.
Acura’s seats are a comfortable mix of mildly contoured bottom and more contoured seat back cushions. The seats feature power lumbar support with two memory settings for the driver’s seat and three-speed heated and cooled cushions.
Dash gauges are simple and attractive, but not flashy, with white numbers on a black background and a digital trip computer readout between them. All are easy to see behind the tilt/telescope steering wheel.
On the dash above the center stack is a good sized screen for the radio and navigation system. Unlike some, this one is set back a ways, which is easier for viewing while driving.
Below that, though, is a confusing array of 35 buttons on the stack along with a round mouse-like control to link you into everything from the navigation system to radio bands and other vehicle information. Such complexity doesn’t help you pay attention to traffic.
The person who buys this model, though, is after technology. There’s push-button start, now becoming commonplace, a navigation system with voice recognition, a rearview camera that prevents parking lot dings or worse, and a communications system with traffic alerts and weather updates.
There’s also a surround sound stereo system with 10 speakers and all the usual USB hookups and such. Most important, is the blind-spot warning system that alerts you with a flash in the outside mirrors if a vehicle is in your blind spot. It is a real safety benefit.
Climate controls are good, with dual temperature toggles for each front seat occupant.Overhead is a sunroof, sun visors that slide, an automatic night mirror and HomeLink security system.
The trunk space seems reasonable for a midsize luxury car, but is just 13 cubic feet, a couple short of most cars in this class. I managed to load four pieces of luggage in back, though. Speaking of the back end, the TL’s rear styling is handsome, along with its profile. Yet the nose is ugly with a big mouth-like chrome opening that puts a damper on the car’s looks.
If you can get beyond the funky nose, the car is a primo luxury sedan. Couple that with its reasonable gas mileage for its strong performance and, at its entry-level, the TL remains a good value.