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2013 Acura TL Special Edition: Another choice for the discriminating buyer

by: HONDA MOTOR COMPANY - Acura TL Special Edition adds unique wheels, spoiler and interor trim.The 2013 Acura TL is special. The Acura TL Special Edition? Let me get back to you on that.

Since it first debuted in 1995, the Acura TL has been a reasonably-priced alternative to more expensive foreign luxury sport sedans. Styling and performance has improved with every generation. The current model, the fourth generation, first appeared in 2009.

For the following three years, it came in two versions — the base front-wheel-drive version powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and the even sportier Super Handling All-Wheel Drive version with a more powerful 3.7 liter V6. Both come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. And both could also be equipped with a Technology Package that includes such desirable features as a navigation system and rear view camera.

With competition heating up in all automotive classes, you'd think Acura would have redesigned the TL in 2013. After all, small turbocharged inline four cylinder engines are becoming more and more common. Instead, Acura added a slightly different version to the lineup in 2013, the TL Special Edition. It is a front-wheel-drive version with the 3.5-liter V6 priced above the base model but below the base model with the Technology Package. Exclusive colors include Bellanova pearly white, crystal black pearl, graphite metallic and bright moon silver metallic colors. The interior is comfortably equipped with Ebony leather seats, two zone automatic climate control, and an upgraded 276 watt audio system. Exterior touches include unique 10-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels, a body-colored rear spoiler and Special Edition badging.

But here's the catch — the Special Edition is priced below the base model with the Technology Package because that option's not included. In other words, buyers can choose an arguably better looking and slightly more luxurious TL that lacks two features that are rapidly becoming standard on luxury cars of all kinds.

Regardless of how it's equipped, the front-wheel-drive Acura TL is a delight to drive. The 289-horsepower engine is responsive, the six-speed automatic transmission is smooth, the steering is precise, and the ride is firm without being harsh. Whether tooling around town or cruising town the freeway, the TL is constantly engaging.

Inside, the TL is a fairly roomy midsize car. That's not always the case these days, as the design of some midsize cars restrict head and shoulder room, making them feel more like compacts. But, thanks to the very adjustable front driver's seat, the TL has plenty and shoulder and head room, even with the power glass sunroof. The interior materials in our test Special Edition were a mix of fine leathers, high quality plastics and metal trim, including simulated metal mesh that look, well, like real metal mesh. The only odd note was an area of wood grain trim around the shift level. It hardly seemed worth the effort.

Despite lacking the Technology Package, our test car was still well equipped with a wide range of convenience, entertainment and safety options, including push button ignition, 276-watt audio system, and dual-zone, dual-mode automatic climate control system with automatic humidity control are also standard. The 2013 TL Special Edition comes well-equipped with standard technology features including a Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® wireless telephone interface, USB port connectivity, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, multiple airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The Acura TL competes against such midsize sport sedans as the Lexus ES 350, Volvo S60 and Audi 4 and BMW 3 series. Although not the newest of the lot, it is still a well made car that undercuts some rivals in price — and a good performer in full SH-AWD mode. While we're not sure the Special Edition is all that special, at least it gives potential buyers another reason to check it out.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2013 TL Special Edition.

• Manufacturer: Acura.

• Class: Midsize sport sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, front and all-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Four-door car.

• Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (289 hp, 254 lb-ft); 3.7-liter V6 (305 hp, 275 ft-lbs).

• Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 20/29/23 (3.5/FWD); 18/26/21 (3.7/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $36,000 (approximately $38,000).