Pros: great price, all features are standard
Cons: no sports car "feel", front looks like Honda Civic
I recently shopped for a new car, and the Acura TL was on my "short list", along with the Lincoln LS, Chrysler 300M and BMW 3-series. The objective: as much performance and luxury as possible for around $30k.
In short: if $30,000 had truly been my absolute limit, I would have purchased this car. It's a great value. Now for the details.
1) Exterior styling: looks good from back and sides. Front looks too much like the Honda Civic. Nothing against the Civic, but it's a much more downscale car, so no Acura should look like it. Fit and finish are excellent.
2) Interior styling: excellent. Very Lexus-like. Loved the heater and stereo controls. Everything is is logically oriented and upscale. The wood is fake, but for $28,000, I don't think that's a crime.
3) Stereo: the five speaker, 150 watt Bose system is good. Not excellent, but good. In dash CD player is included and they even give you a special place in the dash to stash some disks.
4) Bonus: there is only one option on this car: the $2,000 navigation system. All else is standard, including leather, moonroof, automatic climate control and Bose audio with CD. That makes shopping easy: just find the color you like. Unless you really, really need a nav system, I would not get it. It takes up so much space in the dash that the normally well-designed stereo and climate controls get shrunk down to something much less attractive and ergonomic.
5) Performance: 225 hp VTEC motor is great. Brakes are soft and professional testers have found them to be inferior to most other cars in this class. Worse yet, the anti-lock system isn't well designed. Handling is good (Acura sent me a video tape where the TL keeps up with a 528i in the slalom. Don't count in it in real life, though.) I felt a lot of body roll going over the mountains, and the steering had no road feel. In a word, this car feels "isolated." From a luxury standpoint, that's great. But if you want a luxury car that feels like a sports car, proceed to the nearest BMW dealer. The Lexus GS300 has a good feel, too, but costs at least $10k more than the TL.
Bottom line: the Acura TL is the best luxury car under $30,000.