September 25, 2013
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Justin Pritchard
It’s sometimes hard to say goodbye to a good car – even when you’ve been doing it every week for the better part of a decade.
Usually, my most difficult goodbyes are said to rides priced towards six figures, motivated by no less than 400 horsepower, equipped with a child-eating exhaust note and styled with visual fury that melts every pair of eyeballs within a half-mile radius.
Then, there’s the Acura TL.
It’s got scarcely over 300 horsepower, not 400-plus. Six cylinders provide motivation, not eight. The exhaust note and styling are modest, and it doesn’t create crowds of salivating fans in parking lots willing to sell their souls for look under the hood. And you can get one loaded with goodies for under fifty grand.
But I love this car – and always hate parting with it. Partly because I can (I think) afford one. Partly because it delivers a high-tech take on that Honda goodness I grew up loving, because of the three Accords and one Civic Si in my childhood driveway. And, because, as a child of the nineties, my formative car-guy years consisted largely of lusting after machinery like the NSX, CRX and S2000. The TL, as a sporty Honda flagship of sorts, captures some of that magic.
When this generation TL launched, I loved the driveline, cabin and AWD system. Then, the mid-cycle do-over added a six-speed manual and AWD option, helping make the TL that little bit more competitive where selection was concerned. That mid-cycle refresh also included changes intended to make the styling a little more digestible – though the jury’s out to lunch on that one.
2013 Acura TL SH-AWD ELITE. Click image to enlarge
“You know what the damn problem with this thing is???” asked my friend Dave as a crowd of buddies checked out the 2013 tester at coffee one night.
“The lights are too damn skinny for the size of it—it looks like a fat kid with squinty eyes and it’s all pointy and weird, don’t you think?”
Maybe so, maybe no.
Looks aside, the TL is a great machine to drive – and a car special to the Acura brand. This TL put SH-AWD technology into the mainstream luxury sedan market. And, though it was late to the game, it pushed Acura sedans past the 300-horsepower mark at long last.
2011 Acura TL SH-AWD Tech. Click image to enlarge
All said, I’ve made it a point over the years to drive the TL semi-regularly as a benchmarking and comparison exercise. As a result, me and the TL accumulated thousands of kilometres and countless hours together over the course of no fewer than three separate test drives of the model you see on Acura dealer lots now.
Fondest memories? Cruising down Southwoods drive between Bala and Parry Sound in a 2011 model with the six-speed stick / SH-AWD combination. It was wearing a particularly gnarly-looking set of snow tires, which was great since it was 10 pm on a Sunday in February and the snow hadn’t let up since that morning. This empty, remote and unlit stretch of road hadn’t been driven on in days, so my photographer pal and I decided the risk would be worth a great nighttime photo in the snow.
That drive saw the locked-in feel to the steering and SH-AWD system turn in big-time confidence for your driver, while the laser-cut projection of the xenon headlamps sliced through the snow hanging eerily still in the air. Translation? A great wintertime touring car, even in lousy weather.