2010 Acura TL Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
December 28, 2009

Boldly styled and laden with high-tech features, the 2010 Acura TL is a solid value, though enthusiasts might find its overall ability lacking.

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 leaves some drivers cold, while it intrigues others. The sheetmetal has a faintly robotic theme that younger buyers might find refreshing and adventurous. Technophiles will find the TL's digital lines and creases a welcome change from the organic designs of competing sedans.

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The cockpit isn't nearly as adventurous or controversial. The cabin pairs leather and plastics in a subtle collection of circles and arcs. It's logical but artful, typically Acura in its lack of traditional trim.

 

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. On the TL SH-AWD, Acura fits the bigger RL's 3.7-liter V-6, with 305 hp, and sends the power through all-wheel drive which gives the TL better handling. Last year's standard five-speed automatic transmission was joined in late 2009 by an optional 6-speed manual. The automatic, sedate and smooth in everyday driving, needs another gear to be more in line with its rivals, and to make better use of the TL's power. 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.

 

The 2010 Acura TL interfaces easily thanks to a 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.

 

The center stack's intuitive click-and-turn interface controls the optional nav system, and voice commands make it even easier to find and input your itinerary. The Technology Package unleashes your inner geek, with an HVAC system that adjusts according to the sun's intensity and position.

 

The 2010 Acura TL scores five stars from the NHTSA and gets the IIHS's Top Safety Pick designation. Acura equips all TLs with a full complement of six airbags.

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2010 Acura TL

Styling

Styling is always a personal matter, but Acura may have gone beyond the pale with the design of the 2010 Acura TL.

Love it or hate it, the 2010 Acura TL grabs attention.

 

Cars.com warns that "there's just no escaping its looks"and says it will "draw stares"-and not in a good way. Car and Driver says once you get past the front of the car, the TL is "assuredly handsome."


Acura matches cold LED lighting overhead, which doesn't do justice to the TL's gentle circular design themes and high-quality leather and plastic trim. Road & Track appreciates the "classy center stack"while Cars.com calls the hooded gauges "sporty."

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2010 Acura TL

Performance

The base 2010 Acura TL doesn't inspire the way the previous generation did, but enthusiasts can always opt for the better-handling SH-AWD.

The standard TL uses a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 that's also found in the related Accord, from Honda. It powers the front wheels. On the TL SH-AWD, Acura fits its all-wheel-drive system and a 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 hp, on loan from the RL sedan.

 

Acura's capable all-wheel-drive system 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-drive sedan. Last year's standard five-speed automatic transmission was joined in late 2009 by an optional six-speed manual. Sedate and smooth in everyday driving, the automatic needs one more gear to compete with its main rivals and to give it better low-end response. Both engines are smooth and sound sweet, but short travel and hair-trigger responses make the accelerator pedal annoying to use.

 

Although the Acura TL manages a lot of enthusiast appeal in SH-AWD garb, until 2010, it had one major strike against it: the absence of a manual gearbox. With the introduction of the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT, however, that's been fixed. The TL's automatic transmission also has standard paddle shifters to let you get a bit of both worlds. Car and Driver finds the five-speed auto itself a shortcoming "in a segment where six and seven speeds are more common." When the manual joins the picture, however, Car and Driver changes its tune, saying, "Adding a manual transmission makes the robotic TL more human."

 

The TL is geared for performance, and gas mileage pays the price. According to official EPA figures, the base 2010 Acura TL gets 18 mpg city and 26 highway, while the more powerful SH-AWD gets 17 mpg city and 25 on the highway. These aren't terrible numbers by any means, but neither are they best in class.

 

Both on paper and in hard driving, the TL is a legitimate player in the 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.


Car and Driver declares that the base TL's "steering feel has lost the plot." Edmunds says it's plagued by "lifeless steering" that "feels decidedly artificial." The SH-AWD model turns the game around. Automobile Magazine likes the TL's comfort, and Road & Track praises the way the Acura TL behaves, "scurrying down a twisty back road." Brakes are good: Motor Trend says the TL puts "a stout squeeze on forward motion."

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2010 Acura TL

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Acura TL is fun enough to keep drivers engaged, but still comfortable and well-built for the long haul.

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 as you'll find at brands like BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus.

 

Inside the 2010 Acura TL, Automobile Magazine reviewers like the front seats, commenting that the "comfortable seats embrace you with deep side bolsters." ConsumerGuide reports that "headroom is good" inside the 2010 Acura TL, while Motor Trend says there's "more rear-seat legroom than the outgoing car." Cars.com finds the backseat is "vastly roomier" than its rivals.

 

The 2010 Acura TL has sporty handling, but it's useful as a family car. ConsumerGuide says "interior storage space is good." The TL's trunk size is a bit small, and ConsumerGuide says a slight rise in the height of the trunk floor "robs most of the gains."

 

The interior of the 2010 Acura TL offers a "spacious cabin"according to Edmunds. Cars.com finds that "the front seats [are] both comfortable and supportive"and Automobile agrees that up front, the "comfortable seats embrace you with deep side bolsters." ConsumerGuide finds "headroom is good" in the back seat, while Cars.com says it's "vastly roomier than any of the competition."


Noise levels are low. Cars.com finds it  "almost Lexus-silent." Motor Trend says the sedan "immediately impresses with its quiet."

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9

2010 Acura TL

Safety

Acura's attention to detail pays special dividends when turned in the direction of safety, making the 2010 Acura TL one of the few vehicles to earn perfect scores in all of its crash tests.

The 2010 Acura TL earns 5 stars from the NHTSA and gets the IIHS's Top Safety Pick award. Acura fits all TLs with standard electronic stability control and six airbags.


Outward vision is a strong point. Edmunds says its headrests protect when needed, but lower to clear "rear vision when nobody's back there."  When visibility is impaired by rear-seat occupants or cargo, Automobile Magazine highlights the available "rear-view camera" on the 2010 Acura TL.

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9

2010 Acura TL

Features

The 2010 Acura TL offers some of the most impressive, high-tech upgrades in the segment-for a price.

Conclusion Acura's attention to detail pays special dividends when turned in the direction of safety.

 

 

FEATURES | 9 out of 10

 

The TL is at its best as a showcase for high-tech functions and features. The sedan connects easily to a wide range of personal devices. 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. The aural quality of the system is quite good even in base form, and with the 10-speaker upgrade, it's a thunderous setup.

 

Still, all this hardware means the TL's dash is festooned with buttons. After a few weeks of familiarity the controls become more obvious, and it becomes easier to operate the navigation, audio, and Bluetooth.

 

The "base" Acura TL is hardly as stripped down as the title might indicate. Key standard items on the 2010 Acura TL include "iPod and Bluetooth connectivity."

 

The center stack's intuitive click-and-turn interface controls the available GPS, and an optional voice command system makes it even easier to find and input your itinerary. You can even access Zagat reviews on the fly. The Technology Package unleashes your inner geek, with a "voice-activated navigation system."

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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 9
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