Acura Unveils A Sharp New TL
Acura fans may be in for a surprise with the look of the redesigned 2009 TL. The new model is much more dramatically styled than its predecessor. Acura polled its current TL owners to determine what changes to make in the 2009 model. According to Matt Hargett, the program manager for the TL, owners wanted was more distinctive styling.
Acura gave the owners what they were asking for, and then some. This car has a strong presence. It features a chiseled look, with sharp creases in the sheet metal. Its most distinctive aspect is its wedge-shaped nose, with a shield-like chrome grille. It’s enough to make you take a step back when you first see it.
The TL is also a bigger car than the one it replaces. Acura made it six-inches longer and three-inches wider. With its greater overall size, the ’09 model gets a little more space in the cabin and in the trunk. Rear-seat passengers benefit the most. They get an inch more of hip room and 1.4-inches of additional legroom. This does not create a limo-like backseat, but it’s a bit roomier than the 2008 TL. The trunk at 13.1 cu.-ft. is also a tad larger than before.
The cabin features twin cockpits up front. The driver gets a 10-way seat adjuster—the passenger makes due with eight. The center control panel, which handles the audio, the optional navigation system and climate controls, has been made more intuitive. The audio system itself, features eight speakers, a six-disc changer, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. A power moonroof is standard.
The 2009 TL comes in two models, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The FWD gets a 3.5 liter V-6 (up from 3.2 liters) and cranks out 280 hp, 22 more than before. It’s hooked up to a 5-speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Acura suggests that it will get to 60 in under six seconds. Fuel economy is estimated at 18-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway, which is not bad for this class of car.
The all-wheel drive model, called Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) by Acura, is the high-performance model in the lineup, replacing the Type S from last year. It gets a 3.7-liter V-6 that delivers 305 hp, and 17-25 mpg. This is the most powerful engine that Acura has ever offered. It is also teamed with a 5-speed automatic, and is capable of reaching 60 in around five seconds.
The SH-AWD delivers 90-percent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels in normal cruising. However, under acceleration and in hard cornering, 70-percent can be switched to the rear. And up to 100-percent of that torque can be directed to the outside wheel in cornering situations. The upshot of this is that the SH-AWD model almost eliminates understeer, and corners more flatly than the FWD version. The SH-AWD also gets bigger brakes and faster steering.
Acura claims that the new TL has the highest level of safety in its class. The ’09 features Acura’s ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body structure, which disperses energy from a frontal collision away from passengers to minimize the impact. Active head restraints are also designed to reduce injury. The TL has received five-star front and side impact test ratings. Additionally, this Acura incorporates electronic safety features like, Vehicle Stability Assist.
At a press introduction near San Francisco, I had an opportunity to drive both the FWD and the SH-AWD models on a variety of roads. These two cars have different personalities. The front-wheel-drive car felt more mainstream. It was quicker and handled better than its predecessor, while at the same time delivering a smooth and quiet ride.
The SH-AWD is definitely a car for the enthusiast. It has a sharper edge to it. It responds faster to steering inputs and can take corners at higher speed with minimum body roll. However, the car I drove with the optional 19-inch wheels delivered a borderline harsh ride. If you are going to test drive a SH-AWD, make sure you take it over some rough roads.
The front-wheel-drive TLs arrived at dealers in September. The all-wheel-drive models should arrive toward the end of the year. Pricing for the AWD cars starts at $34,440—the SH-AWD should be about $5000 more.
All-Wheel Drive Availability