Review: 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD

Acura's mid-priced, all-wheel-drive sedan proves to be a formidable foe in a somewhat crowded marketplace. Photo: Duane Pemberton

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 12, 2013  — Performance sedans have always been a fun market to watch, as there are many of us who love these kinds of cars. They typically offer the kinds of horsepower, handling and finesse many car aficionados crave.

This 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD has many of these admirable traits and also ups the ante with its optional six-speed manual transmission. It’s a mid-sized sedan, powered by a 3.7-Liter V6, which produces 305 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Mated with the manual transmission, toss in all-wheel-drive and it all adds up to a very fun driving experience.  There is a standard, 6-speed automatic transmission available with paddle shifters but the SH-AWD gives you the option of a standard tranny – highly recommended. If you opt for the front-wheel drive TL model, you’ll have the 3.5-Liter with only an Automatic transmission available. Consequently, that also drops the horsepower to 280 and the torque to 254 lb-ft.

While it doesn’t quite pack the horsepower that the rival Infiniti G35 has, its six-speed manual makes it a ton of fun to drive. It clocks zero to sixty at just under the six-second mark (*Edmunds results).

The EPA rates this car at 17 in the city, 25 on the highway with a combined average of 20 miles per gallon. Clearly it won’t be setting any records in that department; however, consumers who are shopping for this kind of vehicle are more concerned with the car’s other benefits.

External features on the SH-AWD model include 18” wheels as well as the standard issue HID headlights, and a power moon roof. There are optional 19” wheels you can upgrade to for an additional $2,360 dollars.

Acura has done a good job with the interior and its balance of tech, good materials and usability. Perforated leather seats have the option of being heated or ventilated. There are ample cup holders and some added conveniences in more complex technologies.  As in all of its current cars, the middle of the dash has the main control knob used to navigate the multi-media system and on-board navigation. Fortunately, it’s an easy device to get the hang of in relatively short order.


SEE RELATED: Review: 2013 Land Rover LR4


As far as driver features go, there are blind-spot indicators, selectable traction control and voice-activated controls of the navigation, audio, Bluetooth telephony and air conditioning.

Its audio system uses 10 speakers and features a 60GB hard drive that allows you to “rip” your music from a flash drive, CD or phone into the system. There is support for Bluetooth audio, satellite radio, AM/FM and of course CD playback. Overall sound quality of the stereo is good, not great; however, it should sound fine enough for most driver and passenger audiences. It would be nice if Acura switched to an Infinity sound system as seen the latest KIA automobiles. That system is easily the best out there.

Perhaps the best thing about this model from Acura is simply how much fun it is to drive. The manual transmission really helps the motor “come alive” and adds a sense of sportiness to the overall driving experience that few sedans in this class can achieve.

Cornering and overall handling are very good, save for a bit of understeer. Its all-wheel drive system could be a breath of fresh air for those who live in wet climates, such as the Seattle area. Even if you don’t live in a damp area, the added traction is a huge benefit – not to mention its ability to drive well through the snow.

A big part of the reason this car handles as well as it does is because its all-wheel-drive system will appropriately shift power, as needed, between the front and rear axles as well as from side to side. The net result is a car that’s extremely nimble and feels very “light on its feet.”

Priced at $44k, it’s definitely on the upper price scale over the likes of its cousin, the Honda Accord. But Acura has priced it very competitively to the G-series from Infiniti, and the ES series from Lexus. There’s little question that compared it to those, and with a manual transmission that shifts very smoothly, the driver of the TL SH-AWD should find it to be right on the money.

Website: www.acura.com


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Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a food and wine writer who is also the owner of WineFoot.com. Pemberton is also a well read automobile reviewer and critic, all of which incorporates into his travel, wine and food reviews.

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