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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Bigger, quicker and easier to maneuver
Five-speed automatic...seems outdated in a segment where six and seven speeds are common
Car and Driver
Strikes a nice compromise for both cruising through town and scurrying down a twisty back road
Road & Track
The 2009 Acura TL comes in two distinct flavors, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that driving enthusiasts will most definitely favor the Acura TL SH-AWD model over the base Acura 2009 TL.
The latest iteration of the Acura TL receives two potent engines, according to reviewers. Edmunds says that the base version of the Acura TL picks up "a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 hp and 254 pound-feet of torque," while the 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD version "gets a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 306 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque." Road & Track reports that a "freer-flowing exhaust gives the SH-AWD a nice rip above 3000 rpm," but they add that "both engines are terrifically smooth pieces" at just about any speed. In terms of objective acceleration numbers, Automobile Magazine notes that a "shorter final drive ratio helps [the 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD] sprint from 0 to 60 mph about one-half-second quicker than the base car."
Although the Acura TL has a lot of enthusiast appeal, especially in SH-AWD garb, it does have one major strike against it—no manual gearbox anywhere in the lineup. Edmunds reports that "both [Acura] TL models come standard with a five-speed automatic that includes automanual steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters." In addition to a lack of manual transmission, Car and Driver is disappointed with the five-speed, contending that it "seems outdated in a segment where six and seven speeds are more common." However, if you give the Acura 2009 TL's transmission a chance, the standard paddle shifters might grow on you. They are positioned quite well, according to Motor Trend, which says that the Acura TL's "paddle shifters lie at the ready just behind the steering wheel." Motor Trend also offers comfort for the purists out there by noting that "Acura says the TL will offer [a manual transmission] for 2010."
Some manufacturers seem to have an easy time tuning a V-6 engine for thrifty fuel consumption, but the Acura 2009 TL is geared more for performance, and fuel economy suffers accordingly. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2009 Acura TL should return 18 mpg city and 26 highway in base form, while the SH-AWD gets 17 mpg city and 25 on the highway. Granted, these numbers are far from terrible, but they're certainly not near the top of the class.
If you plan on buying a 2009 Acura TL for enjoyment on your daily commute, reviewers suggest opting for the base model. Edmunds says this version is "more for comfort-minded buyers," as it suffers from "lifeless steering" that "feels decidedly artificial." Car and Driver agrees, finding that the base TL's "steering feel has lost the plot." However, the Acura TL SH-AWD ups the ante significantly, with Edmunds reporting that the steering "exhibits more weight and feedback, resulting in a more natural feel." Automobile Magazine is pleased to note that, "despite the firmer suspension, the TL still rides agreeably," and Road & Track reviewers marvel at how the Acura TL "strikes a nice compromise for both cruising through town and scurrying down a twisty back road." When it comes time to stop, Motor Trend attests that "larger brake rotors all around, plus two-piston calipers up front, put a stout squeeze on forward motion."
The base 2009 Acura TL isn't as inspiring as previous versions, but enthusiasts still have the option of the better-handling SH-AWD.