- Head-turning style
- Athletic prowess
- Excellent iPod interface, top-notch stereo
- Characteristic Acura-quality touch, feel, and operation
- Head-turning style
- Thick pillars often mean poor outward visibility
- Confusing morass of buttons in center stack
- Sluggish automatic transmission
Boldly styled and laden with high-tech features, the 2010 Acura TL is a solid value, though enthusiasts might find its overall ability lacking.
Expert reviewers at TheCarConnection.com consulted what the most authoritative auto critics have written about the new Acura TL to produce this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com editors also drove the TL in order to interweave our expert opinion and help you make the right decision on a new vehicle.
Designed from scratch for the 2009 model year, the Acura TL carries over with just a few changes for 2010, though the addition of an optional manual transmission offers one major change.
Skinned with a high-tech but controversial look, the 2010 Acura TL is, for many, a love-it-or-leave-it design. Still, heads swivel when the TL drives by. The more restrained mid-lux sedan owner may roll their eyes at its seemingly robot-inspired sheetmetal, but younger or more adventurous buyers will consider it refreshing. Technophiles will find the TL's collection of digital creases and prominent prow a welcome change from the organic designs of competing sedans. On the inside, there's much less controversy and more to like. Gentle arcs and circles predominate, beautifully melding leather and synthetic, analog and digital in an artful yet logical way that is uniquely Acura. Unfortunately, Acura chooses the cold, harsh light of white/blue LEDs for the TL's overhead illumination.
The standard TL uses a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 that's also under the hood of the Honda Accord to propel the front wheels. Step up to the TL SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), and you'll get the 305-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 from the RL sedan juicing all four wheels through Acura's capable system that removes any threat of torque steer, displays how its distributing power in the instrument cluster, and almost gives the TL the feel of a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan-as long as you're heavy on the gas. Last year's standard five-speed automatic transmission was joined in late 2009 by an optional six-speed manual. The automatic, though smooth and responsive enough in sedate driving, is a cog short of its competition and responds too slowly in aggressive driving. Both engines are smooth, sweet-sounding, and responsive, but short travel and hair-trigger responses make the accelerator pedal annoying to use.
Both on paper and in hard driving, the TL is a serious player in the luxury sport sedan segment, though it has its shortcomings. Its Honda Accord underpinnings give the 2010 TL generous room front and rear, but such heritage means that even equipped with Acura's Super Handling all-wheel drive, it's front-heavy and not up to the performance par set by its rear-wheel-drive competitors.
Excellent grip and strong acceleration are hallmarks of the SH-AWD model in particular. Powerful brakes slow the 4,000-pound car handily and with confidence. Despite these good traits, when driven tamely in traffic, the TL, including the SH-AWD, feels more like the front-heavy and sensible sedan it is. Big 19-inch wheels also give the SH-AWD a particularly rough ride over irregular surfaces, a problem not evidenced in the base model, which is more comfortable for most purposes.
Cabin space is good, and passenger room front and rear are both ample, with comfortable, supportive seats at all positions. With 13.1 cubic feet of space in the trunk, the 2010 Acura TL is a bit short of some of its competition, but still ahead of the previous-generation TL. Build quality is typically Acura, with solid materials and close tolerances, though there aren't as many options or upgrades available as you'll find at brands like BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus.
When it comes to showcasing a wide range of high-tech features, the 2010 Acura TL is at its best. Interfacing easily with a host of personal electronics, even the base 2010 TL features a standard USB iPod/MP3 interface, an eight-speaker audio system, and a crisp, high-resolution center-mounted display for controlling the infotainment system. The circular controller is as user-friendly as an Apple device, and sound quality is good in base form, thunderous with the 10-speaker optional upgrade. Despite the ease of use, all this gadgetry does necessitate a fair number of buttons, particularly on the steering wheel, meaning the owner's manual may be your best friend for the first few weeks. Once you're familiar with the controls, audio, navigation, Bluetooth hands-free phone operation, and voice commands are all at your fingertips.
The center stack's intuitive click-and-turn interface controls the optional nav system, and an optional voice recognition system makes it even easier to find and input your itinerary. AcuraLink Real-Time traffic and weather functions are built into the nav system, and you can even access Zagat reviews on the fly. The Technology Package unleashes your inner geek, with a climate control system that tracks the sun's position and intensity, dynamically adjusting each side of the TL's cabin to optimize comfort.
The 2010 Acura TL is firmly at the front of the class in crash testing, securing five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in frontal and side impact performance for both driver and passenger and earning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick designation by virtue of its excellent performance in front, side, and rear crash tests, plus its standard electronic stability control. Acura equips all TLs with a full complement of six airbags.