2014 Acura TL Review

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Davis Adams Davis Adams Contributor
March 12, 2014

The 2014 Acura TL is an attractive, comfortable, well-appointed luxury sedan. Choose the SH-AWD model, and you have yourself a legitimate sport sedan, too.

The 2014 Acura TL isn't as luxurious in the traditional sense as some of its German or even American competitors. But in SH-AWD all-wheel-drive guise, it's an engaging sedan, with athletic driving feel coupled to a spacious and comfortable interior.

 

It's also a lame duck: for the 2015 model year, the Acura TL will be replaced by a new sedan, the Acura TLX.

Review continues below

 

You could say that the TL looks a bit robotic, with its unmistakable and controversial metallic beak. That cosmetic feature was toned down in 2012, giving it a little more mainstream appeal, while the interior remains about attractive as any. It's intuitively assembled, with flowing arcs and circles that feel a little like art, without compromising ergonomics. There may be a few too many buttons--like so many of the Acuras on the road today--but we like everything else about it. The interior details don't feel European, nor do they feel terribly overwrought, and the twin-cockpit design doesn't rob too much space for the passengers, either.

 

Acura sells two TLs, with distinctive personalities. The base car has front-wheel drive, relatively spry acceleration, and comfortable and predictable handling along with a well-composed ride. In its tarter SH-AWD edition, the TL gets a more eager 3.7-liter V-6, 305 hp, and all-wheel drive with the ability to modulate power front to back, giving it a more nimble feel. This version also offers a manual transmission.

 

The TL has Honda Accord roots, and there's no shame in it. Not when the TL delivers a lot more space than some of its compact luxury-sedan rivals. The TL isn't what we'd call lavishly outfitted, but it does have great space, excellent long-distance front seats, and an adult-sized rear seat with room for three passengers in medium-distance situations. The only real disappointment is a small, 13.1 cubic-foot trunk.


All TL sedans come with the usual power features, as well as an 8-speaker audio system, a high-res screen for the infotainment, and a USB interface. Add the Tech package and Acura fits a rearview camera, keyless entry, automatic climate control, and navigation with real-time traffic. The navigation itself feels dated. The well-outfitted TL SH-AWD model has the features we want, including blind-spot monitors, a powerful ELS audio system, and ventilated front seats. With a price of about $46,000, it's overlapping the 5-Series and E-Class, which is a problem for a car with a plainer personality, and much less heritage at its back.

8

2014 Acura TL

Styling

Good proportions and crisp details have kept the Acura TL looking good.

The Acura TL found itself with more polarizing design than it intended when it was updated in 2009, but it's since grown into its styling. The exterior looks at home with the current Acura lineup, and a refresh in 2012 helped the TL find a softer, less extreme way to stand out in the segment.

 

The TL's metallic beak has been a point of controversy, and the overall design seems almost robot-inspired. There are more curves now than there were when the current model debuted, and those subtle changes--a new grille and a few other nuances that increased the attractiveness and decreased the weird-factor--have helped increase the car's popularity. It's legitimately attractive now, and the untrained eyes might even expect it to be a rear-wheel drive car, thanks to its lower nose and tall hips.


The cockpit has a lot to like, though it's starting to age a bit. It's not at all controversial, what with its gently circular themes and well-executed twin-cockpit layout. It's logical but artful, and doesn't stand out as overwrought or excessively derivative.

8

2014 Acura TL

Performance

More athletic than its size might imply, the Acura TL can be an edgy performer.

The 2014 TL can go one of two ways: front-wheel-drive with comfortable luxury sedan feel and relatively crisp handling, or all-wheel-drive (Acura calls it SH-AWD) as a full-fledged sport sedan.

 

The TL and the Honda Accord have the same 3.5-liter V-6 in common; it produces 280 horsepower in the TL, and it paired with an automatic transmission to power the front wheels. The front-wheel-drive TL's driving dynamics could almost be confused for the V-6 Accord's, although we much prefer the Acura's steering. It's not terribly sporty, but it is agreeable, responsive and all-around refined.

 

If you choose the TL with SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), you get a legitimate sport sedan. Its 3.7-liter V-6 produces 305 horsepower, pushing all four wheels through an overtly sporty all-wheel-drive system that eliminates torque steer and promises traction in every conceivable situation. This version of the TL feels surprisingly nimble, and it's nearly as sharp in the corners as some of sportiest rear-wheel-drive sedans. The system also displays how it's working though a display in the instrument cluster.

 

A 6-speed manual is available on the top SH-AWD model, a true sign of Acura's sport-sedan intent here. With that and the all-wheel-drive setup, the top TL is fluster-free whether it's in the middle of an emergency maneuver or needling through a favorite canyon. It's complemented by the excellent electric power steering, which weights up neatly, centers quickly, and lets in lots of road feel.

8

2014 Acura TL

Comfort & Quality

The trunk's small, but the Acura TL delivers a lot of usable interior space.

The Honda Accord's platform isn't a bad place to start when it comes to the TL's interior space and comfort. It's larger and more passenger-friendly than any other luxury sedans with the same exterior dimensions, and Acura gives it all the right appointments to make the TL feel like a proper luxury car.

 

What's most surprising is how different the TL can feel from the Accord. The driving position is lower and feels more sporty, and the hooded gauges and wrap-around cockpit give it a more intimate feel than America's go-to family four-door.

 

The TL is equipped with nearly ideal front seats. They're supportive and sized generously. Highway trips are a joy, though we'd want more side bolstering if our commute included more than a dozen miles of switchbacks.

 

In back, the TL offers up space for three across for short trips. Two adults will be fine on longer trips, though headroom isn't the TL's long suit in back.

 

The TL only disappoints in minor ways, in terms of space and comfort. The trunk is small, at about 13.1 cubic feet. And while base cars are admirably quiet, the SH-AWD models have noisier tires that drill their sound into the cabin.

8

2014 Acura TL

Safety

The Acura TL's crash-test scores are good, but not as strong as those for some other premium sedans.

The 2014 Acura TL has been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which gave it four stars overall, and four stars both for frontal and side impact.

 

The 2014 model hasn't yet been tested by the IIHS, but in past tests, it's been a Top Safety Pick, with top 'good' results across the board.

 

All TL models include six airbags (front side airbags and full-length side-curtain bags), four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Brake Assist, and electronic stability control. Rear headrests can flip neatly out of the way when nobody's back there, which helps visibility, and a rearview camera system is available. The Advance model also includes a Blind Spot Information System.

9

2014 Acura TL

Features

Technology is Acura's calling card, and the TL doesn't disapppoint.

The base 2014 TL falls easily into the luxury sedan category, which should leave commuters comfortable for long hauls to work and confident when they pull up to the valet lane for dinner. Look to the Tech and Advanced models of the TL and you'll find yourself with a luxury car equipped with modern technologies and active-safety features.

 

All TL models come with an eight-speaker audio system, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, and a crisp display for controlling the infotainment system.

 

At the top of the lineup, the Advance Package adds to that ventilated seats, a blind-spot system, and 19-inch wheels.

 

The Tech Package throws in GPS with real-time traffic; automatic climate control; keyless entry; a rearview camera; and thundering audio courtesy a 440-watt Acura/ELS surround sound system. We're no 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 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.


Conclusion Technology is Acura's calling card, and the TL doesn't disappoint.

7

2014 Acura TL

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage lags, as the TL has stood by bigger-displacement six-cylinders in an era of downsized turbo fours.

Regardless of which 2014 Acura TL you choose--front-wheel drive or sporty SH-AWD guise--fuel economy is pretty average for the segment.

 

The base car with front-wheel drive is rated at 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway. The SH-AWD model with an automatic transmission is rated at 18/26 mpg respectively, and the manual version earns 17/25 mpg.


We should note that we've as well or better than the EPA ratings in the SH-AWD models; in one with the manual gearbox we averaged nearly 23 mpg in about 400 miles of cold-weather driving, about two-thirds of it on the highway.

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April 17, 2015
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