With a ‘refresh’ for the 2012 model year, Acura’s 2013 TL wraps up this selling season with the same updated sheetmetal and a ‘Special Edition’ moniker. The original skin, introduced on an all-new TL for the 2009 model year, caused jaws to drop and tongues to wag, as its in-your-face face caught those paying attention by mild – to put it mildly – surprise. The modest refresh for ’12 was a reasonable attempt at soothing the savage beast, while the ‘SE’ tag works to soothe the not-quite-savage price. And after a week of getting to know the freshened Acura, we think Honda’s upmarket team may be onto something…
Simply doing the math – a 2009 intro and we’re on the cusp of 2014 – would tell you American Honda has an all-new TL waiting in the wings. This being Honda, we won’t know it ‘til we know it, but as sure as your valve timing is variable you know Honda/Acura won’t let another year go by without introducing a new TL into the showroom. With that, we’ll admit that after five model years we’ve grown somewhat fond of this newest TL, while still wishing for the Alfa-esque 4-door that preceded it. In combination with the front and rear tweaks accorded the ’12 TL, there’s predictability to the Acura we find comfortable; this in a world where you’ll find Mercedes showrooms featuring front-wheel drive and Range Rovers looking not so much like upscale Land Rovers but upmarket hatchbacks.
Acura’s midsize sedan enjoys as much ‘athletic grace’ as the platform mavens at Honda would – at this point in time – reasonably allow. With either front-wheel drive (standard) or all-wheel drive (optional), you can’t disguise the chassis’ front end bias, but neither is the front and rear overhang so visually overreaching as to be obnoxious. Not unlike the Lexus ES 350 when compared to Camry, the Acura sheetmetal seems well-suited to Accord intenders that, eventually, simply tire of the Accord.
Inside, the TL provides a more subtle departure from the tried-and-true by sticking more closely to the tried-and-true. Leather-clad buckets are almost Euro-firm in their architecture and padding, while the instrumentation sticks mostly to the basics, audio and ventilation controls are amazingly straightforward, and interior appointments – with metallic-like accents gracing the dash, centerstack and console – are comfortably upmarket. In short, it’s a driver’s environment that won’t repel the non-enthusiast. And while not having time (or budget) to conduct a scientific poll, my guess is ‘non-enthusiast’ would describe most of Acura’s constituency.
Given that Acura’s TL is solidly near-luxury, audiophiles should be satisfied with 276 watts of audio channeled through eight speakers. And if that’s too cool, warm yourself via the TL’s dual-mode automatic climate control. Of course, Bluetooth, USB port connectivity and a high-resolution Multi-Information Display is included, but you would have known that.
Room, of course, is a significant contributor to driver and passenger comfort. Here, the midsize TL provides you exactly what you’d expect: midsize accommodation. Front head, leg and shoulder room are generous for two, while the rear bench will comfortably accommodate two – and begrudgingly handle three. (Those tall-waisted will find headroom in short – sorry – supply.) There are more accommodating sedans for roughly the same money, but you won’t find them on a German showroom. The trunk’s functionality is better than its 13 cubic feet might suggest, but we’d hope for a folding rear seat; instead, the TL is only equipped with a pass-through.
Under the TL’s hood there is both fun and functionality. A TL without benefit of SH-AWD is also deprived of Acura’s larger (3.7 liters) V6. Your two lead feet needn’t worry, however, as the base 3.5 is an amazingly nice powertrain, with both adequate ponies (280 @ 6,200 rpm) and torque (254 @ 5,000 rpm). Both figures fall short of what’s available at your Infiniti or Lexus dealer, but that shouldn’t be the point. The 3.5 is effortless as it goes about its business, armed with a dual-stage magnesium-alloy(!) intake, Drive-By-Wire throttle and programmed multi-point fuel injection. Add Honda’s institutional history of competent, innovative design and you have a V6 that remains absolutely golden in both operation and observation.
That abundant goodness is transmitted to the ground via Acura’s oh-so-sweet 6-speed automatic with Sequential Sportshift. Again, other makers are offering 8-speed (and now nine-speed) autos, but we didn’t notice any particular shortcomings in the 6-speed’s operation. And if you’re an Acura prospect with both solid credit and manual dexterity, opt for a 6-speed manual in combination with the all-wheel drive. Like other manuals in the Honda family, the stick is as precise and user-friendly as most other manuals might only hope to be.