- Attractive, high-quality interior
- Poise and responsiveness (SH-AWD)
- Nice sound system and iPod integration
- Roomy backseat and excellent ride
- Exterior detailing
- Overwhelming center-stack layout
- Sluggish automatic transmission
- Somewhat small trunk
If the bold exterior is to your liking, the 2011 Acura TL is a solid luxury value—and the SH-AWD has true sport-sedan chops.
While the 2011 Acura TL lays aim at some of the market's top sport sedans, it has very modest roots--essentially, building on the V-6 Honda Accord. That said, the TL is up to the task; it's a surprisingly well-rounded luxury sedan, with host of advanced tech features, and in top SH-AWD trim morphs into a complete and compelling sport sedan.
The TL has changed little since it was last completely redesigned, for the 2009 model year. Skinned with a high-tech but controversial look, the 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.
Acura does interiors well and the TL's cabin is nothing out of the ordinary. Circular themes wear synthetic and leather trim, and appear logical and artful.
If you're looking at the TL because you're in the market for a well-rounded luxury sedan, you'll be happy with the standard 280-horsepower 3.5-liter VTEC V-6. The Accord uses this engine, too, and also shares its 5-speed automatic gearbox.
For enthusiasts, the only choice is the TL SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive). It has some of the feel of a true rear-drive sport sedan, thanks to a variable-split all-wheel-drive system and a strong V-6 with 305 hp, on loan from the bigger Acura RL.
In addition to the automatic, you can get a manual on the TL SH-AWD. Working together with the stability control system and allocating torque not only front-to-back but left-to-right, the SH-AWD system is ideally suited to spirited driving and quick emergency maneuvers on the road. Even on rough-surfaced, rain-slicked pavement, we found the TL almost impossible to fluster.
Thanks to its Accord roots, the TL has excellent passenger space front and back, with enough space for three adults in the back seat. 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. There's only one functional disappointment: With 13.1 cubic feet of space in the trunk, the TL is a bit short of some of its competition. Build quality is typically Acura, with solid materials and close tolerances, though there aren't as many options or upgrades as you'll find at brands like BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus.
The TL's cabin also feels tight and free of wind noise, and even on the coarsest pavement surfaces we noticed very little road noise--definitely less than the M37 or Cadillac CTS. The big 19-inch wheels, however, 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.
When it comes to showcasing a wide range of high-tech features, the 2011 Acura TL is at its best. Interfacing easily with a host of personal electronics, every TL comes with 8speakers, an iPod/MP3 interface, and an infotainment system with a big, crisp display. On the most expensive TL SH-AWD model, Acura fits its latest tech, including a rearview camera, a navigation system, keyless entry, and a surround-sound ELS audio system with 440 watts of output.