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Acura TL

Honda/Honda

Gentlemen: I am writing to you in desperate need of your automotive wisdom. The lease on my dad's 2008 Nissan Altima coupe expires in July, and he's looking for a new set of wheels. The trouble is, he's picky; he wants a reliable, fuel-efficient, four-door luxury import that's not only fun to drive (read: fast), but also practical and spacious. He doesn't like BMWs ("everybody's got one") and the Mercs are either too small (C-Class) or too expensive (E-Class and beyond). He's looking at only two models: the Acura TL or the Hyundai Genesis sedan. His top price is $45,000. Suggestions? – Graham in Markham, Ont.

Vaughan: This one should be a slam dunk because if Daddy likes his 2008 Altima he should simply move into the new 2013 Altima. It is a brilliant car with best-in-class fuel economy, amazing safety features and just good overall classiness. However, there ain't no coupe yet.

Cato: The new Altima four-door – big, fuel-thrifty – sounds perfect for Graham. Dad? No chance. Poppy wants to live a little.

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I love the value in the Genesis, the 3.8 Premium version with its modern 333-horsepower V-6, the climate control, the leather seats, the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the rich cabin and, most of all, the multi-link suspension front and rear that, while tuned a little on the soft side, is likely perfect for a pensioner who doesn't yet need Geritol to get revved up. At $42,800 minus discounts, it fits the budget.

Vaughan: Coupes, Cato. They're great. That Altima coupe is a much better looking car than the Altima sedan and the Genesis coupe looks much better than the sedan.

Big Daddy isn't getting any younger. He should find himself another coupe if only for the sake of his image. And I have no problem with him shopping for a Genesis, but please make it the flashy little coupe not the big, boring sedan.

Cato: Sorry, you're wrong. Big Poppy could go for the Genesis Coupe GT with the 306-hp version of the sedan's V-6 – and get it for $36,490, minus discounts. But Daddy wants a sedan.

Hyundai Genesis Hyundai Hyundai

So the Genesis. Mountains of car for the money. Excellent quality, too. I know the Hyundai brand is weak compared to BMW and Mercedes, yet the Germans are off his list anyway.

Vaughan: No wonder Graham's frustrated with the old man. It's the way I feel about you. He wants a recommendation and I'm recommending a coupe. Period. As for the Acura TL sedan, Acura has to go out and fire absolutely everyone in the design department and start again.

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The other problem with Acura is that they are really spiced-up Accords. There has to be a lot more differentiation and much better looking cars, too, before I'll ring an endorsement.

Acura TL Honda Honda Honda

Cato: Graham's father can get the TL for $43,490 minus discounts. When last I checked, Acura had a $4,000 factory-to-dealer rebate on the table. Pops can get a loaded all-wheel-drive TL with a 280-hp V-6, a six-speed auto gearbox with paddle shifters and all sorts of goodies, including a killer sound system. The problem is styling.

The stylists here seem to have graduated from the Transformers School of Mechanical Arts and Design. Jerry Chenkin, Honda/Acura Canada executive vice-president, admits that Acura's "great expectations" for the TL were dashed by long-time Acura owners who completely rejected the radically styled sedan.

Vaughan: Perhaps Daddy-o should have a look at the Acura TSX. It's a rebadged Honda Accord, too, but the Accord Honda that sells in Europe. For slightly less than $38,000 – minus perhaps a $2,000 discount or more – he can pick up a stuffed TSX with a nice little 201-hp four-banger and a mountain of Technology Package goodies. Or…

Cato: Or Poppy could go for a European sedan – an Opel – wearing a Buick badge. That would be the Buick Regal, the super sporty GS version with its 270-hp turbocharged motor and so many luxury features it will make Poppy's head spin ($40,900).

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Buick Regal General Motors GM General Motors  

Vaughan: A stretch, Cato. Yes, the Regal here is the Insignia, the Opel Insignia, in Europe. Car of the Year there a couple of years back. But Cato, this one is closer in size to the C-Class from Mercedes than the Genesis from Hyundai. It might be a tight squeeze for Daddy.

Cato: I don't think so. In fact, I'm certain of this. The Regal is a sleeper and because Buick in Canada is practically invisible from a marketing perspective, almost no one knows it even exists – Buick and the Regal.

Vaughan: They know about Buick and the Regal in China. I was just there and I can tell you the roads are packed with Buicks – China is Buick's biggest market, by far. If it must be a sedan, though, the Genesis is it for me.

Cato: Regal GS. Pops will be surprised, and so will all his friends.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 Buick Regal GS2012 Acura TL AWD2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Premium sedan

Wheelbase (mm)

2,7382,7752,935

Length (mm)

4,8314,9284,985

Width (mm)

1,8571,8801,890

Track, front (mm)

1,4841,4521,480

Engine

2.0-litre four-cylinder, intercooled turbo3.7-litre V-63.8-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

270/295 lb-ft305/273 lb-ft333/291 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveAll-wheel driveRear-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manualSix-speed automaticEight-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,6861,8071,735

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

11.1 city/7.4 highway11.4 city/7.6 highway11.1 city/6.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$40,900$43,490$42,800

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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