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Microreview: Acura TL Worthy of Attention it Seeks

What it is: A mid-priced sports sedan from Honda’s luxury division.

Base prices range from $35,605 to $39,155.

Mileage ranges from 17 miles per gallon in the city to 29 miles per gallon on the highway.

What’s worth knowing: Acura has struggled for attention in a luxury segment crowded with sharp offerings. The TL sits in the middle of Acura’s lineup, priced above the TSX and below the RL. If you’re not familiar with it, well, that’s part of Acura’s problem.

Who it’s for : Affluent drivers who appreciate Honda’s terrific engineering.

What’s good : The TL shines on the pavement, with a 280-horsepower V-6 engine that outruns many competitors and handling that’s a nice compromise between comfortable and sporty. The base model is front-wheel drive, but motoring purists can upgrade to the all-wheel drive SH-AWD model, which includes a 305-horsepower V-6 and is one of the racier cars within range of $40,000. The TL comes with leather upholstery and all the basic trappings of a luxury car. Average mileage of 23 MPG for the base model is reasonably good for a powerful sedan.

What’s bad : The dash can get cluttered, especially with the optional technology package. Some reviewers find the angular, protruding nose to be off-putting, even though Acura reined it in a bit for the 2012 model year.

How it stacks up: The TL is a strong all-around vehicle with excellent acceleration, but other cars have an edge in one category or another. The BMW 3 series is more feathery on curves. The Audi A4 is more dashing. The Infiniti G series comes with rear-wheel drive, for slightly surer handling at a lower starting price. The Cadillac CTS is more showy.

What to do if you want one : Pay attention to what reviewers say, but don’t worry about the beaky styling or minor performance gradations if they don’t bother you. The TL is a satisfying car from one of the most reliable automakers.

Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He covers corporate and consumer trends from the magazine's New York bureau. Rick is also the magazine's car reviewer and writer his "micro-reviews" here on a regular basis.

Follow Rick on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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