2009 Acura TL Review and Prices
- Super handling All-Wheel-Drive empowers you to unleash 305 horsepower and waste not a pony to wheel spin or torque steer
- Swooping shapes and multi-dimensional gauges and controls give the cabin a truly special feel
- All the latest in navigation and communications gear made easy to understand and inviting to use
- New body looks like a collection of design knick-knacks
- SH-AWD model rides too stiffly and has a hitch in its giddy-up; the front-wheel-drive base model suffers more than a trace of torque steer
The 2009 Acura TL is the best car for you if you have confidence in your sense of style but like to play it safe with front-wheel drive and proven Japanese reliability.
Acura is Honda’s premium brand and the TL, a midsize sedan in the entry-luxury class, is fully redesigned for 2009. This fourth-generation TL is larger and more powerful than the 2004-2008 generation. The 2009 Acura TL is available in two models, both with V-6 engines. The base 2009 Acura TL has 280 horsepower and front-wheel-drive; it starts around $34,000. The 2009 Acura SH-AWD model has 305 horsepower and all-wheel-drive; it tops out around $42,000.
Per Acura practice, the 2009 TL is equipped with standard luxury features that cost extra on most competitors. But the TL is not the clear value leader it once was in this class.
The 2009 Acura TL disguises well the fact that its basic underskin design is shared with the Honda Accord, but truth be told, the base TL doesn’t drive much differently than a top-of-the-line V-6 Accord, and it’s hardly roomier. You’re shelling out the extra $5,000 or so over the Accord for the TL design and for the added status and fine dealer service associated with the Acura brand.
About twenty-five percent of 2009 Acura TL buyers are expected to go for the SH-AWD model, a randy rascal that most decidedly does not feel like any Accord. If the SH-AWD is a sport sedan to be reckoned with, it’s because its all-wheel-drive system allows ordinary drivers to feel like Formula 1 stars. But that alone isn’t reason enough to choose it over established all-wheel-drive rivals such as the BMW 335xi and Infiniti G37x sedans.
2009 Acura TL Changes back to top
Styling: In step with today’s best practice, Acura lengthens the 2009 TL’s wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles), stretching it 1.4 inches to provide a like increase in rear-seat leg room. But while most rivals concurrently reduce body length to give their cars a tauter stance, Acura increases the TL’s overall length by a significant six inches for 2009. The result is an overhanging prow that comes to a drooping point capped with a grille that’s apparently the new face of Acura. It’ll strike some as fresh, brave, and bold, others as an overwrought metallic snaggletooth. The theme is repeated at the tail. In between, the 2009 TL draws from a catalog of contemporary design conventions: blisters over the front wheel openings, a reverse kink in the rear roof pillar, and a bustle-back elevation to the trunk line. The 2009 Acura TL is an eye-catching car, but not a handsome one. Thankfully, there are no front fender vents.
Mechanical: Big news is the TL’s first use of all-wheel drive, and it’s an exemplary system. Exclusive to the SH-AWD model, it normally sends 90 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels. At the first hint of front tire slip, it begins to feed up to 70 percent of the power rearward. That’s a great traction-enhancement in the snow. But the system is also an immense aid to dry-road handling because it senses cornering demands and automatically redistributes torque to either rear wheel, mimicking the action of an expert driver who’s adept at powering through corners.
The base 2009 TL has a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 similar to that in last year’s sporty TL Type-S model. The 2009 TL SH-AWD model has a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. Six-speed automatic transmissions are today’s norm in this class – the 2009 Infiniti G37 even has a seven-speed automatic -- but both 2009 Acura TL models use a five-speed automatic transmission. It has steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for driver-selected gear control. (Acura says the SH-AWD may be offered with a six-speed manual transmission for the 2010 model year.) Compared to the previous model, the structure of the 2009 Acura TL is more rigid and the suspension is more sophisticated -- and is fortified on the SH-AWD for performance driving. The 2009 Acura TL base model reprises the 17-inch alloy wheel size of the 2008 TL, but the SH-AWD comes with 18s and offers optional handling-oriented 19-inch summer tires.
Features: The 2009 Acura TL has xenon headlamps and LED tail lamps and includes at no extra charge leather upholstery, aluminum-finish cabin trim, a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and an eight-way power adjustable front passenger seat. Also standard is an eight-speaker, 276-watt audio system that includes a six-disc CD changer, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio, USB port and AUX jack iPod connectivity, and HandsFreeLink wireless telephone interface. Acura expects 70 percent of 2009 TL buyers to order the Technology Package option. Available on both the base TL and TL SH-AWD, this adds keyless access with pushbutton ignition and a navigation system that can display real-time traffic and radar weather maps. The package also includes Acura’s ELS 10-speaker, 440-watt premium sound system with DVD-Audio and a 2,500-song hard disk drive. The navigation and ELS audio systems respond to voice commands. Premium Milano leather seating surfaces are also included in the Technology Package.
2009 Acura TL Test Drive back to top
From behind the wheel of a 2009 Acura TL:
Each 2009 Acura TL model has a distinct personality. Though driving enthusiasts generally prefer the balance and traction characteristics of rear-wheel drive, the front-wheel-drive base TL won’t embarrass itself on a curvy road, and only really aggressive cornering induces noseplow. What’s troubling is the torque steer, the sideways tug on the steering wheel and the wayward path of the front end when accelerating rapidly from a stop or, in particular, when hurrying out of a low-speed turn or onto a busy street. Torque steer betrays the deficiencies of sending 280 horsepower through the same wheels that also steer the car. It is in this regard that the 2009 Acura TL base model is no match for the rear-wheel drive models in the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G37 lines. The 3.5-liter V-6 itself is smooth and responsive, and the car’s ride controlled and compliant.
The 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD suffers no torque steer. Its all-wheel-drive system invites full-throttle blasts away from a stop, out of slow corners, and onto streets, responding with heroic traction. Highly entertaining is the action pictograph you can summon on a small screen within the central instrument panel. It shows in real time how the engine’s power is being distributed front to rear and side to side. The SH-AWD’s taut sport suspension hugs the road, too, though the tradeoff is a busy, brittle ride on anything but unblemished pavement. Sorry to report also that from midrange speeds, the SH-AWD model has slightly slower throttle response than the 2009 Acura TL base model, despite its larger, more powerful engine. The SH-AWD pauses a beat before downshifting from fifth gear and summoning its engine’s considerable power. It is just a momentary hesitation, but the rest of the driving experience is so alert that it introduces to the SH-AWD an element of frustration not found in the rival BMW 330xi or G35X, both of which have similar horsepower but use six-speed automatics. Manipulating the TL’s paddle shifters will improve throttle response, if you’re disposed to such intervention.
The SH-AWD’s steering is sports-car sharp and firm when turning, but in straight-line cruising, neither 2009 Acura TL model steers with that glued-on-center feel that makes the best sport sedans seem laser guided.
2009 Acura TL Dashboard and controls:
If Acura’s notion of good design seems indecisive on the 2009 TL’s exterior, its ideas coalesce inside to create a fresh, exciting interior. The dashboard is a celebration of arching shapes, layered surfaces, and hooded binnacles. The effect is to place the highly legible gauges and finely wrought controls each on its own stage. Buttons and knobs are plentiful, but they’re logically arranged, clearly identified, and have wonderfully precise action. Dominating is the Multi-Function Interface Dial, a single knob that accesses the most-often-used navigation, audio, and phone functions. These single-knob controls vex most other automakers, but Acura’s is simple and intuitive. Deserving special mention for crystal sharpness is the TL navigation system’s eight-inch VGA high-resolution color display.
2009 Acura TL Room, comfort, and utility:
Front seaters have good head and leg room in the 2009 Acura TL, but a pinch in the cheeks reveals the cushions as a tad narrow for some. The seats do hold you in place during fast turns. Rear passengers get a facsimile of the front’s dual-cockpit feel, the two outboard riders enjoying bucket-like accommodations. The middle position is spoiled by the floor’s prominent center hump and a hard backrest; this is really a four-passenger sedan. Rear leg room is generous, but those taller than 5-foot-9 should prepare for a scalp massage courtesy of the sloping roofline. In-cabin storage space for small items is plentiful. Few cars in this class have a large trunk and the TL is no exception; it will easily hold a couple’s luggage, though it is oddly shaped and has a wide, high lip that complicates loading.
2009 Acura TL Prices back to top
The 3.5-liter V-6 equipped 2009 Acura TL base model is priced at $35,715. The TL base model with Technology Package is priced at $39,445. (All prices listed here are manufacturer’s suggested retail prices and include Acura’s mandated $760 destination fee.)
The 3.7-liter V-6 powered 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD model is priced at $39,265, while the TL SH-AWD with Technology Package is $42,995. The TL SH-AWD model with Technology Package is also available with an exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels and high-performance summer tire package for $43,995
2009 Acura TL Fuel Economy back to top
EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2009 Acura TL put in among the higher-mileage cars in its competitive set, but differences are slight and none of these sport-oriented sedans is a gas miser. They all require premium-grade fuel, too. The 2009 Acura TL base model is rated at 18 mpg city/26 highway. The 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD is rated at 17/25.
2009 Acura TL Release Date back to top
Release date for the 2009 Acura TL base model is late September 2008. Release date for the 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD is November 2008. Both models are assembled at Honda’s plant in Marysville, Ohio, where the Accord also is built.
2009 Acura TL Competition back to top
2009 Audi A4: Fully redesigned for 2009, the A4 is a stronger-than-ever entry in the premium midsize-car class thanks to a larger interior and clean new styling. This is one of the few TL rivals to offer a front-wheel-drive model and it’s an attractive deal at around $28,000 with a 211-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s rated at 23/30 mpg. All-wheel-drive A4s are available in four-cylinder form (21/27 mpg) and with a 265-horsepower V-6 (17/26), the latter nesting in the TL SH-AWD’s $40,000 price range. This basic A4 design is good for another five years or so.
2009 BMW 3-Series: The benchmark for performance in this category is visually freshened for 2009, but remains smaller inside than the TL or A4. The 2009 3-Series line retains rear-wheel-drive models and all-wheel-drive versions denoted by an “x” suffix. Its most relevant TL rivals start with the 230-horsepower 328i (18/28 mpg), which goes for around $36,000 equipped to match the base 2009 TL. They culminate in the 300-horsepower 335xi (17/25), about $42,000 outfitted to match a Tech Package TL SH-AWD. The 2009-model-year styling update will see the 3-Series through to its next full redesign, due around model-year 2012.
2009 Infiniti G37: Infiniti’s entry in this class is relabeled for 2009, going from G35 to G37 by shedding a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 for a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. It echoes the BMW 3-Series with a tighter cabin than the TL, and also with rear- and all-wheel-drive versions, the latter identified as the G37x. They’re rated at 17/24, or 17/23 with all-wheel drive. Prices start around $33,000 and climb over $40,000 when equipped to match a loaded 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD. No major changes are in store until after model-year 2012.