Weidel on Wheels: Acura's TL shows off its new look

By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Addressing the concerns from some of its more faithful customers, Acura came out with a full-blown redesign for the 2009 RL — a popular, upscale sedan that has been a nice seller for Honda’s luxury division. There seems to be two schools of thought when making comparisons to the old and new. The TL’s styling is not to everyone’s liking — although personally, I feel it has a very classy appearance. Regardless of one’s opinion, the new TL is quite different. This year’s TL is six inches longer, which is a significant increase. One notices the difference from an exterior standpoint and the added room is recognized while inside the vehicle. Typically, growing in size that much impacts performance, but the TL still offers plenty of zip by smartly increasing the horsepower appropriately in all models. Even with the TL being bigger, quicker and generally easier to handle, the drawback again falls upon one’s perception about the styling, which seems to be either a hit or miss. Previously, the TL was distinguished by a wedged shape that frankly grew tired over the years. It has since been replaced by a front grille that detractors say looks somewhat like a beak. It also has a rounded rooftop and sits lower to the ground. The standard TL goes for just under $35,000, a price that seems about right. The model driven here, the SH (super handling) with all-wheel drive, didn’t deliver in enough areas that I would want to pay an extra eight grand ($43,235) for a little extra power and more bells and whistles. And I wasn’t sure the “super handling” was all that super. With either engine, the power is impressive. The base model is a 3.5-liter, V-6 with 280 horsepower, while the all-wheel drive TL-SH AWD is a 3.7-liter, V-6 with 305 horsepower. The power can match or exceed many of the TL’s high-class rivals, such as the Cadillac CTS, Lexus ES 350, Infiniti G37 and Jaguar and Mercedes products. Gas mileage for the TL is predictably average, ranging from around 17-25 miles per gallon. One aspect that is very techie and helpful in the SH-AWD model is when taking a tight corner a bit too fast the vehicle will send added torque to the outside wheel to help control the steering. It’s the type of sophisticated gadgetry that does help set Acura apart from some other brands. __________ 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD Price: Starting at $42,235 Mileage estimate: From 17 mpg city to 25 mpg highway Power: 3.7-liter, V-6 engine with 306 horsepower Standard features include: Antilock disc brakes with brake assist; stability and traction control; six-disc CD/MP3/DVD, audio changer, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity; climate control; power sunroof; leather upholstery; rearview camera; keyless ignition; rear spoiler; sport suspension; access and starting Remote engine start