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2009 Acura TL SH-AWD Review

2009 Acura TL AWD (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Acura TL AWD

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Model: 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD
Engine: 3.7-liter SOHC V6
Horsepower/Torque: 305 hp @ 6200 rpm/273 lb.-ft. @ 5000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length/Width/Height: 195.3 x 74.0 x 57.2 in.
Tires: P245/40ZR19
Cargo volume: 13.1 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/17.9 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.
Sticker: $43,995 (includes destination charge of $760)

The Bottom Line: As Acura’s top-of-the-line sporty sedan, the TL SH-AWD fills the bill. It has excellent road manners, yet begs to be driven hard, both with the transmission in full automatic or using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Yet, under normal driving conditions, the engine is quiet and the road manners impeccable.

Acura suffers from an identity crisis. If memory serves me correctly, Acura was the first of the upscale Japanese luxury brands, yet this offshoot of Honda hasn’t held the cachet that Lexus and Infiniti have. Acura cars are in general well built and sporty, but there’s that certain something that seems to be missing.

No worry, because Acura vehicles have always been of high quality and the sporty ones have usually been fun to drive.

The subject of this examination is the TL sedan in SH-AWD form. A bit about nomenclature. TL is Acura’s sportiest sedan. SH means Super Handling; AWD means all-wheel drive.

According to Acura, during spirited cornering, SH-AWD seamlessly distributes more torque to the outside rear wheel to create a "yaw moment" to help the TL turn in more quickly and precisely - while also continuously apportioning drivetrain torque front to rear and left to right.

The all-wheel drive contributes immeasurably to the TL’s excellent road manners. The SH is what makes the TL a sedan that begs to be driven hard. I noticed the first time I drove the TL for any extended length of time that I felt I was driving hard and enjoying it. I had the transmission in full automatic mode this time.

Later I made use of the sequential SportShift with the Formula 1-style steering-wheel mounted pa ddle shifters. This time I drove aggressively over a nice section of road and had a ball. The exhaust note was a bit sportier as well, contributing to the fun.

I noticed in all this that the speedometer was rarely above the legal limit; but the fun I was having was. In a sense the TL reminded me of my old sports car days, with an underpowered car making up for the lack of power with excellent handling. This time, the TL had more than enough power, with 305 horsepower coming from a single overhead cam V6 under the hood.

This fourth-generation TL is larger than the previous generation, which improves passenger comfort. The new TL is 6.0 inches longer, 1.8 inches wider and 0.5 inch taller, all from a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase. This allows for greater interior roominess, including a realistic back seat with decent leg and knee room.

The front seats were quite comfortable with excellent side support, adding to the sporty flavor of the TL. In our20tester they were dark brown leather, leading to a family dispute. I liked the “Umber Ebony” leather, while my wife didn’t. The driver’s seat was 10-way power adjustable, while the passenger only had eight ways of power adjustment. Both were heated.

As with most luxury cars these days, there was keyless entry and a pushbutton start and stop for the engine. A feature I liked with the TL was the addition of a slot under the start/stop button where you can place the key. Therefore, when you shut the engine off, the key is right there and you won’t forget it.

The audio and navigation system were very good. The nav system itself was intuitive and easy to use. It got me to a photo shoot eventually, after directing me to an extension of the same road I wanted, but in another town. It also got me back home from two different locations.

Included with the nav=2 0system is a back-up camera that has lane markings and distance markings, so I could park as close tgo (or far away from) my garage door as I wanted as I backed into the driveway.

I found the trunk to be one golf bag size (listed as 13.1 cubic feet), and not particularly useful. In addition, the rear seat backs did not fold, or if they did I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

The TL has a smart steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth hands-free links and Multi Information Display controls.

While Acura as a brand may not have the reputation of Lexus and Infiniti as a luxury car maker, its vehicles are luxury in every sense of the word. And in the case of the Tl, it’s sporty as well, making for a pleasant and exciting driving experience.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate

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