2014 Acura TL

Although priced like a premium compact, the Acura TL offers mid-size space along with advanced technology features and distinctive looks. It can be spec'd with a 305-horsepower V6 and a trick Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system that benefits both handling and foul-weather traction.

Recent Changes
After receiving a minor update with revised styling, new features and an improved automatic transmission two years back, the Acura TL has carried on without any further alterations save a TL Special Edition model.

With crisp lines, an athletic stance and a mercifully mild rendition of Acura's controversial shield grille, the TL posses a distinctive figure that stands out from the entry-luxury mainstream.

Longer and wider than many similarly priced models, there's generous space inside to go along with a unique interior ambience. In place of traditional design and materials like wood trim, the cabin features a modern aesthetic with aluminum garnish and minimalistic details. Leather upholstery and a Dolby premium audio system are fitted as standard.

The TL comes in two varieties: a base front-wheel drive car with a 3.5-liter V6 and an up-level all-wheel drive model with a more powerful 3.7-liter V6. Both engines employ Honda's Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Lift Control (VTEC) technology, which increases high-rpm horsepower through enhanced airflow by opening the intake valves deeper and longer when the engine speed reaches a designated rpm.

The FWD TL makes 280 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque from its 3.5-liter six-cylinder and returns fuel economy of 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. A new six-speed transmission automatic replaces the old five-speed unit and is the only gearbox available.

The upscale TL sends its 305 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist to all four wheels via Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, which monitors data such as lateral G-forces and steering angle and sends extra power to the front or rear wheels as needed, resulting in more agile and predictable responses. The six-speed automatic comes standard, while enthusiasts can opt for a traditional six-speed manual that features the intuitive clutch and silken shifting action that have characterized Honda and Acura stick shifts for decades.

Fuel economy for the AWD model is rated at 18/26 mpg with the automatic and 17/25 mpg with the manual transmission.

Trim Level Breakdown
As with other Honda and Acura models, the TL offers the choice of several trim levels in place of a-la-carte options to give buyers the level features they want. These trim levels are largely identical for both FWD and AWD TL models and include a base trim, a new TL Special Edition, TL with Technology Package and TL with Advance Package.

The base TL includes leather-trimmed sport seats, an eight-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II sound system, XM radio, a USB interface with iPod integration, Bluetooth hands free smartphone connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels. The AWD TL base model gets 18-inch wheels and slightly meatier tires.

The value-focused TL Special Edition brings unique 10-spoke 18-inch wheels, a color-matched rear spoiler, Special Edition badging and a proximity key with push-button start.

Stepping up to the TL with Technology Package adds perforated Milano leather, a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather updates, a rearview parking camera, an ELS sound system with HDD, GPS-linked, solar sensing climate control, a keyless access system with push-button start and more.

To those features, the TL with Advance Package adds six-stage heated and ventilated seats, a blind spot information system as well as 18-inch and 19-inch wheels for the FWD and AWD models, respectively.

Occupant Safety
The TL is outfitted with dual front, side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brake force distribution and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Key Competition
The base TL squares off against midsize entry-luxury models like the Lexus ES350, Lincoln MKZ and Volvo S60.

The 3.7-liter AWD model can be compared with smaller but more sporting machines like the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.