2013 Acura TL vs. 2013 Acura TSX

By Teddy Field

Prior to 1986, most people thought that a luxury car was supposed to be fussy and unreliable. Then Honda’s Acura brand hit the scene, and the luxury game started to change. For the next 20 years, Acura would enjoy a top position in the American luxury car game. Their cars were luxurious, reliable, and classy. Thanks to the tech boom of the 1990’s, a passel of newly-affluent customers found their way to Honda’s luxury brand. And they loved Acura’s blend of sensible luxury, and button-crazy technology.

Somewhere along the way, Acura’s design team developed an affinity for psychedelics. After brewing a pot of their ‘special tea’, they’d set to work on Honda’s next luxury car. And year after year, their car designs grew more…spacey.Okay, maybe that’s not true. But how else do you explain the Acura ZDX, or that massive chrome…beak?

For 2013, Acura put their design team in rehab, and one of the steps to recovery is to right their past mistakes. To that end, they further down-toned the beak-grille, and tried to simplify their exterior styling. So let’s look at two of their top sellers and see how they’ve done.

2013 Acura TL

2013 Acura TL

The current generation Acura TL was never a bad car. It was just (badly) beaten with ugly stick. To amend their mistakes, Acura’s design team gave the 2013 Acura TL new headlights, a more aerodynamic front bumper, and a redesigned lower front fascia. According to Acura’s head designer Damon Schell, the 2009 Acura TL’s design “was a lot about passion, with the 2013 TL, we pushed for an increased level of sophistication”. In other words, they sobered up and realized that they’d given their best seller a chromed Big Bird nose. Alphabet sing-a-long anyone?

The oddity continues on the interior, where buttons of all shapes and sizes line the well-made cabin. There’s 8 buttons, and 4 rocker switches on the front of the steering wheel. Sure, that doesn’t sound like many, but that’s just the f-r-o-n-t of the steering wheel. The center stack has 33 buttons, 6 rocker switches, and 2 multi-function knobs! And we’re not even going to try and count all the rest of the interior switchgear. Hit the lights, and your interior looks like the Las Vegas strip at 2am. It is mesmerizingly confusing at first, but surprisingly, you do get use to it. Plus, all the little storage cubbies hidden throughout the cabin, do come in handy. Until you can’t remember which one you used to stash whatever it is you can’t find.

The 2013 Acura TL is a conflicted car. On the one hand, it’s brilliant to drive. The (electric) steering is crisp, and directional changes happen immediately. The frame rails are tucked inside the floor for better aerodynamics, and the shocks have a dual stage blow-off valve to help keep the car level in a turn. You can hustle the big Acura through turns even faster, by stepping up to the Super-Handling All Wheel Drive. This setup can send additional torque to the outside rear wheel, causing the car to sort of push itself through a turn. BMW X-Drive be damned, this AWD system rocks.

Under the hood, a standard 280-hp 3.5 liter V6 (20/29/23) provides plenty of front-tire smokin’ motivation. Opting for the SH-AWD system nets you the larger 3.7 liter V6 (18/26/21-AT / 17/25/20-6MT), with 305-hp & 273 ft-lb. The 6-speed manual model also gets stiffer springs and shocks, bigger stabilizer bars, along with more aggressive steering calibration, and brake actuation. In other words; the 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT the spiritual successor to the TL Type-S (why didn’t they just call it that?).

On the other hand, the 2013 Acura TL still looks…a little too different. And the Acura name doesn’t carry the panache that it once did. Which is a shame, because the 2013 Acura TL is every bit a competitor to the BMW 3-Series & Audi A4.

2013 Acura TSX

2013 Acura TSX SE Interior

Entry level luxury cars are all about image. They tell the world that you’re doing well, and the accoutrements make your commute to that high-paying job a lot more pleasant.

Once upon a time, Acura had a performance-oriented reputation. Cars like the Acura Integra were made to bomb down a country lane, on the way to pick the kids up from school. You could rev the heck out of its DOHC engine, and the suspension clung to curves like a cat on carpet. The Integra was made for interesting people, much like the 2013 Acura TSX.

2013 Acura TSX Sedan

Designed to appeal to well-heeled guys in their late 20’s-late 30’s, the 2013 Acura TSX is every bit the eager performer that the Integra was. The standard 2.4 liter DOHC i-VTEC engine has a factory-installed cold air induction system, and makes 201-hp at a screaming 7,000 rpm. The 6-speed manual helps to make the most of this engine, but a paddle shifted 5-speed automatic is also available. Expect gas mileage numbers of 22 city / 31 hwy / 26 combined with the automatic, and 21 city / 29 hwy / 24 combined with the 6-speed manual.

2013 TSX Sport Wagon

For even more grunt, the 3.5 liter V6 uses a dual-stage magnesium intake to increase low-end torque, and makes a healthy 280-hp (19/28/23). A more utilitarian version called the 2013 Acura TSX Sport Wagon is also available, and features the direct injected 2.4L as its sole engine.

Car Model Comparison

SPECIFICATION2013 Acura TL2013 Acura TSX
Price$35,905$30,510
Fuel Economy20/29/23 3.5L / AT22/31/26 2.4L / AT
18/26/21 3.7L / AT / AWD21/29/24 2.4L / MT
17/25/20 3.7L / MT / AWD19/28/23 3.5L / AT
Suburban Snob Factor3 / 10 Camrys7 / 10 Camrys
IIHS RankingTop Safety Pick = YTop Safety Pick = Y
Why Buy It?If you’re a big Sesame Street fan, and you like to go fast, then this is the car for you.If you like to have fun behind the wheel, and you don’t give a rat’s behind about the cul-de sac’s opinion of your ride, then crank up the Pearl Jam and let’s go for a ride!