- Many user-friendly high-tech features
- Spacious cabin
- Smart all-wheel-drive system
- Superb available surround-sound stereo
- Excellent crash test scores
- Polarizing styling
- Base model's numb steering
The 2010 Acura TL has a lot going for it -- athletic leanings, enough interior volume to accommodate adult-sized passengers, plenty of luxury features and Acura's traditional reputation for reliability. Unfortunately, all of this is wrapped in a skin that evokes a love-it or hate-it response. While we would all certainly like to think that aesthetics aren't everything, appearance does play a major role in choosing a car.
The TL was redesigned just last year, gaining its oddly beveled nose and chunky rear end but also more interior room, more power and a new option for all-wheel drive. We're especially fond of the SH-AWD (which stands for super-handling all-wheel drive) version that comes with a 305-horsepower engine and the type of road-holding grip one might normally associate with a rear-drive sport sedan. For those seeking additional driving enjoyment, a traditional six-speed manual transmission has been added to the SH-AWD mix for 2010.
The base 2010 Acura TL is also praise-worthy for its quiet and comfortable cabin. In terms of acceleration, it's a dead heat when pitted against the SH-AWD. Adding the optional Technology package, with its high-tech gadgetry, evens the playing field even more, and for the majority of drivers, the base model will most certainly appease. It's only when you're looking for a truly engaging driving experience that the base model will disappoint, especially since its steering is numb and not particularly communicative.
Either TL model, however, is a competitive choice in the entry-level luxury sedan segment that also includes such luminaries such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti G37 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Particularly in this set, the Acura's well-rounded demeanor and lower price makes it stand out as the sensible choice. You're not going to go wrong with any of these cars, but you will need to make sure you're down with the TL's new sheet metal.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010
After a complete redesign last year, the 2010 Acura TL receives a six-speed manual transmission that is available on SH-AWD models.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Acura TL is a midsize luxury sedan that is available in base or sporty SH-AWD trim levels. The base TL comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear ventilation controls, heated power front seats, driver memory functions, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, Bluetooth phone connectivity and steering-wheel-mounted audio, phone and trip computer controls. Also standard is an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio, streaming Bluetooth audio, an auxiliary audio jack and USB port.
The TL SH-AWD adds all-wheel drive, a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, upgraded brakes, hill start assist, more aggressively bolstered front seats and upgraded metallic trim.
The optional Technology package is available on both trims and adds a hard-drive-based navigation system with voice recognition, real-time traffic, real-time weather forecasts, a GPS-linked and solar-sensing adaptive climate control system, keyless ignition/entry, a rear spoiler, rearview camera and a 10-speaker Panasonic/ELS surround-sound system with 12.7GB of digital music storage. Optional 19-inch wheels with high-performance summer tires are available, but only on SH-AWD models.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2010 Acura TL's interior features a more contemporary design language than some of its competitors. Aluminum trim adorns the cabin instead of the glossy wood treatments found in the Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis or Lexus ES 350. Overall, the surroundings have a more austere look and feel, much like an Audi. Materials quality is top-notch, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Some have commented that the aluminum trim has a cheap look about it -- noting that it would look more at home in a range-topping Honda Accord. The metallic trim in the SH-AWD model is of a higher quality and the available two-tone color scheme helps to dress things up.
In terms of comfort, the TL's cabin is roomy and quiet, on par with some of the finer European brands. The driver seat offers plenty of adjustment and side bolstering, while the rear seats can easily accommodate taller passengers. Large flip-up headrests provide comfort and protection for those seated in the rear and, when not in use, they slide down flush with the seatbacks for an unobstructed view. The 13.1 cubic feet of trunk capacity is a bit less than other cars in this class, but the wide opening makes loading a few golf bags and suitcases easy.
All 2010 Acura TL models come with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front restraints. In government testing, the TL scored a perfect five out of five stars for frontal and side impact protection for all occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety returned similar results, awarding its top score of "Good" for frontal-offset and side-impact protection.
In Edmunds brake testing, the base TL came to a stop from 60 mph in an average 122 feet. The SH-AWD came to a stop in an exceptional 106 feet.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The base model 2010 Acura TL is front-wheel drive and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 hp and 254 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel-drive TL SH-AWD gets a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 305 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The all-wheel-drive system is capable of transferring different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and in inclement weather.
Both TL models come standard with a five-speed automatic that includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. New for 2010 is a six-speed manual transmission that is available only on SH-AWD models with the Technology package.
Despite the SH-AWD's horsepower advantage, acceleration is virtually identical to the base TL. In recent testing, both models reached 60 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds. Fuel economy for the 3.5-liter TL is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg in combined driving. The SH-AWD returns 1 mile per gallon less across the board, regardless of which transmission is specified.
Given the divergent handling characteristics of the 2010 Acura TL models, they can almost be thought of as two distinctly different cars. The base TL should appeal to drivers with more comfort and luxury in mind. Ride quality is excellent -- bumps, holes and expansion joints are eaten up with a reassuring, almost Germanic thump that befits a luxury car with the TL's price tag. The 280-hp V6 should prove more than adequate for daily drives, and the steering, though lacking in feel, has plenty of assist to make parking easy.
For those with more sporting intentions, the SH-AWD lives up to its "Super Handling" acronym by delivering considerably more grip and control than the base car. The complex all-wheel-drive system directs more power to the outside wheels when cornering for improved handling dynamics, while the communicative and well-weighted steering adds a more confident driving experience.
For those who can get past the unusual styling, the 2010 Acura TL is a strong choice among midsize luxury sedans.