Driver's Seat: Acura TL is elegant but feels a little dated


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Sport luxury sedans square off: 2014 Infiniti Q50 AWD Premium vs. 2014 Acura TL SE 

This week:  2014 Acura TL.

Price: $38,300, no options.

Marketer’s pitch: “Aggressive, yet elegant.”

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com likes the “abundant user-friendly high-tech features; spacious cabin; capable all-wheel-drive system; superb optional sound system; solid construction” but not that “rear-drive competitors typically offer better performance; anonymous personality.”

Reality: Pretty and comfortable, but showing its age. (Acura is rolling out the 2015 TLX to replace the TL).

A 38K stripper? The TL I received to test is probably unlike almost any TL on the road — no options on the vehicle. It also was quite unlike last week’s Infiniti Q50, which was all new for the model year and featured about $10,000 worth of additional items.

Ooh, aah: Acura cars continue to elicit these happy noises from Mr. Driver’s Seat upon entrance. I was not at all fond of the TL’s latest redesign on the outside, which I found kind of fat and bulky, but the inside remains inviting and wonderful.

The dashboard and gauge pod feature black and titanium gray that has a way of looking classy. A nice swoop to the center console enhances the upscale feel. Last week’s Q50 was certainly nice, but Acuras just have that certain something to me. Your mileage may vary.

Shifty: To further reflect the attention to interior detail, I note 13-year-old Sturgis Kid 4.0 commented on how nice the shifter boot looked. That’s never happened before — in fact, he learned the term “boot” for the first time. The automatic transmission features just paddle shifters to use for S mode, which is an Acura standard and not my favorite feature.

On the road: It’s still a fast and great handling vehicle. The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 280 horsepower, quite a bit less than last week’s Q50. It’s transferred to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available as well.

Keeping warm: The seat heater controls sit on the console. Normally that means I’m going to wham them 10 times in one week with my bag by mistake, but the force needed to turn them on helps prevent that. The HVAC features buttons arranged around the radio control — down one side and the other for dual controls.

Falling behind? I’m afraid the TL may reveal Acura as no longer the standard bearer for “everything just feels right.” The steering wheel controls and the heater controls seem almost a bit dated, although they are quite functional and easy to use. (A new Acura TLX debuts for the 2015 model year.)

Play some tunes: The radio without an infotainment display had just a volume knob in the middle and a larger tuner knob below it. I prefer the left and right radio controls but the Acura setup was easy to operate and follow. And the buttons for changing song and other functions do have just the right feel.

Driver’s seat: The seats were comfortable. I found a nice spot right away and never had to adjust them again. The coated sideview mirrors put an odd tinge on everything.

Friends and stuff: The center console holds six CDs, so it’s more spacious than last week’s Q50. A small slot with a door keeps phones, but you can’t really charge there. There is a 12V nearby but no USB. Perhaps if you part with some more money, you get more outlets.

The back seat is fine, 4.0 further observes. No complaints on space. He was sad, though, that there were no window shades in the glaring winter sun. (Yes, I’ve had this review waiting a while.)

The rear seat sits a little too upright for me. Foot room under the seat is the worst part; knee room, legroom and headroom are all fine back here. So the TL is definitely a roomier choice than the Q50.

The middle spot is set up so high that heaven help anyone who has to sit there. But at least there’s a little more room for feet than in the Q50.

Looking backward: No backup camera — really, Acura?!? — and this car could really benefit from one. The view rearward was terrible.

In and out: The oddly shaped rear doors make entry and exit a challenge. The windows grow progressively shorter in the back and the door has a corner that can get you if you’re not careful.

Because the wheel well creeps into the space, the door bottoms are very small and make getting large feet in and out a challenge.

Night shift: Light inside is beautiful, as one would expect. A center light in the rear casts a glow for two sides of the rear seat.

Fuel economy: 24 mpg in the usual Driver’s Seat mix of highway and suburbs, premium fuel only.

Where it’s built: Marysville, Ohio.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports calls the TL’s predicted reliability excellent, and it gets a recommended rating.

In the end: Even as the TL falls behind the competition in many areas, it still remains friendlier on the road and more versatile than the Q50, except in the trunk area. But you can’t really go wrong with either vehicle here. The TLX is on my test list, though, but no date as yet.


Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com.

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