What a whirlwind few weeks it has been. After narrowing down my list of potential cars, figuring out a budget, researching, searching, test driving, and researching some more, I’ve finally found the one. To recap, I was in the market for something with more power than my TSX, more amenities, fewer miles, and possibly all-wheel drive. I considered the Kia Optima Turbo, the Infinity G37x, and the Acura TL SH-AWD.
The Optima was impressive but its turbo engines have more problems than cruise ships lately so it unfortunately fell off my list early. I drove a TL at my local Acura dealership and I liked it, but I was only able to take it for a short drive around their “test drive” route – back roads, no highway, and no traffic. They didn’t have a used TL that met my criteria so I didn’t have the chance to take it home for on a real drive, leaving me with half an opinion. I still needed to try out a G37x and made the decision to do that this past weekend. While the G37 is a great car, I decided that a TL is a better fit.
Once I decided on a TL, it was time to start seriously looking. My ultimate TL is a 2012 SH-AWD with the Advance package and Umber interior. The Advance package gives me the ventilated seats and blind spot monitoring system that I want and the Umber interior is the beautiful orange/brown leather that I’ve always liked. Finding that combination is a pretty tall order so I was ready to sacrifice Umber and the Advance package if had to. That would leave me with the Technology package that includes the nav, kick-ass stereo, premium leather, backup camera, GPS-linked solar sensing climate control, push-button start with smart key, and voice recognition. I would not compromise on the year; it had to be a 2012 due to the improved fuel economy of the six-speed automatic transmission, the cleaner lines on the nip-tucked front and back, and the improved noise isolation in the cabin.
When I started looking about six weeks ago I had actually found my perfect TL at Merchant’s Auto in Hookset. It was a 2012 SH-AWD with 37k miles in black with the Advance package and the Umber interior. It was a bit higher than my price range and I still had more research to do so I bookmarked it and revisited it occasionally online. I decided to take another peek on Sunday to see if it was still available online. To my surprise it was still listed and the dealer had dropped $1,500 off of the price that evening. I made an appointment and headed over to Hannover for a test drive on Monday after work.
I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had never been to Merchant’s and didn’t know anything about them. I had a good experience with my Acura dealership and felt comforted by the idea of certified vehicles and Acura service. I had no idea how this TL had been treated so I went in extremely skeptical. The salesman that I met was very friendly and answered all of my questions well and seemed genuine. I inspected the car thoroughly, listened to the engine, felt the leather, looked at the windshield for nicks, and checked for rust and fluid leakage before taking a test drive.
Our test drive included some city maneuvering through lights, a hop on and off the highway, and a cruise by Southern New Hampshire University. Overall I came away very impressed. The TL drives like a dream. It has powerful acceleration, solid handling, and doesn’t feel as large as it actually is. It has a bit of refined engine roar when accelerating but quiets down considerably afterwards. It is by far the quietest vehicle I drove, beating my TSX, the Optima, and the G37. While the G37 has the same size interior in cubic feet, the TL feels much more roomy, especially around the knees and arms, and it has such a comfortable driver’s seat with extremely comfortable side bolsters that hug your body. The Umber leather is absolutely beautiful and stands out in a sea of black interiors.
I made sure to test out some of the tech features as well and I was impressed. The nav does not have a touch screen or fancy graphics like the G37 but it displays a map and provides some visual interest while driving. The blind spot monitors work as expected, illuminating amber on either the driver or passenger side of the car whenever a car is on that side. The ventilated seats provide a nice cool breeze while cruising down the freeway. The audio system of course, is amazing. Great bass, crisp treble, and a good iPod interface.
After a successful test drive I decided to express my interest and talk money. Negotiation went rather easily. They offered me exactly what I wanted to get minimum for my TSX and let me talk them up $500. Based on the work that it needs I made out well. There is nothing mechanically wrong but it needs a few mid-life maintenance items – new tires all around, resurfaced rotors, and new brake pads. It also has a ding on the hood that needs fixed and scratch that need painted before it can be sold. I’m sure I could get more for it privately but I don’t want the hassle of trying to sell it.
As for the rest of the car I got a reasonable price. It had been on the lot for two months so they were eager to move it. All in all it was priced a bit lower than similar TLs and it was the only Umber Advanced SH-AWD combination that I had seen online. I would have been willing to pay a little more for it due to its rarity. I put enough down to get monthly payments similar to what I pay for my TSX. I was also able to score 1.74% financing, which is quite a bit better than the 3.5% I had on my TSX.
I didn’t have my checkbook so I couldn’t purchase it on Monday and I didn’t want to. I wanted to give myself some time to really think it over and make sure I was comfortable with it since it wasn’t certified and wasn’t from an Acura dealer. It still has 13k miles of Acura bumper-to-bumper warranty left and 33k miles of Acura power train which gives me peace of mind, but I needed some additional time to make sure.
I decided to wait until Friday to take a longer test drive just to be sure. I drove to Hookset for 8:30 and brought the car back to Dover to evaluate it during the trip, drive it down town, park it in the garage, etc. The long ride back mixed with some local driving convinced me that it was the one. I headed back to Hookset, signed all of the paperwork, transferred the insurance, and drove my new ride back home by 5:30.
The new car has been quite a journey this time around. I’ve done far more research than I ever have before and as a result I am extremely confident that this car will make me happy for a long while. There really isn’t anything else out there that fits my needs. After spending the day with it I’m already getting attached to some of the features (smart key, audio system, nav, performance) and I’ve already gone through and fiddled with all of the settings and customized it. I still have to put all of my other stuff back into it and add the car seats. Once that is done we’ll be ready for a day of cruising!
Pics of My New Ride