There is something decidedly sensual about the lithe and athletic lines of the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD with 6-speed manual that I recently tested. To my way of thinking its pert posterior and muscular haunches are the automotive rear end equivalent of J-Lo. Or Ryan Kwanten from the HBO TV series “True Blood.” But how you perceive all of that depends on your personal predilections and preferences.
So why do so many people have strong reactions when they look at it? Well, we live in a highly puritanical society that is extremely comfortable with anything that just might have a sexual edge to it. And I hate to say it but the TL’s exterior design excites in a manner that is seductively prurient in nature. It is kind of like a sexy dominatrix demanding that you bend to its forceful will. Yes, I just said all of that.
But talk about the exterior styling of the 2010 Acura TL is a subject that is more worn out than Joan Rivers and plastic surgery. You either hate it or you don’t. There is no middle ground. It just so happens that I really like it so deal with it. I like auto designs that challenge you visually. That’s why I hate the latest 2011 BMW 5-Series. Yes, I miss Chris Bangle.
Most important to me, however, is how a car drives and what it is like to live with. As all commuters know far too well, it is a car’s interior and its driving characteristics that make or break an ownership experience. So even if other drivers think you are piloting a snaggle-toothed, flat-billed platypus then who really cares? All that matters is that you are comfortable and having a great time.
So, does the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD with 6-speed manual deliver on that count? Read on to find out.
Polarizing. That is really the only way to describe the appearance of the 2010 Acura TL. I pretty much laid out how I personally feel about the TL’s exterior design but to be honest I didn’t like it when I first saw it at Auto Shows a few years back. But the design really grew on me.
So much so that I think it is better looking than the 2006 previous generation TL that I call my daily driver. Not that I ever drive it with all of the cars I review. So if you see a blue 2006 Acura TL with a USC Trojans license plate frame somewhere give me a shout out. I forget where I parked it six months ago.
Interior Styling and Layout
The interior of the Acura TL blends “Blade Runner”-style computerized modernity with a healthy dose of over-stuffed armchair style comfort. The supple Milano Leather clad seats in the SH-AWD hold you firmly in place during aggressive driving maneuvers but also keep your back from getting fatigued during long drives.
The seats were truly relaxing and cosseting during a long road trip to San Diego for the vehicle’s picture shoot with Todd M. Allen of TacAir Photography. During my weekly tests I rarely really start to feel at home with a vehicle. But after just a couple of days I really felt really comfortable inside the 2010 Acura TL.
The center mounted knob that controls the audio and navigation system (among other things) is the picture of ergonomic perfection. It allows you to (among other things) change the songs on your iPod without taking your eyes off the road. Try doing that with your iDrive controller.
My favorite design aspect or the 2010 TL’s interior is the deep set speedometer/tachometer dials that are set in oversized pods ahead of the driver. They are simple, clear and chunky looking and appeal to my favorite minimalist design aesthetics. The shift lever is also perfectly placed so changing gears involves just a flick of the wrist.
The steering wheel is also perfectly sized and doesn’t suffer from being overly thick like so many Audi and BMW designs. Overall, the 2010 Acura TL’s interior offers up a deliciously tactile experience that belies its $43,000 MSRP. You won’t ever feel short changed, in other words.
Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy
Basic front drive TL models start a bit over $35,000 but fully loaded SH-AWD models with the HPT (High Performance Tires) Package, Tech Package and six-speed manual like my tester run a still reasonable $43,385. A 2011 version of my TL tester would run $200 more.
Basic front drive TL models come with a 3.5 liter 280 horsepower/254 lb. feet of torque V6 while SH-AWD models get a larger 3.7 liter 305 horsepower/273 lb. feet of torque V6. The HPT Package adds cool looking 5-spoke 19-inch alloys and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport performance tires and the Tech Package adds in dash navigation, the awe inspiring Acura/ELS premium audio system, the Milano Leather, push button start, rear spoiler, GPS linked solar sensing climate control and a back-up camera. A six-speed manual is only available with SH-AWD.
During a week of extremely mixed driving conditions that ran the gamut from stop and go city driving to long interstate slogs the TL SH-AWD with 6-speed manual averaged an impressive 22.3 miles per gallon. EPA estimates are 17 city/25 highway and thanks to an 18.5 gallon fuel tank the TL has an impressive cruising range. This is really a terrific road trip car.
Whereas the Acura TSX feels light on its feet and glides across the road, the heavier TL SH-AWD drives like a hunkered down Sherman Tank that has been cross bred with a Gecko. When you drive the TL you feel like you are literally attached to the road and that it would take an act of God to cause the tires to lose their tenacious grip on the tarmac.
No matter what you think of the way the TL looks, after a short stint behind the wheel there is no way that you could deny that SH-AWD turns this luxury sedan into something with the stuff to take the fight to BMW and Audi. And while the TL SH-AWD still usually apportions a pretty even split of the power and torque to the front and rear wheels, it can send as much power as it sees fit to any one wheel.
This means that the TL SH-AWD not only makes you feel secure in wet weather but dry weather as well. And while Audi may have pioneered the concept with Quattro all-wheel drive, they also are guilty of routinely dialing too much artificial feeling boost into their steering racks. The Acura TL’s helm, while not as firm and steady feeling as a BMW unit, returns plenty of steering feel without resorting to artificial heaviness as an implication of sportiness.
The 3.7 liter V6 may not have the instantaneous low-down shove of a turbocharged engine but the joy of any Acura motor stems from revving it all the way to the redline (6,700RPM in this application). The smooth and deliberate shift action from the optional 6-speed manual adds to the joy of really wringing this engine’s neck. The motor is, in true Acura fashion, velvety smooth when cruising yet can let out a rip-snorting growl when you are in the mood.
Brake feel was smooth and progressive during the routine panic stops that happen on Los Angeles freeways where the TL proved itself to be an able commuting companion. The ride even on the 19-inch alloys was impressively supple yet during hard cornering body roll was kept to a minimum. Overall, your typically well-judged Acura ride/handling compromise.
How Dog and Kid Friendly Is It?
Now, the TL’s interior is so nice that I covered the back seat with two canine seat covers but the leather is of such high quality that you could let your dog ride back there without one. But it just seemed too nice not to protect the Milano Leather. It was so luxurious that my dog Daisy Mae would instantly fall asleep in the back no matter how short the journey. She was, of course, securely fastened in her safety harness at all times.
As for kids there is no way they could destroy this interior and there is plenty of room in the back for two full size car seats. And when the kids aren’t back there two adults can enjoy surprising amounts of head and legroom.
There is room for three on the back bench but the middle perch isn’t intended for long trips unless you are as tall and thin as Ryan Seacrest. Sorry, I just had to shudder for a moment at the horrifying thought of taking a long trip anywhere with Ryan Seacrest.
The 2010 Acura TL really is versatile in that it can impress clients on the way to a business lunch yet can do double duty as a family car. The trunk is also big enough for a full size stroller (I checked) and a diaper bag. So just because you are a daddy or a mommy doesn’t mean you can’t own this TL.
When you consider the features, technology, build quality, luxury and fun to drive quotient on hand with the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD HPT with 6-speed manual transmission you’d be hard pressed to beat it for the price. The only thing you have to ask yourself is whether or not the style excites you in a good way or in a very, very, very naughty way. And that is totally your call.
Vehicle Tested: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD HPT
Price as Tested: $43,385
Options on Tester: Tech Package-(Milano leather, backup camera, Acura/ELS premium audio system, in-dash voice activated navigation with weather/traffic, keyless entry and pushbutton start, body color decklid spoiler), HPT Package-(5-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires)
Engine: 3.7 liter V6
Power: 305 horsepower/273 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-60: 5.6 seconds (estimated)
EPA Fuel Economy: 17 city/25 highway
Economy as Tested: 22.3 miles per gallon
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Gas Tank Size: 18.5 gallons
Trunk Size: 12.5 cubic feet
Crash Test Rankings (IIHS): “Top Safety Pick”
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper
6 years/70,000 miles powertrain
Vehicle Provided by: Acura
Vehicle Assembled in: Marysville, Ohio
North American Parts Content: 70%
Photos Courtesy of: Todd M. Allen of TacAir Photography