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The 2013 Acura TL doesn't quite fit neatly into the German-pedigreed sport-sedan landscape, but as a luxury sedan it takes a different, somewhat more adventurous tack. Whichever way you see it, the TL has a comfortable, spacious interior, while offering an athletic, inspiring driving experience in its top SH-AWD form.The TL's seemingly robot-inspired look, including its unmistakable metallic beak, has been controversial—or refreshing, depending on how you see it. A retouch last year helped it sit a bit better from the outside, while inside it's uncontroversially attractive, with gentle arcs and circles, and a setup that's artful yet mostly logical. The interior is a bit cluttered—essentially what we think of many Acura interiors today—but we like everything else about it. The twin-cockpit design is smooth but doesn't rob too much space, and the details do stand out as neither overwrought nor overly Euro-influenced.
There are essentially two personalities to the TL, and one of them isn't all that performance-oriented. Get it in base front-wheel-drive form and it's a comfortable luxury sedan--albeit one with relatively crisp handling and an eager powertrain. But in its SH-AWD guise, this is a model that can definitely be enjoyable from the driver's seat. With it comes a 305-hp, 3.7-liter V-6, juicing all four wheels through Acura's capable performance-oriented system that effectively quells torque steer or any scrambling for traction, distributing its power smartly without the loss of traction, but in a way that helps this sedan feel surprisingly balanced and nimble--and almost like a rear-wheel-drive sedan at times in tight corners. On the SH-AWD, there's one other true sign of a sport-sedan: the availability of a six-speed manual.
When it comes to interior space and comfort, the Acura TL's Honda Accord roots are nothing to be ashamed about. Those space-efficient origins make the TL more passenger-friendly than most other luxury sedans with its exterior dimensions--while of course the TL is more lavishly appointed through and through. Generously sized, supportive front seats make the TL a joy on long highway trips--although they could use a bit more lateral support if you intent to take to the mountains. And in general, the back seat is adult-sized, with space for three across. It might appear from the outside that rear headroom might be very limited by the arch and downslope of the roofline, but with seat contouring, it works. The only major disappointment in the 2013 Acura TL remains the trunk's meager 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space. It's less space than in many compact sedans.At the base level, the 2013 Acura TL is a well-equipped luxury sedan--the kind a realtor should be happy to ferry clients in, or that a comfort-oriented commuter will think of as plush. But step up to one of the Tech or Advance models of the TL and you'll get the true good stuff--in the form of top-notch audio or infotainment, or active-safety items.
In its base form, the TL features a standard USB iPod/MP3 interface, an eight-speaker audio system, and a crisp, high-resolution center-mounted display for controlling the infotainment system. The Tech Package adds a navigation system with live traffic, weather, and rerouting, plus a rearview camera; solar-sensing temperature control, keyless access, and an upgraded 440-watt Acura/ELS surround sound system--a system that we love for its thunderous power yet clarity. However, we're not fans of the navigation interface itself, or of the cobbled-together way its menu system feels. As we see it, the SH-AWD model with the Advance Package--which gets items like ventilated front seats, a blind-spot system, 440-watt ELS surround sound, and a nav system with live traffic--makes quite the well-rounded, high-tech sport sedan. But at the same time, with a bottom-line price of about $46k, it's worth keeping in mind that's nearly the cost of a base-level Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series.
- Luxurious interior
- Refined, comfortable ride
- Responsive, athletic driving feel (SH-AWD)
- All-weather-capable, yet sporty
- Awesome premium sound system
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- Small trunk
- Inferior navigation interface
- Techno-cluttered instrument panel