Acura, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 Acura TL – SH-AWD – Road Test

Something happened this week that has never happened before… usually it takes many months and 30-35 cars before “my new favourite” is replaced by another “new favourite car.” Last week I drove the Acura RL and announced it was my new favourite car – it was even better than the out-going Mitsubishi Evo X.

Now I spend a day with the Acura TL – with a manual and the wonderful SH-AWD system and wouldn’t you know it…IT is now my new favourite car!!! Two changes in the matter of one week – what is the world coming to?

First Impressions
There is a consensus among most automotive journalists’ that there is no point in having the Acura RL when the TL does everything just as well but at a lower price-point – especially now that the TL is available with Acura’s SH-AWD system.. I however, disagree – I believe there is a market for both – these are two completely different cars; with the RL being just a bit bigger and offering a more luxurious ride compared to the TL (though I do agree the TL is the superior ride dollars for features). I had the perfect opportunity to compare the two because I went directly from one to the other within minutes and drove them back to back over a two week period.

Getting behind the wheel of the TL, I immediately notice that there are far fewer buttons on the centre console when compared to the RL. It looks cleaner and in my opinion better. The steering wheel is quite a bit smaller and very fat – very similar to BMW’s M sport wheel.

The 2010 Acura TL comes in two models; the base model comes with front-wheel-drive and gets a 3.5-litre SOHC V-6 aluminum alloy engine with 209 Kw (280 hp) at 6200 rpm and 344 Nm (254 lb-ft) of torque at 5000 rpm. Moving up to the next model you get Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system and the larger engine with more oomph – a 3.7-litre SOHC V-6 aluminum alloy engine with 225Kw (305 hp) at 6300 rpm and 372 Nm (275 lb-ft) of torque at 5000 rpm – also found in the Acura RL. Both models come with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 5-speed automatic with paddle shifters (at no extra cost). A Technology Package is available on both models.

Starting the engine is just a matter of pushing the big red button – the key fob can remain in your pocket indefinitely because you don’t even need it to lock/unlock the doors. To unlock, you simply place your hand behind the door handle and to lock you press a little rubber button on the handle. There is a two-person memory system for the seats and mirrors, so once you’ve got everything set perfectly you don’t need to worry about someone getting in a screwing up your seat (I hate it when that happens). The steering wheel is manually tilted and telescopically adjustable.

Driving off onto public roads, I notice that the TL feels considerably lighter than the RL, but the RL certainly didn’t feel heavy by any stretch of the imagination. The clutch is very light, but a little difficult to modulate for smooth shifting through the gears – I must point out however that this only occurred when the car was cold (sitting in below-freezing temperatures) for some time. Once the car was warmed up – less than 5 minutes – it was perfectly smooth and slick to operate, as you’d expect of a Honda gearbox/clutch system.

One serious problem I encountered immediately with the TL was the “Oh My God!!! This fast!!!!!” syndrome. If I thought the RL was quick, then the TL erased all memories of my previous week with the RL. Seriously – this car is phenomenal! The steering, the accelerator pedal, the seats, the brakes, the suspension  – it’s like Acura took the best and put it into the RL – and then dialed everything up two notches and stuffed it into the TL!!

SH-AWD system…
For those of you that have your eyes glaze over when tech people explain details that you don’t understand – or you simply don’t want to understand, then skip the next paragraph. For those of you that are into the nuts and bolts of how a car works, here are the SH-AWD system details… According to Acura, the system offers dramatically enhanced traction, control and acceleration in all weather conditions. Accelerate and the system directs up to 40% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels to, in turn, deliver full power to the ground.

During a moderate corner the rear wheels help generate cornering power. Electronic sensors monitor the speed and tightness of the turn, and automatically vary torque to the outside cornering rear wheel, resulting in enhanced stability and driver control. During Acceleration through a corner, the outside cornering wheel gets up to 100% of the available rear-wheel torque and is accelerated to rotate 5% faster than the inside cornering wheel, providing greater turning force and an incredibly stable corner line.

During straight-line cruising, the SH-AWD’s sophisticated electronic controls automatically monitor road conditions and alternate torque from front to rear, as well as splitting rear-wheel torque from left to right. The end result is a continuously smooth, stable ride even in poor weather or road conditions.

Welcome back…
One thing that I did notice and wasn’t expecting was the amount of torque-steer when I mashed the go pedal. It usually only happened when I was overtaking a slower moving vehicle – I’d drop down a gear and floor the throttle only for some torque-steer to grab at the wheel as the speed rose and the AWD system kicked in. I’ve driven the previous generation TL which was front-wheel drive and don’t remember ever having an issue with torque-steer back then – that was why it stood out – the lack of it was impressive.

Being prepared for it after the initial surprise made the overtaking maneuver a “hold-your-breathe-till-it’s-done” thrill for a couple of seconds. Perhaps in the summer with summer tires this whole explanation would be moot, but winter challenges certainly brought this to the fore.

Rear seat accommodation is perfectly acceptable for a car of this size. Getting in is easy enough and once seated it’s a very comfortable environment in which to spend some time. It’s definitely a two-person back seat, because even if you had someone small enough to sit on the middle area, you’d have to really hate them if you expected them to spend more than a few seconds sitting there.

Headroom, hip and knee room are more than adequate – even with the front seat pushed all the way back. Getting out may be a little bit of a problem for those with very large feet as there is a limited amount of space in the foot area when getting out – something that you don’t realize when getting into the car.

The TL has a roomy, 371-litre trunk, but note that the TL SH-AWD’s is a touch smaller at 354-litres (the TL SH-AWD has a smaller trunk due to floor pan intrusions required to make space for the SH-AWD’s rear differential). Either way, it’s plenty big and I didn’t notice a difference from the larger RL Acura.

If you choose to go with the Technology Package, you get an Acura/ELS Surround premium sound system with 10 speakers and 440 watts of power. Also included is a single disc player that plays: DVD-Audio, CD audio, DTS CD, Dolby ProLogic II,  MP3 or WMA files (on CD) and a 12.7-GB hard disk drive (HDD) media storage system (including track information provided by Gracenote®), Bluetooth® Audio, USB port and an auxiliary jack.

The sound quality is nothing short of spectacular. Also included is Acura’s terrific Sat-Nav system which has the added bonus of Voice Recognition.

The Conclusion
I didn’t want to give the keys back – that’s how much I loved this car. The price is definitely worth it when compared to its immediate competition. A friend of mine purchased a TL in 1994, paying only $90 less than what the 2010 model commands – considering all the added features, it truly boggles the mind how they’ve kept the price down over all these years.

Some may have issues with its appearance; the odd-looking front and even the rear of the car, but you won’t see that when you are sitting behind the wheel. To be perfectly honest I loathed the look when I first saw it about a year ago, but it’s grown on me, so obviously Acura are on to something… give it time and it’ll improve with age like a fine wine.

Rush of power from the go pedal
Sharp suspension and steering
Very comfortable seats
Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system
As much fun or more than the  Mitsubishi Evo X – same price too!

Nothing that I can think of

Immediate Competition:
BMW 335 Xi, Hyundai Genesis, Lexus ES 350/450, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo S-60

By The Numbers…
Powertrain:            3.7L 24-valve SOHC VTEC V-6; Multi-Point Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI®) system; 6-speed manual transmission; SH-AWD
Horsepower (Kw):     305 (227) @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (N.m.):         275 (372) @ 5,000 rpm
0-100 kph:         5.8 seconds

Curb Weight:         1,801 kg
Cargo Capacity:     Passenger Volume: 2,781 litres  //  Cargo: 371 litres
Towing capacity:     N/A

Fuel Consumption:
City: 12.3 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 8.3 L/100 kms
I averaged 10.9 L/100 kms during some very aggressive (combined) driving, and 8.8 L/100 kms during 100% highway driving @ 120 km/h.

Pricing for the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD
Base Price: $39,990 [Cdn] – (FWD)
As Tested: $48,490 [Cdn] (SH-AWD + Tech Package)
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Acura

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