Test Drive #2: Acura TL SH-AWD

My shopping experience continued today when I stepped back into my comfort zone and visited my Acura dealership to drive an Acura TL. I had originally planned to hit the Infinity dealership first, but it is an hour away so it’s a bit less convenient during the week. With the Optima SX fresh in my mind I wanted to test drive another vehicle for comparison.

I had checked inventory before I left and unfortunately any and all used SH-AWD models were located at other Prime dealerships, not mine. That didn’t stop me. I told the salesman what I was looking for and asked him if I could take a 2014 out for a spin. He said that was fine and grabbed one for me literally off the curb in the front of the dealership. It still had white plastic wrapped around the hood and protective plastic all over the interior.

At Prime Acura North the salesman typically sits in the back seat and directs you around a reasonable  test drive route near the dealership. While this generally annoys me, it is the same thing I did for my TSX and I didn’t really care too much since I had no intention of purchasing the car I was driving. After explaining some of the features to me we were off on our journey.

I’ve been in a TL before so it didn’t take much time for me to get comfortable. The seat was very comfortable, had good back support, and very supportive bolsters that made me feel like I was being hugged the entire time. The exterior mirrors are tinted to reduce glare, something that drives me absolutely insane currently and still isn’t available on many cars. The only gripe that I have about the interior is that it has less storage than my TSX. I have a nice wide cubby under my stereo, 6 or 7″ wide, that I can pop papers, keys, and some other misc items into. The TL has a comical little 2×3″ “storage box” that can barely fit a business card.

As for power the TL can really kick. Acceleration is very fast and the all-wheel-drive is extremely stable. There is no torque steer and the handling is great. The TL is much heavier than my TSX but doesn’t feel that way with SH-AWD. The engine is smooth and generally quiet but has a nice growl when accelerating. I didn’t have a chance to test it on a bumpy road but the ride felt very comfortable. To top things off this thing was quiet. I was hitting 50 on back roads with a bit of wind and I barely heard it. It was much quieter than both the Optima and my TSX.

After finishing my 2014 test drive I asked if I could try out one of the used front-wheel-drive models that they had on the lot to see how the engine breaks in after a few years. The salesman brought one out and I took it along the test route. Before getting in I listened to the engine a bit. It was a bit louder than the brand new model at idle but I didn’t hear it inside the car. The car had 30k miles on it and the engine was still very smooth. Acceleration was solid but I felt torque steer and a loss of control coming as all of the power hit the wheels at the same time.

Driving the FWD TL taught me two things. It taught me the value of all-wheel-drive and the difference in driving characteristics. It also taught me that the Optima SX Turbo has a lot going for it. The SX has similar power, handling, luxury, and comfort for a lower price in a nicer looking package. Unfortunately during extended research I found tons and tons of issues with the Turbo model that ranged from multiple engine replacements within the first 20,000 miles to loss of power in cold weather to strings of issues that ended in Lemon Law lawsuits. The Optima was soooo impressive during the test drive but I’m terrified of the reliability even with a 100,000 mile warranty. The warranty is no good to me if I have to use it on a weekly basis.

By the end of my visit I hadn’t taken the full test drive that I would need to choose the TL over another car. I did start the wheels in motion. I told the salesman what I was looking for and they said that they would start looking. They asked me multiple times when if I would be ready to purchase assuming they could find the car that I wanted then followed up by asking if I was very busy this week. They also offered to bring in an Infinity G37x from their Infinity dealership so that I could try it out. They sounded pretty excited so I’m expecting I’ll get a call about something this week.

Once I do find “the car” I will still need some time with it. I’ll have to bring it home over night to really evaluate how it fits into my life. I’ll probably try to schedule it near a weekend or take a day off from work so that I can really drive it around. If I find one that I fall in love with I’ll finally start talking about money. That is never fun but regardless of how much I like the vehicle I plan to remain firm about my pricing. At this point it looks like the Optima is out simply because I feel like I’m guaranteed to have a headache at some point. That leaves two.

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