When it comes to the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD’s styling there is a bit of giant elephant in the room and no one likes to talk about it. Or rather, they like to talk about it too much. Upon its unveiling many journalists negatively opined about the new corporate Acura grille that had made its debut on the all new luxury sedan (and has now made its way onto all other Acura models). I, however, am going to go out on a limb here and say that I actually like the grille and think that it incorporates itself well into an exterior design just chock full of daring ideas and angles.
From the fabulously retro-modern bustle back trunk to the acute lower shut lines of the rear doors (which make it nearly impossible to ding the car next to you in a parking lot when opening them), the whole of the TL is a deliciously artful design statement. And in today’s automotive world that is a rarity as most cars are either dull looking or appear to have had the front, rear and sides all designed by committees that never met.
Chris Bangle-era BMWs like the 5-series used creases and folds where they weren’t needed and called that “styling.” The linear angularity of the TL’s design is so precise that it makes the car look like it wasn’t put together in a factory but rather it was chiseled by an iron worker out of a solid piece of metal. A sort of moving piece of sculpture.
And I should really dislike this car as, you see, I own a 2006 model from the highly popular last generation of TL sedans which were decidedly more European looking. In fact, my father owned a TL from the generation before that and while our TL sedans are smartly styled they are nowhere near as avant-garde in the detailing department. Perhaps this new TL was Acura’s subtle way of preparing us for the masterwork known as the ZDX. Either way, I am now a full believer in Acura’s new design direction.
What is SH-AWD?
Super Handling All Wheel Drive (or SH-AWD in Acura speak) is a revolutionarily advanced system that can apportion as much power as is needed to any of the four driven wheels at any given time. As such this all wheel drive car handles like no vehicle I have ever driven before.
On dry tarmac this TL sticks to the road like fried mozzarella on a hot plate and in wet weather (it rained most of the time I had it) the SH-AWD system will give even the most easily frightened driver the sense that they are in complete control of the car. It truly is an amazing system as it never makes you aware of its presence but you can tell it is working because it steers and handles more precisely than probably any car you have ever driven.
Power and Options
Having driven the SH-AWD variant of the TL all week with its intoxicatingly smooth and powerful 305 horsepower 3.7 liter V6 I began to wonder about the base TL model. If this were my money I would definitely say that upgrading to the SH-AWD is worth it not only for the increased handling prowess but also because it is such a unique driving experience. Again, for my money if I was going to buy a front drive 6 cylinder Acura sedan I would probably go for the smaller Acura TSX V6. (Note: The base TL shares the same 3.5 liter 280 horsepower V6 with the TSX V-6)
One option that is not available on the base TL is a new six-speed manual transmission that, while not on my test car, sounds like a perfect match with the agile suspension and taut steering. I do have to say, however, that the TL SH-AWD kept me plenty entertained all week in 5-speed automatic guise and this is coming from someone who generally doesn’t like automatics. (Note: There are really nice shift paddles attached to the wheel on automatic models should you decide self-shifting or street racing is in order.)
My test model did, however, have the absolutely essential Acura Technology Package which gives you the Acura ELS sound system with DVD audio, Dolby playback, XM, 10-speakers, hard drive song storage, Pro-Logic 2 and 440 watts that will truly blow your mind. Listening to “Frank Sinatra Live in Las Vegas” in this car makes you feel like you are sitting right in front of him at the old Sands Hotel circa 1960-something when the men were men and the women were dames.
Also included is Acura’s highly intuitive in-dash navigation system that in all my years of driving various models from the automaker (my parents have owned 4) has never once gotten me lost. I wish I could say the same thing about my mother’s directions but unfortunately I cannot. (Sorry, mom.)
Interior and Comfort
While the interior styling of the new TL is more of an evolution from the previous generation when compared to the exterior there are still a number of clever upgrades. The first might seem inconsequential but it matters when you are single and usually drive alone. Both my TL and my borrowed 2010 TL SH-AWD have dual-zone climate control with the buttons to control the temperature angled separately towards driver and passenger.
So what’s my problem? Well, in the SH-AWD version there is a “sync” button which allows you to move the temperature of both sets of air vents up and down from the one button on the driver’s side. In my car I have to reach across the car to reach the other temperature adjustment switch and it is truly the little, clever things like this that can make an ownership experience satisfying.
Other than that the interior is built with the usual Acura solidity and features two snug front sport seats covered in grippy yet soft leather. The center stack housing all of the major controls couldn’t be more intuitive with the center knob to control the navigator dominating the design. Everything is clearly marked and within easy reach. Simply put, the interior of the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD is an immensely comfortable personal decompression chamber that does everything in its power to soothe you and allow you to get on with the business of driving.
And drive you will in this spacious and finely appointed luxury sedan. While it is supremely fun to pilot for the driver there is also ample space for passengers front and rear. Why, you wouldn’t want friends or business associates to think you were selfish now would you? Even with the uniquely tapered angles of the rear end the TL also still manages to somehow have a large trunk that is a very usable shape for hauling luggage or a month’s worth of supplies from Costco.
Would I Buy One?
The beauty of the Acura TL SH-AWD is that it mixes all of the positive virtues of competitors like the Audi A6 (all wheel drive), BMW 5-Series (sporty steering and handling) and the Lexus GS (refinement) yet you get them all in one far more affordable package. I’d say that the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD qualifies as the luxury car bargain of the year. Just check out the prices for its competition and you will see what I mean.
Terrific Handling in all Weather
Great Steering Feel
Audio/Nav Interface is Perfection
Available with a Six-Speed Manual
A Relative Bargain
Impeccable Build Quality
Front End Styling Not to Everyone’s Taste
Tester Models Wheels looked a Bit Small in the Wheel Arches (Larger Wheels are Available)
I Live in Southern California But I am Now Convinced I Need AWD
Going Back to My Old TL
Acura TL SH-AWD: (Base Price–$38,655)
As Tested: ($42,385 with Technology Package)
Power: (3.7 liter 305 horsepower V6)
Mileage: (17 city/25 highway)
0-60: (5.5 seconds: estimated)