The system is designed to serve notice to performance enthusiasts that they don't need rear-wheel-drive. Enthusiasts, of course, shun front-wheel-drive because of its tendency to sudden sharp movement to one side when you take off at speed. But, Acura says, AWD earns the enthusiasts' blessing.
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2009 Acura TL SH-AWD Tech
$42,235 (price as tested; add $760 for freight)
M.P.G.: City 17, highway 25
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 195.3 inches
Engine: 3.7-liter, 305-h.p. V-6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual mode
Slightly larger dimensions.
New super handling package plus AWD offered to ensure stability on wet or dry roads.
More upscale performance image.
Suspension sometimes jittery.
So low slung you look up at other cars.
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The TL AWD system directs torque front to rear or side to side for optimum control regardless of speed or surface. Stability control helps prevent shimmy into and out of curves while traction control prevents skidding away from the light in rain or snow.
This TL also adds SH (Super Handling) to its name. Don't be fooled. Despite larger 18-inch radials (17 inchers on the base) and larger-diameter stabilizer bars, the suspension was jittery at times on uneven roads. Maybe we just expected a softer ride in keeping with Acura's luxury image but got a firmer ride to announce its performance turn.
For 2008 Acura offered base and Type-S TL. For 2009 it's base and SH-AWD. We tested the SH-AWD Tech, which adds voice-activated navigation system, real-time traffic and weather reports and backup camera.
The SH-AWD clings to the road, especially in the twisties. When called on in the snow, it did as asked without rear end traveling south while front end headed north–on an east-west road.
With the meager mileage of AWD SUVs, it's nice to have a higher mileage sedan alternative. But this AWD sedan isn't meant to climb hills, leap boulders or ford streams. It's meant to provide sure-footed handling on open roads and keep you from slipping or sliding when a few inches of snow cover the path to work. A few inches is key: TL masters 2 to 3 inches but the double digits are best left to the Hummer, Tahoe or Expedition.
TL has been redesigned for 2009, with a bolder chrome beak that looks fashionably aggressive. It also sports a rounded roofline for a coupe-like profile, but the slope is so pronounced it's easy to dent the melon when getting in or out.
The TL has added 6 inches and back-seat leg and trunk room. Cabin space is adequate though not exceptional. There are places to store coins and iPods, cell phones and steaming hot lattes (or cold colas), though not as many as in the larger RL.
The leather seats are perforated, which helps keep occupants from slipping during aggressive driving. And they're heated but not cooled, as in the RL. If the RL can share AWD with TL, why not the cooled seats?
The TL looks good and behaves well.
One gripe, however, is that it sits low, a family trait of Acura and Honda. That's fine for handling, but when you pull to the stoplight and have to look up at the car in the next lane, you wonder why the sedan goes so low, especially an AWD one that's going to be called on in the snow.
The base FWD TL has a 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6; the SH-AWD we drove a new 3.7-liter, 305-h.p. V-6 with a 5-speed automatic with manual mode. No traditional manual. The V-6 is spirited but no lightning bolt. The exhaust is tuned to make the TL sound quicker than it is. The mileage rating is only 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway.
There's no high-mileage hybrid and no cylinder deactivation that shuts off those not needed to conserve fuel. If the Honda Accord can have the latter, why not TL?
There's no V-8 at Acura, either. If one does ever come, it would go to the RL.
The TL SH-AWD TECH is one of those fully loaded cars that starts at $42,235 and offers just about everything as standard: dual climate control, power moonroof/windows/locks/mirrors/seats (10-way driver/eight-way passenger), AM/FM/DVD player, MP3 capability and auxiliary jack, push-button start, side-curtain air bags and the voiced-activated navigation.
Skip the Tech package and save $4,000, enough to buy a map or two.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.