While exterior styling is controversial—especially the snout—the interior feels like a home run. Neither derivative nor over-the-top, the smooth, swoopy design impresses as a smoother version of recent Acura and Honda designs, especially with respect to the instrument panel. The deep, round gauges and hooded central screen are complemented by straightforward controls below and a selection dial for screen functions that's not too low from the line of vision. And (likely thanks to its Honda Accord roots) it has excellent passenger space front and back, with enough space for three adults in the back seat and very roomy trunk. The interior was appointed with supple leather and seats with generous proportions, giving good thigh support but not quite enough lateral support for serious high-performance driving.
What's remarkable about the TL SH-AWD is how the whole package fits together for real-world driving, not just perfectly surfaced canyon roads. Sport sedans often sacrifice a lot of ride comfort and in-cabin refinement for the sake of handling and stiff suspension calibration. But the 2010 TL manages to strike just the right balance, in our opinion, for most performance-minded drivers who just want good, precise control with reasonable comfort on public roads. The TL's cabin felt tight and free of wind noise, and even on the coarsest pavement surfaces we noticed very little road noise—definitely less than the M35 or Cadillac CTS AWD.
Fuel economy ratings for the TL ring in at 18 mpg city, 26 highway, but you might be surprised to find your results in the upper end of the range. In about 400 miles of cold-weather driving—about two-thirds of it on the highway, but most of it taking advantage of the TL's engine—we averaged nearly 23 mpg, which is better than we would have seen from most other mid-size luxury sport sedans.
At $43,195 as equipped, with the Tech Package, our test car initially seemed pricey. But that includes a navigation system with live traffic, weather, and rerouting; a rearview camera; solar-sensing temperature control, keyless access, and an upgraded 440-watt Acura/ELS surround sound system.
A number of current sport sedans—including the Ford Taurus SHO, Nissan Maxima, and even the Lexus GS 350—have skipped the manual transmission entirely, but the TL is a complete and compelling sport sedan, and a lot more interesting, when you do the shifting yourself.
High Gear Media has partnered with Tesla Motors on a new writing contest where YOU can win a tour and road test of the 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport. You can submit as many articles as you like and enter multiple times. Enter now!