Performance » 8
PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The 6-speed manual is superior to the automatic dynamically
Road & Track
The clutch pedal is as smooth and progressive as any car we’ve driven
Car and Driver
The only real demerit here concerns the car's sheer bulk, an inevitable encumbrance given those Accord roots...TL SH-AWD never feels smaller than the sizable car it is.
There's also hardly any steering feedback, which is problematic in a car with sporting intentions.
Powering heavy through corners, we watched the all-wheel drive siphoning power from the inside rear wheel and applying it to the outside, always keeping us well on track and stable.
The 2014 TL can go one of two ways: front-wheel-drive with comfortable luxury sedan feel and relatively crisp handling, or all-wheel-drive (Acura calls it SH-AWD) as a full-fledged sport sedan.
The TL and the Honda Accord have the same 3.5-liter V-6 in common; it produces 280 horsepower in the TL, and it paired with an automatic transmission to power the front wheels. The front-wheel-drive TL's driving dynamics could almost be confused for the V-6 Accord's, although we much prefer the Acura's steering. It's not terribly sporty, but it is agreeable, responsive and all-around refined.
If you choose the TL with SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), you get a legitimate sport sedan. Its 3.7-liter V-6 produces 305 horsepower, pushing all four wheels through an overtly sporty all-wheel-drive system that eliminates torque steer and promises traction in every conceivable situation. This version of the TL feels surprisingly nimble, and it's nearly as sharp in the corners as some of sportiest rear-wheel-drive sedans. The system also displays how it's working though a display in the instrument cluster.
On the SH-AWD, there's one other true sign of a sport-sedan: the availability of a six-speed manual. Overall, the AWD system feels almost impossible to fluster, allocating torque not only front-to-back but left-to-right, to help with slick surfaces or quick emergency maneuvers.
There's a lot to like in the TL's electric power steering, too--especially how it is in the SH-AWD. It does transmit a bit of feel from the road surface, and returns to center promptly out of corners, with a nice weighting.
More athletic than its size might imply, the Acura TL can be an edgy performer.