Full 2013 Acura TL Review
What's New for 2013
Apart from the debut of the Special Edition trim level, the 2013 Acura TL is essentially unchanged, though its crash test safety scores have improved this year.
There aren't many better all-around luxury values than the 2013 Acura TL. Fresh off last year's styling tweak that brought the midsize sedan's front grille in line with the rest of Acura's lineup -- particularly its popular RDX and MDX crossovers -- the TL does just about everything well. It's also priced quite attractively when measured against comparable rivals.
Meanwhile, if you believe paying for a midsize luxury sedan should by definition mean you get an engine with more than four cylinders, the TL sets itself apart from its European rivals with standard V6 power. The TL also offers the option of a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system paired with an even stronger V6 to fully cement its credibility as a luxury sedan that delivers plenty of "sport."
Acura has become renowned for the meticulous quality of its interiors, and the TL is no exception. Just don't expect a lot of soft wood and tufted leather, since the TL's ambience is modern, tech-oriented luxury. Its interior teems with the best electronic features Acura can conjure, while surfaces and textures are inviting but minimalist in spirit. And because the TL is one of the wider midsize luxury sedans you'll find, there's plenty of stretch-out space, even in the back.
The front-drive base TL competes with luxury cars such as the Lexus ES 350 and Volvo S60, while the all-wheel-drive TL is comparable to slightly more costly luxury nameplates such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. Although the TL isn't quite as flashy or sporty as some of these cars, we think it remains a solid choice overall for an unpretentious luxury sedan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Acura TL is a midsize luxury sedan offered in two trim levels: TL and TL SH-AWD.
The standard TL comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment and memory functions) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface also are standard for the base TL.
The TL Special Edition also features 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry and leather upholstery with contrasting stitching.
The TL SH-AWD adds a more powerful V6, all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension and steering, upgraded brakes and contoured front sport seats with contrasting leather stitching.
The Technology and Advance option packages can be added to either the standard TL or the TL SH-AWD, but not the Special Edition. To get the Advance package, you must purchase the Technology package. The Technology package brings keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, voice commands, a rearview camera, GPS-linked adaptive climate control, perforated leather upholstery and a 10-speaker premium surround-sound audio system.
The Advance package includes the content of the Technology package as well as bigger wheels (18-inch wheels for the base TL and 19-inch wheels on the SH-AWD), ventilated front seats and a blind-spot warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
The base 2013 Acura TL has a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 280 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque, and it drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. At the test track, a TL with this powertrain sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, a competitive time for the class. Fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 23 mpg combined (20 city/29 highway).
The 2013 TL SH-AWD model features Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, which not only shifts power between the front and rear wheels but also adjusts the power flow between the rear wheels to improve how the TL SH-AWD corners. It also gets a larger 3.7-liter V6 that develops 305 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic continues as standard, but a six-speed manual transmission is optional. A manual-equipped TL SH-AWD zips to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but at the expense of some fuel efficiency. The EPA estimates the TL SH-AWD with an automatic gets 21 combined (18 city/26 highway) while the manual rates 20 mpg (17/25).
Every 2013 Acura TL comes with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Under braking, the TL performs about average for the class, with a front-drive TL stopping from 60 mph in 122 feet and the TL SH-AWD taking 120 feet.
In government crash tests, the 2013 TL received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for total frontal-impact protection and four stars for total side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the TL earned the highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. It's also one of just a few vehicles that earned a top mark of "Good" in the IIHS's newly instituted small-overlap front crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
In a word, the 2013 Acura TL's interior is best described as "contemporary." Acura puts the TL at the vanguard of its high-tech image, so those looking for the traditional luxury-car wood trim trappings won't find them in the TL. Aluminum trim and austere detailing prevails, perhaps at the expense of some warmth.
You can't criticize the TL's interior materials or build quality. Even in areas where more expensive luxury vehicles slide in some cheaper plastics, the TL comes through with soft, inviting surfaces that have a high-quality appearance.
You immediately notice the extra width of the TL fronts in relation to most rivals. There's a noticeable amount of extra shoulder room, both front and rear. The driver will find it easy to find a comfortable driving position and the rear seats are plenty roomy, at least for two occupants.
Acura's infotainment controls are among the most efficient and straightforward in the business; though the car's advanced-looking dash and controls may seem intimidating at first glance, they're remarkably friendly to use. The Tech package's voice-controlled navigation system works flawlessly and doesn't require you to learn complicated or special commands. Trunk space is mediocre, however, with just 13.1 cubic feet of space (12.5 cubic feet for the TL SH-AWD).
Befitting its luxury sedan status, the 2013 Acura TL has an excellent ride quality. Bumps, potholes and expansion joints are dismissed with reassuring, almost Germanic competence. The sedan is also appreciably quiet on the freeway. Few luxury sedans have truly communicative steering anymore, and the TL holds to that standard, although the lack of feedback shouldn't be confused with lack of response; the TL turns accurately and directly.
If you have higher expectations for pure sport driving, the TL SH-AWD amps up the experience, largely by benefit of its all-wheel-drive system. There's a noticeable upgrade in agility and response, particularly during brisk driving when the system's cornering abilities are most evident. The extra 25 hp generated by the TL SH-AWD's 3.7-liter V6 isn't a huge upgrade, but combined with the engine's additional torque, it does make the TL feel quicker.