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. Also found in the Accord, the engine teams with a 5-speed automatic to drive the front wheels. Performance fans will skip this version, of course, and step into the TL SH-AWD. It has the same V-6 engine found in the Acura RL, a 3.7-liter unit with 305 hp. Power goes to all four wheels through a system that can shifts power between its axles, giving it more of a sporty feel like its rear-drive rivals. In addition to the automatic, you can get a manual on the TL SH-AWD. 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 the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, with the more powerful 3.7-liter V-6, brings out the sport-sedan character in the TL. 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.
Power steering is one of the TL's strengths, even though it's an electric-driven setup. At low speeds it's responsive and light, with good on-center feel. It dials in more heft at higher speeds, without losing any of its good steering feel.
The Acura TL SH-AWD is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6, making 305 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque; but that peak torque doesn't happen until 5,000 rpm; the engine doesn't have surprising gobs of low-range torque like BMW's twin-turbo six, and it doesn't quite whirl itself into the heavy-breathing frenzy of the Infiniti G37's V-6. But overall, it's a solid performer in the mid- to upper-rev ranges--and much better-suited to the manual transmission than we remember it being with the six-speed automatic. You'll find excellent passing ability but it sometimes requires downshifting two, even three, gears to make the best dash; but fortunately the shift action is nice and neat.
With the manual transmission, the 3,889-pound TL SH-AWD can get to 60 mph in the mid five-second range. That's a slight bit slower than the G37 but a bit faster than the automatic TL.