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2009 Acura TL SH-AWD Test Drive

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Filed under Acura, Automotive, Featured, Test Drives

Since its first introduction, the Acura TL entry-level luxury performance sedan has set lofty standards in its class for styling, performance, comfort and technology. Available for 2009 in two distinctly different models, TL and TL SH-AWD, the all-new forth generation Acura TL dramatically expands its capabilities and appeal with evocative styling, a choice of two VTEC powertrains, including a new 305hp V6, and TL’s first-ever application of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).

Once you get beyond the new front end with the smiley face with an overbite, you’ll appreciate the larger dimensions, optimized suspension, a new Sequential SportShift transmission, plus an available Technology Package featuring a comprehensive list of navigation and communication aids, the all-new 2009 TL offers more appeal than ever before. Along with an available Acura/ELS premium 10-speaker surround sound system and an all-new AcuraLink weather feature, the new TL is by far the most technologically advanced sedan in Acura’s history.

The combination of dramatic new styling, exhilarating performance and an extensive array of electronics mentioned above, ensures that the 2009 TL will appeal to sophisticated, technology-savvy consumers. After my 7-day test drive in a fully-loaded TL with the 305hp engine and the SH-AWD system, I can report that I enjoyed every minute behind the wheel.

A choice of two different all-aluminum VTEC engines enables the new TL to satisfy a wide range of consumers. Standard is a 3.5 liter V6 producing 280hp and 254lb.ft. of torque that sends power to the front wheels via Acura’s sophisticated Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and Grade Logic Control. Though powerful, the new engine is also fuel efficient, with EPA fuel economy ratings of 18mpg/city and 26mpg/highway. The engine is targeted to meet California’s tough CARB LEV II ULEV emissions certification standards, thanks to features including a Drive-by-Wire throttle system, Computer-Controlled Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) and Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) for the intake valves.

If serious performance is on your mind you’ll choose the TL SH-AWD to make winding roads seem light straight-aways. Its all-new 3.7 liter V6 engine produces 305hp and 273lb.ft. of torque courtesy of greater displacement and additional high-performance features like VVT and VTEC on both the intake and exhaust valves, and special high-flow dual exhaust system. With EPA rating of 17mpg/city and 25mpg/highway, the 3.7 liter is also targeted to meet California’s stringent CARB LEV II ULEV emissions certification. The ‘piece de resistance’ on the TL SH-AWD is the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system now available on the TL for the first time, and wow, does it handle.

During high-speed cornering, SH-AWD seamlessly distributes more torque to the outside rear wheel to create a ‘yaw moment’ to help the TL turn in more quickly and precisely-while also continuously apportioning drivetrain torque front to rear and left to right.

The result is a remarkably balanced and precise all-wheel-drive performance sedan that excels year-round, not just during inclement weather conditions.

Acura TL’s performance achievements extend to durability, reliability and refinement as well. Both engines feature electronically controlled engine mounts to reduce engine noise, vibration and harshness (NVH); quiet, and efficient Electric Power Steering (EPS) that is tuned perfectly for quick responses to your inputs during spirited driving with great feel for the road at high speeds, and easy turning when driving slow or when parking. A maintainance-free serpentine accessory belt also boosts operating refinement.

The standard transmission on the 2009 TL and TL SH-AWD is a Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic featuring F1-style steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters for extremely quick shifting up or down, plus Grade Logic Control. combining the convenience of an automatic with the enjoyment of SportShift manual gear selection, the transmission also features an overdrive top gear for maximum fuel efficiency on the highway. In fact, the Acura transmission has the widest gear-ratio spread of any 5-speed transmission in its class, providing a strong launch in lower gears and a relaxed, fuel-efficient ride during highway cruising. The new TL SH-AWD equipped model is one of the smoothest I have driven so far in model year 2009.

Major improvements in structural engineering for the unit-body further define the 2009 TL. The list of substantial changes begins with the relocation of frame rails inside (rather than underneath) the vehicle’s floor pan, resulting in a nearly flat body underside. Further benefits of this design include improved crash safety, a significant reduction in interior noise levels, and reduced aerodynamic drag that helps enhance fuel economy. Another significant is the increased use of high-strength steel, which simultaneously improves the unit-body’s overall strength while helping to reduce weight. For additional weight savings, aluminum is used for the hood, the front suspension subframe and rear suspension knuckles.

Ride quality and passenger comfort benefit from the new TL’s larger exterior dimensions featuring 6in. great exterior length, 1.8in. more overall width and a modest 0.5in. increase in overall height. The larger body size directly contributes to greater interior roominess; it also allows a 1.4in. longer wheelbase to improve ride quality and a significantly wider track, 1.1in. in front, and 1.8in. wider in the rear, helps generate even more tenacious cornering ability. The fully independent suspension features double-wishbones, twin-tube gas charged shocks, coil springs and 1.06in. solid stabilizer bar, and the rear setup features multi-links, twin-tube gas charged shocks, coil springs and a 0.79in. stabilizer bar for a smooth ride over poorly paved surfaces and tremendous grip when attacking curving roads. Further improving ride quality and road-holding are new dual-stage ‘blow-off’ style hydraulic suspension dampers, new hydro-complaint bushings (used to mount the transmission and key suspension components) and a new ‘smart’ engine mount design. On the SH-AWD model, more performance-minded suspension and brake tuning, larger wheels/tires, race-inspired front brake cooling ducts, and specially tuned Electronic Power Steering take the enthusiast’s driving experience to an even higher level.

Quickly and safely slowing the new TL SH-AWD down from speed are larger 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes. Up front are 12.6in. discs clamped with dual-piston calipers, and 13.1in. discs in the rear clamped with single-pistons calipers. Braking control and distance is enhanced with standard ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist.

What really has been the most talked about item about the all-new TL is its exterior styling, specifically its front fascia with the smiley face with an overbite. It doesn’t bother me because the performance and interior comfort and amenities cancel out any negatives from the front fascia. Why not a slab of aluminum up front with an angled slit for air to enter the engine? The bottom of the bold fascia contains side air intakes plus intakes to cool the front brakes and told hold the parking and foglamps. The unique and bold looks work for me. Designed by Acura at its Southern California design studio, the TL utilizes an array of styling techniques to express motion-and emotion-even when the TL is parked. From the side the body is long, low and sleek with a flow front end, swept back windshield ‘A’ pillars, body sides defined by strong character lines, sweeping ‘C’ pillars, sloping roof line that gently slides onto the rear trunk lid cover with integral spoiler at the end. The rear features new LED lamp clusters, matching aluminum strip at the bottom of the trunk lid, and four exhaust tips at the bottom that gives the rear the same bold and performance feel as the front. Plentiful use of luxury and performance features add visual appeal while adding to the TL’s vigorous statement-including bright HID projector-beam front headlights, pronounced wheel arches, a standard power moonroof and genuine stainless steel body trim.

Wheels and tires are as expressive as the exterior styling. Standard on the new TL are 17X7in. aluminum wheels with 245/50R17in. all-season Bridgestone Turanza or optional Michelin Pilot tires for confident year-round performance. The TL SH-AWD model comes standard with 18X8in. aluminum wheels with lower-profile 245/45R18in. Michelin Pilot tires for more agile handling, or optional 19X8in. aluminum wheels shod with aggressive 245/40ZR19in. Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer tires for the ultimate TL performance experience.

In keeping with its mission as a driver’s car, the 2009 TL interior features a new ‘dual personal’ layout that provides both the driver and front passenger with their own personal space. Thanks to its larger exterior dimensions, the new TL has 1.3in. more rear legroom and 0.5in. of added rear shoulder room compared to last year’s model.

Acura’s commitment to luxury and technology become apparent as soon as you open the driver’s-side door. With sweeping shapes, generous use of premium materials and passionate attention to detail, the TL rewards the discriminating eye. The design and execution of the interior is an artful combination of leather surfaces, accented by metallic or wood-pattern trim. The new center stack looks imposing but is very easy to use after a few minutes.

An impressive array of premium standard features includes a power moonroof, dual-zone adaptive climate control, 10-way adjustable leather-trimmed, driver seat, 8-way adjustable power front passenger seat, my test TL came with premium Milano leather, a beefy, leather wrapped/tilting/telescoping steering wheel with F1-style paddle shifters, heated front seats, keyless access with smart entry and push button start/stop, power windows/door locks, grab handles above each door, full carpeting with TL floor mats, an 8-speaker, 276-watt audio system with a 6-disc CD changer, AM-FM radio with XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB port and AUX jack connectivity, HandsFree Link wireless telephone interface, center console with dual cupholders, self-dimming rearview mirrors, self-dimming/heated sideview mirrors, intermittent wipers/washers, electronic cruise control, dual map lamps and dual, lighted vanity mirrors, 2-person memory and aluminum door entry guards.

Optional on both models is a Technology Package that includes the most comprehensive array of advanced electronic features ever offered by Acura. It includes the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition and an 8in. full VGA high resolution color display with TV rear park assist, AcuraLink real-time traffic, AcuraLink weather with Doppler-style radar mapping, an Acura/ELS Surround premium audio system with 10-speakers, 440-watt radio, and 2,500 song hard disc drive media storage.

Standard safety systems include front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door, driver/front passenger front/side airbags, side curtain airbags, vehicle stability control, active front head restraints, 3-point seat belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, tire pressure monitoring system, immobilizer theft deterrent system, LATCH system for child seats.

After my 7-day test drive of the all-new TL with SH-AWD I can report that it is much improved and is now more competitive with the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and Lexus IS350. Try it because you’ll like it.


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Price: MSRP $43.235
Type: Midsize Sedan
Where Built: United States
EPA Class: Midsize Cars


Length: 195.3 in.
Width: 74 in.
Height: 57.2 in.
Wheel Base: 109.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3986 lbs.
Front Head Room: 38.4 in.
Front Hip Room: 55.7 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 58.1 in.
Rear Head Room: 36.7 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 56.2 in.
Rear Hip Room: 54.8 in.
Front Leg Room: 42.5 in.
Rear Leg Room: 36.2 in.
Luggage Capacity: 12.5 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 13 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3.7 liters
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 305 hp
Max Horsepower: 6200 rpm
Torque: 273 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 5000 rpm
Drive Type: AWD
Turning Circle: 38.5 ft.
0-60mph time: 5.5 seconds <— correction: 6.5 seconds – see comment from owner.

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.5 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 17 mpg / 25 mpg / 20 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 314.5 mi. / 462.5 mi. / 370 mi.


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