Review: 2009 Acura TL
What’s New: Besides fresh styling and greater dimensions, the 2009 Acura TL luxury sport sedan features a choice of V-6 engines pushing up to 305 horsepower, a feature-laden Technology Package, a new SH-AWD all-wheel drive model, and a base price of about $34,000. The Type-S and manual transmission have been dropped.
What We Think: The 2009 TL proves once again that Acura knows how to build an entertaining daily driver, one that makes you think you drove home a bargain. Reflecting an effort to dial up the sport factor, the new SH-AWD delivers overall, but lacks the visceral connection offered by the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G35.
Overview: 2009 Acura TL
Change can be a scary proposition. Whether looking to take a business in a new direction, visit a doctor that will transform Dan into Danielle, or even elect the next leader of the free world, the outcome is, at best, an educated guess. But, to move forward and progress, change is a necessity, and with the debut of the 2009 TL, Acura is one company that has demonstrated its clear understanding of this concept.
Until now, the TL sport sedan has been Acura’s best-selling model, using an attractive design, fuel-efficient powertrain, quality materials, and desirable features to lure in tens of thousands of car buyers who wanted the reliability of a Honda Accord in a more luxurious package. The TL has long fit that bill, and even brought some enthusiasts into the fray with the sportier, more aggressive Type-S variant. However, like the rest of us, cars, regardless of how successful they may be, can’t rest on their laurels forever, and thus we have the all-new 2009 Acura TL.
The fourth-generation TL scraps the safe approach to style and races onto the streets with greater exterior dimensions, a wider track for improved stability, a bit more interior room, a more powerful base engine, and, oh yeah, a 305-horsepower all-wheel-drive model firmly attempts to stamp the notion of Acura performance into the populace’s vernacular.
For the most part, the TL meets the challenge, delivering an enjoyable driving experience, admirable performance from its new star, the SH-AWD model, and as is the Acura way, packing all but a select few of the most sought-after features into the base price, which is estimated to be about $34,000. Yes, the TL has changed, but in this case, the outcome is a good one.
The base 2009 TL goes on sale in late September, while the TL SH-AWD will hit lots in November.
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Models, Pricing & Equipment
Acura sells the 2009 TL in two versions, starting with the base model that’ll run you about $34,000. In exchange for the hefty chunk of coin, your front-wheel-drive premium/luxury sedan will arrive with all of the standard features you’d expect, and even a few surprises tossed in for good measure. Among them are 17-inch alloy wheels; a leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel; leather-upholstery; and a memory function tied to the driver’s 10-way power seat as well as the mirrors and the dual-zone climate control system. To top things off, there’s a wide-opening moonroof and an impressive 276-watt sound system complete with XM satellite service, Bluetooth audio, an auxiliary jack, and a handy USB port. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 engine that cranks out 280 horsepower and 254 lb.-ft. of torque paired with a standard five-speed automatic transmission featuring a sport mode and paddle shifters. The EPA suggests drivers will see 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
If you find the base TL appealing but live in a foul-weather state or want a bit more muscle packed beneath the aluminum hood, check out the new SH-AWD model. Using the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system first offered on the 2005 RL, this sporty and capable version of the brand’s best-selling sedan is aimed at lassoing enthusiasts, regardless of whether they’re tackling curves or snow drifts. The technology splits torque between the front and rear wheels as well as between each of the rear wheels, and is capable of overpowering the outside rear wheel to help push the TL through turns. In this application, SH-AWD is complemented by Acura’s most powerful production engine ever: A 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 that generates 305 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque paired with the base TL’s five-speed automatic gearbox. Though it shares a cold-air intake system with the smaller 3.5-liter unit, this bigger six-banger adds a dual-stage induction system and advanced VTEC that works with intake and exhaust valves (regular VTEC only applies to the intake valves). EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Other enhancements include front brake ducts, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a high-flow exhaust system. The rest of the SH-AWD’s equipment list mirrors that of the base 2009 TL except for sport seats and a thicker steering wheel.
Acura hasn’t released exact pricing for the TL SH-AWD, yet suggests that $42,000 will put a fully-loaded model in your driveway, which means you’ll be getting the Technology Package. Available on all TLs, this content bundle ups the ante with a 440-watt ELS sound system with a hard drive and DVD audio; a Keyless Access system with push-button ignition; Milano leather; optional 19-inch alloys for the SH-AWD; and a high-resolution navigation system boasting a rearview camera, real-time weather and traffic with a rerouting feature, and much more.
Though specially tuned for the SH-AWD variant, most of the mechanical bits are common to all TLs, such as four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a double wishbone front suspension that collaborates with a multi-link rear suspension, and a new electric power steering system. Compared to the outgoing model, the 2009 TL is six inches longer, almost two inches wider, and about 100 pounds heavier overall in front-wheel drive form; the SH-AWD is about 300 pounds heavier than the 2008 model.