This is the third Acura TL that's come through our office in the past couple of months. This particular model has Acura's new 6-speed automatic and although it isn't as entertaining as the 6-speed manual we had in the last TL, it's super smooth and is quick to downshift when the throttle is mashed making highway passing effortless. Unfortunately, the new gearbox doesn't exactly catapult the TL past its competition. When looked at side-by-side with the BMW 3-series, the Volvo S60, or the Cadillac CTS, the TL strikes me as mid-pack at best in terms of performance, refinement, and status and brings up the rear in the looks and sex appeal departments. Although this is a very good car, it lacks emotion and that intangible something that makes it more desirable that its competitors.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The six-speed manual transmission paired with SH-AWD makes the best TL for an enthusiast, but the six-speed automatic in this particular test car is much more important to the TL's success in the marketplace. The six-speed auto finally replaces the five-speed that has been used in Acura and Honda cars for the past few years. Even though the five-speed automatic was a pretty good gearbox, today the market demands a minimum of six forward gears in automatic transmission -- and there are even a surprising number of eight-speed automatics being offered this class already.
I appreciate Acura's offering a manual transmission in the TL, but I was not nearly as enamored of it as my colleagues seem to be. Perhaps it felt a little out of place to me because I don't really see Acura as a brand for enthusiasts. Keep making your cars heavier, cancel the development of your V-8 engine, unleash the ZDX on the world, and it's no wonder enthusiasts are more interested in BMW, Audi, and Cadillac these days. Yes, BMW gets a pass for the X6 and the 5-series GT, because it also has the M division. But that brand is starting to tread on thin ice, too.
A traditional automatic (no fancy DSG or annoying CVT here) feels perfect in the TL. This is a car that doesn't inspire owners to dream of track days or F1 heritage so much as it encourages comfortable freeway cruising and an occasional bout of spirited driving if the roads are empty and the owner's mood is right. And there's nothing wrong with that. As much as we enthusiasts all love manual transmissions, high-revving engines, and nailing an apex, there are a lot more people who just want a comfortable, reliable car with enough luxury amenities to feel special. That's where Acura is these days.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor