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Thread: 2010 Acura TL

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2010 Acura TL

    Most mid-size luxury sport sedans are built on what you might call the "BMW model" - meaning, they're built on a rear wheel-drive chassis. This includes cars like the BMW 3 and 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, Lexus GS, Cadillac CTS and Infiniti M, among others.

    Reason? Rear-drive is considered (rightly) the optimum layout for extreme high-performance driving, especially high-performance cornering. This is why most race cars - and virtually all serious high-performance street cars - are RWD.

    Or based on rear-drive layouts.

    But what about driving in the real world - on public roads at normal speeds? That's were it can be argued that rear-wheel-drive is often a liability. And where a front-wheel-drive (or all-wheel-drive) vehicle can be a more practical choice.

    One such car is the Acura TL.

    WHAT IT IS

    The TL is a mid-sized luxury-sport sedan available in front wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive versions. Prices begin at $35,105 for the standard FWD model and run to $43,385 for a top-of-the-line model equipped with AWD.

    WHAT'S NEW

    The TL was "all new" for 2009, so the '10 version is mostly the same -with one important difference: this formerly automatic-only model now offers a six-speed manual transmission (but only AWD versions).

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Less expensive in base trim than many otherwise equivalent competitors; less likely to get stuck in the snow. Very high quality feel, fit and finish. Very "high tech" cabin/features. Beautiful V-6 engines. Six-speed manual transmission - at last!

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    Transformers: Robots In Disguise front end; high tech gadgets may be intimidating to some. Can't get the six-speed manual unless you buy the more expensive AWD version.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    The TL comes standard with a 3.5 liter, 280 hp V-6 and five-speed automatic driving the front wheels. This engine has more power than the price-equivalent BMW 3-Series, the $32,850 328i (3 liters, 230 hp) as well as the 270 hp 3 liter V-6 that's standard in the also more expensive base model Cadillac CTS ($36,730). To get more power in either of those cars you have to spend more money for the optional engines.

    The bas TL also easily outguns the four-cylinder only Audi A4 (211 hp) and even manages to outmuscle the 3.2 liter V-6 in the larger, considerably more expensive Audi A6 - which starts at $45,200.

    Zero to 60 comes up in about 6.6 seconds - while gas mileage is pegged by the EPA at 18 city and 26 highway.

    The TL's optional engine is a 305 hp 3.7 liter V-6 working through Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) and either the five-speed automatic or the newly optional six-speed manual - which includes a hill-holder clutch to keep the car from rolling backward. The availability of a six-speed manual transmission definitely adds to the car's sporty character relative to competitors like the BMW 3, Caddy CTS and Audi A4 that also offer manual gearboxes.

    However, there are a couple of downsides.

    The most obvious is the much higher cost. To get that six-speed you have to buy the 3.7 liter/AWD-equipped TL, which starts at $43,385. It's not just that it's a big jump from the $35,105 base price of the 3.5 liter/FWD TL. It's that the price hike takes away the price advantage the TL enjoyed relative to the standard (and less potent) versions of some of its main competition. The 3.7 liter/AWD equipped TL's base price is actually higher than the price of the 300 hp, twin-turbo AWD-equipped BMW 335i xDrive ($42,300).

    Where the Acura had a clear cut advantage, it's now a dead heat.

    The $43k base price of the 3.7 liter/AWD TL also puts it closer to cars like Infiniti's outstanding 303 hp M35 sedan ($45,800).

    But perhaps the biggest downside isn't the price but the fact that the more expensive TL isn't significantly quicker than standard model - despite the on-paper 25 hp advantage (and the six-speed manual gearbox).

    Reason? Weight. The AWD-equipped TL is nearly 200 pounds heavier than the FWD TL (3,721 lbs. vs. 3,889 lbs.). This negates the more expensive model's horsepower advantage - and not just relative to the $35k base model TL. A 335i BMW (with or without AWD) is much quicker - capable of reaching 60 mph in just over 5 seconds - and for less money than Acura wants for the slower, more expensive 3.7 liter/AWD-equipped TL.

    Acura should think about offering the six-speed manual in the 3.5 liter TL - and upping the horsepower/performance of the 3.7 liter TL.

    Or lowering its price.

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS/RIDE & HANDLING

    One of the TL's chief selling points is its available SH-AWD system - which is more advanced than the AWD systems offered by most competitors. The typical system will normally send most of the engine's power to either the front wheels (in FWD-based cars like the Audi A4) or the rear wheels (in RWD-based cars like the BMW 3 and Infiniti M35) during normal driving - with increasing power routed to the other set of wheels under hard acceleration or when the system detects wheel slip at the primary drive wheels.

    The main objective here is traction.

    Acura's system, in contrast, is at least as focused on handling as it is on traction. Rather than just routing power to the front or rear wheels, the SH-AWD is capable of modulating power delivery to each individual wheel. During high-speed cornering, for example, it will kick power to each of the outside wheels, letting you push the car harder (and faster) without either the back end or the front end beginning to slide. SH-AWD makes the TL behave more like a RWD sport sedan when driven aggressively on dry, paved roads than other FWD-based models like the Audi A4 - while also providing superior inclement weather traction and safety compared with a RWD car.

    It's a complex system but it does work as advertised. It gives the TL a definite advantage in the high-perfomance handling department over the AWD-equipped versions of its competitors - while making it at least competitive with the RWD versions of these cars during high-speed cornering (and better than them in the snow and wet).

    It's just too bad it costs so much.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    Designers are far more constrained today than they were in the past by things like government-mandated bumper impact standards that effectively set down the basic shape template that they must follow. This is why - irrespective of make or model - modern cars seem to all share the same basic shape and look so much alike.

    Which is why designers often reach for a wild-looking grille treatment to set their car apart from the herd.

    This background will help explain the TL's chunky-looking front end/grille - finished with wide swaths of silvery metallic trim.

    On the upside, it is definitely distinctive - and given how much modern cars look alike, this is arguably a plus. You will not lose your TL in the parking lot.

    On the other hand, Acura is taking a big risk (as BMW did a few years ago with its bustleback 7-Series) that buyers will not appreciate the look. It's something you'll have to decide for yourself.

    Inside, the TL is very techno - with more metallic trim (instead of the wood inlays more typically found in this segment) and a sport bike-like hooded main gauge cluster and center console driver info center/GPS display. There's a mouse-like input on the lower center stack for controlling the audio but the AC and heat have their own (and easier to operate) controls to the left and right of the dreaded mouse input. Inside the console is a second power point plus MP3/iPod USB port. Ignition is push-start (just keep the transmitter key fob in your pocket or purse).

    Like the exterior, the look is different - and that at least sets the TL apart from the herd.

    The trunk is smallish (13.1 cubic feet ) but this has become typical for the segment. To get a decently large trunk, you pretty much have to buy a full-size (and usually much more expensive) car. Part of the reason for the relatively small trunks in most mid-sized cars is that the front and rear overhangs are very short relative to similar sized cars of the past. This is partly just the style of modern cars but its also due to the way designers have pushed the cabin as far forward and back as feasible to maximize interior space - especially backseat space - which almost necessarily eat into trunk space.

    A TL strong point is the standard roster of equipment - which includes dual zone climate control AC (with separate controls for the backseat occupants), Xenon HID headlights, leather seats (with heaters for the front seats), a really nice 8-speaker stereo with XM/Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth and pretty much power everything.

    The big ticket option for both the base and AWD versions is a Technology Package that bundles voice-activated GPS with real-time traffic update function and rearview back-up camera, solar-sensing climate control and an absolutely incredible 10 speaker Panasonic surround sound stereo with 12.7 gig hard drive.

    The stereo alone is worth the cost of the package.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    "Precise" is a good word to describe the TL - and any Acura. They are sharply styled and tightly put together cars with a well-deserved reputation for very high quality - and generally high resale values. Acura backs the TL with a four-year, 50,000 mile comprehensive warranty and a better-than-average six year, 70,000 warranty on the powertrain (engine, transmission, etc.).

    The FWD/AWD layout is an inherent safety advantage relative to rear-drive cars, which slip much more easily in wet/wintry weather and are less controllable (for the average driver) when they do.

    Personal footnote: The TL has a decent (and easy to use) jack in the trunk. I got a flat after hitting a bad rut in the road and had to do a roadside tire change. Sometimes, this can be a difficult (and even dangerous) job thanks to awkward and flimsy jacking implements. But the TL's jack was sturdy, easy to use - and I was back on the road in less than ten minutes.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    If you're looking for a great all-arounder with lots of high tech features and its own distinctive style , the TL is a good choice. The standard (and very well-equipped) FWD model is a genuine bargain - and the AWD equipped version an interesting (if slightly pricey) alternative to the pack.

    END

  2. #2
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    Ito has said no V8 or RWD for Acura, and is thinking of positioning the brand to be more eco-friendly.

    This is not going down well with dealers who just finished building new up-scale showrooms to compete with Audi & BMW.

    Chip H.

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    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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