Completely redesigned for 2009, the all-new Acura TL features a number of firsts for the company and the car. The most notable change is the addition of Super-Handling All-wheel Drive (SH-AWD) to the performance model, which replaces the TL Type-S. Honda's luxury division also boosts power, increases the car's overall size and introduces a new sequential sport-shift transmission for the 2009 TL.
The new, beefed-up powertrain features a pair of V6s, with the base 3.5L model producing 280hp (209kW) and 254lb-ft (344Nm) of torque, just 6hp (4kW) and 2lb-ft (2.7Nm) shy of the 2008 Type-S figures. The TL SH-AWD gets an even more potent V6, its 3.7L displacement managing 305hp (227kW) and 275lb-ft (372Nm) to drive all four wheels, a rise of 19hp (14kW) and 19lb-ft (27Nm) of torque. Honda/Acura's well-developed VTEC variable timing for intake and exhaust valves helps maximize performance while minimizing emissions, while the drive-by-wire throttle system and programmed fuel injection also contribute the base model's 18mpg city (13L/100km) and 26mpg (9.0L/100km) highway EPA rating. The TL SH-AWD performs just slighly poorer at 17mpg (13.8L/100km) city and 24mpg (9.8L/100km) highway.
Both cars feature the sportshift five-speed paddle-shifted transmission as the standard configuration. While the five gear ratios may be significantly outnumbered by the six-speed or more competition, Acura claims the unit has the widest gear ratio spread of any five-speed transmission in its class, though what that might imply for shifting smoothness isn't clear.
Aside from being more powerful, the new TL is also larger than its predecessor. Six inches longer, 1.8in wider but just 0.5in taller, with a 1.4in longer wheelbase and a wider track - 1.1 in wider in front, 1.8in wider in the rear - the car also promises to be a more stable, better-cornering version of itself. The extra size means rear legroom is enhanced by 1.3in and rear shoulder room grows by 0.5in as well.
Exterior styling is updated as well, with a new 'signature grille' and strong character lines sweeping C-pillars and new LED taillights. Smaller features add to the overall look, including bright HID projector-beam front headlights, pronounced wheel arches, a standard power moonroof and genuine stainless-steel body trim. Standard wheels are 17in alloy units wrapped in 245/50 rubber, but the SH-AWD with the technology package comes with 18in wheels that can be upgraded to 19in, both also wrapped in 245-width rubber.
Inside, the 2009 TL features all the basics for a luxury sport sedan, including dual-zone adaptive climate control, 10-way adjustable (8-way power seat with 2-way power lumbar support) driver seat, 8-way adjustable power front passenger seat, and steering-wheel-mounted F1-style paddle shifters for the Sequential SportShift automatic transmission. An eight-speaker, 276-watt audio system that includes a 6-disc CD changer, AM/FM radio, XM Satellite Radio, bluetooth audio, USB port and AUX jack connectivity. A technology package is available on both models that features a navigation system with an eight-inch full VGA color display, real-time traffic information, weather with Doppler-style radar mapping, Acura/ELS surround-sound audio and a keyless entry system with push-button ignition.
Standard safety features are also present, including anti-lock brakes, with brakeforce distribution and brake assist, tire pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, and a full complement of airbags. The warranty coverage for the new TL is standard four-year/50,000mi coverage with six-year/70,000mi protection for the powertrain, and comes standard with 24-hour roadside assistance.
Pricing starts at $34,955 for the 3.5L V6-equipped base model. Adding the technology package takes the MSRP to $38,685. Moving up to the 3.7L V6 and SH-AWD raises the base price to $38,505, and adding the technology package once again bumps the price by $3,730 to $42,235. Upgrading the SH-AWD with the technology package to 19" wheels raises the final price to $43,235. All models are subject to a destination charge of $760 that is not included in the MSRP.
2009 Acura TL official photos