Acura TL versus Honda Accord: Two Winners

By The Car Family

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Call it a form of nepotism, but since the Acura TL is based on the Accord chassis and running gear the question that comes to mind was whether this Acura is really worth thousands of dollars more than its close relative, the Honda Accord. It didn’t take long for us to find the answer. If you need the extra leather, 30 more horsepower, larger tires, sterner suspension, and more aero styling you can rationalize the extra funds. However, if you are practical the Honda Accord is the better value.

The Facts: Resale is higher with the Accord based on Costs of operation are lower with the Accord. The Accord is quieter. The Accord has more storage room by over two cubic feet. The Accord gets better gas mileage by over two gallons per mile. The warranty for the Acura is considerably longer at four years and 60,000 miles versus the Honda’s standard three year, 36,000 mile program. The basic cost of the Acura is $34,650 loaded with the navigation system. The Accord with the same options cost $28,400. Finally, the Accord turning radius is much better taking nearly three feet lesser.

Mom’s view: The Acura is much more a driver’s car than the Honda. It has a sharp turn-in, bordering on over steering, and the large tires make a rumbling noise that is distracting at times. Perhaps the worst feature of the Acura TL is a way too large turning radius the makes mall parking more of an adventure than I would like, and a front spoiler that scrapes its nose on pretty much anything the resembles an incline.

On the other hand, the Accord is much more pedestrian, bordering on boring, and does not have the snazzy interior of the Acura or the zoom potential. As the Accord, the Acura has an available manual transmission that is fairly easy to shift rapidly. In the Accord the manual transmission yields better fuel mileage. In the Acura it means getting the most out of an engine that needs at least 4000 rpm to be taken seriously. In fact, the reason I did not like the Acura, besides the fact that it scrapes its lower lip on every driveway entrance is that if you are in the wrong gear and want acceleration, you better be prepared for a wait. However, if you are an attentive driver and attuned to the demands of this Acura it rewards you with aggressive thrust.

Where the exterior is too boy racy for me, the TL’s interior really glows, honest. The gauges are very easy to read with bright blue electroluminescent gauges with white and red trim. You also get leather upholstery. However, I did notice that the seat bottoms were getting a little lumpy in our test vehicle that only had 11,000 miles on the odometer. Storage wise, the door pockets have hard covers that make it difficult to reach items without the door open. Acura also has a trunk that isn’t really large, although it has a terrific cargo net. In fact, it’s the best we have ever tested. Another great feature was the GPS that worked well, but someone needs to understand that on the highest setting the street names all have to be there and large enough to read without your glasses.

Standard safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and BrakeAssist, as well as stability control, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants. The TL has not been crash tested, but Acura is predicting a five-star sweep of government front- and side-impact tests, and a top rating in IIHS frontal offset crash testing.

If you have reached the conclusion that this Acura was not my favorite you are correct. For the price there are better handling entry-level luxury sedans for those who put the emphasis on luxury.

Young working woman’s view: The trunk is smallish with a small deck opening, hinges that take up space, and only a ski pass through opening instead of the rear seat fold downs on the Accord. Storage space inside is adequate, and the seats comfortable. In other words, this Acura is not really a family oriented vehicle and does not pretend to be one.

The best part of the TL is the design of the interior. It quickly dispels any lineage to the Honda Accord. The gauges are easy to read and the leather first rate. The navigation system is more complicated than necessary. Honda has the best system in the business, but in the Acura the engineers have decided that more is better and so make yourself familiar with this option before journeying from the dealer’s lot. It is interesting to note how different you feel when sitting in the Acura TL as opposed to the Honda Accord. The Honda feels open and the Acura cozy and much more formal. Getting into the backseat isn’t a problem, but the rear seats are not all that comfortable.

There is no question that Acura has loaded the TL with a lot of standard features. All TLs come with ABS, 17-inch wheels, ABS, front and side curtain airbags, leather interior, heated front seats, sunroof. satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, high-intensity discharge headlights, a 10-way power driver seat and a four-way power front-passenger seat, telescoping steering wheel, a 225-watt surround-sound audio system that can play both CDs and DVD discs, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone capabilities, steering-wheel audio controls; one-touch front windows, and the stick shift cars get even better disc brakes.

So, for the extra thousands you pay over the price of the Accord you are getting a significant amount of goodies. But, despite the spiffy interior, more potent powerplant, tight suspension, and more youthful appearance, the Honda Accord is my choice. It does the job well, gets superior gas mileage, has superior resale, and is more comfortable to drive on roads that have seen the anger of mother nature.

Dad’s view: Although I like the Accord a great deal the one that I like the most is the stick shift equipped four cylinder model because it is thrifty to operate and a lot of fun to drive at the edge because it doesn’t take long to reach its limits. The Acura is much more serious. The tires, P235/45WR17, are significantly better than the Honda’s P205/60R16 even though I find the Acura has too much tire for normal driving and they generate a constant and, should I say, tiring sound over roughened roads. I also dislike the suspension settings on the Acura. Yes, they certainly make it handle well, but the low profile tires on winter-tortured roads become a source of irritation despite the fairly well isolated cabin.

Knowing the Acura is going to appeal to a more spirited driver, the manufacture is offering a more diverse range of options. You can order everything from sterner shocks, stronger springs, to exterior styling add-ons.

Statistically, the Acura TL has a 3.2-liter, 24 valve, single overhead cam engine that produces 270 horsepower at a very high 6200 rpm. Torque is 238 ft-lbs. @ 5000 rpm making this engine a good candidate for supercharging. The average sized gas tank and above average gas mileage makes 600 KL trips possible on premium unleaded.

Acceleration is brisk after you reach 4000 rpm and you can probably get to 100 KL in less than seven seconds with the automatic transmission. The steering is sensitive and if you have the wheel turned for a tight corner and hit the accelerator you are going to get a dose of torque-steer. Stopping power is excellent.

Young college going male’s view: Maybe I missed something, but this new Acura simply did not impress me for the money. I found steering that was overzealous, tires that were too much for the chassis, and a lot of road noise. Yes, you get 270 horsepower, but you have to wait for the engine to reach over 4000 rpm to get serious. This would not be as much of a problem with the stick shift, but the smooth five speed automatic transmission dulls the edge of this high revving V6. There are other features I found that grew tiresome such as way too low for everyday driving front spoiler, the lack of storage space, a trunk that only holds 12.5 cubic feet, and a driver’s computer that is downright difficult to use with the button hidden behind the steering wheel.

Certainly, it looks keen, but unless you live in an area of smooth roads and don’t care to haul anything to large, look at the Infiniti G35, the Cadillac CTS, the BMW 3 Series, or the Lexus ES. As for comparing the Acura to the Honda Accord, its not even close with the TL being much more enjoyable to drive. If you don’t mind an over abundance of torque steer, the Nissan Maxima is a fast ride.

Decision: Unless you get the manual transmission the Acura’s engine makes most of its power beyond 6000 rpm and without the manual trans to keep those revs up the car is not nearly as fun to drive. What we are saying is that the Acura is a sporty car with very little competition. So if going fast, fighting corners, and looking good is your thing the TL should be on your shopping list right next to the Infiniti G. The Honda Accord is more versatile, less spry, and more generic in appearance. You can hardly make a mistake considering either sedan seriously, but you need to test both the manual and automatic to best see which one best serves your desires. For a list of all automobile manufacture websites go to and click on business.