- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

Elegant aggression. Sounds oxymoronic, but after driving the 2009 TL, I have to conclude there are new ways of thinking about driving.

Acura’s new dramatic styling package on the 2009 TL is attracting a lot of manly attention — just what the automaker is hoping for — a strong male audience.

The all-new TL sedan features lots of sharp, angular points in the rear tail and in the front fascia. There are no soft edges, no gentle swooping lines, and no graceful curves. The TL is pointed and piercing in its stance. It is built specifically for a hit-the-ground-running kind of guy who wants performance.

The most important element to an aggressive nature is the fire in the belly. Under the hood of my all-wheel drive TL SH-AWD tester is the 3.7-liter V-6. It is Acura’s most powerful engine ever offered in the brand’s sedan line. New to the all-new version of the TL is all-wheel drive. Previously, Acura’s TL models had always been offered in a front-wheel drive configuration only.

This 2009 fourth-generation TL generates 305 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 273 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm. Coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, the 3.7L V-6 is rated to return fuel economy estimates of 17 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. The EPA projects combined fuel economy of 20 mpg.

In late September, Acura announced it will offer a six-speed manual transmission in the TL for the 2010 model year. This will mark the first time Acura pairs a manual gearbox with its award-winning super handling AWD system.

The standard engine in the front-wheel drive TL model is the 3.5-liter V-6, also mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5L produces 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 254 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,000. This powertrain’s fuel estimates are 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Both the 3.5-liter and 3.7-liter V-6’s require 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.

Acura’s Super-Handling AWD system distributes optimum handling not only between the front and rear of the TL, but also between the right and left wheels, providing the best possible all-weather traction as well as all-speed traction. One of the best notable driving characteristics I observed of the SH-AWD in the 2009 TL is that it doesn’t interfere with spirited driving. It’s just a silent partner that will step in if needed. It’s not annoying with road noise or weight and aerodynamic drag.

The starting price of the 2009 TL is $34,995. In addition to the all-wheel drive, the test car featured the Tech Package at a price of $42,995, including destination and handling charges. Features in the Technology Package include the Keyless Access System with the push-button start.

The navigation screen is now an 8-inch high-resolution color display monitor that doubles as the rearview camera screen. Perforated Milano leather is one of the luxurious interior treatments.

I had the opportunity to drive both the TL and the TL SH-AWD. These are two very different vehicles. The engines make them different, the drive configurations makes them different from each other, and I noted a complete separate distinction in interior design treatments (even the steering wheels felt different) that further distinguish the TL from the TL. They’re not the same. They’re not even cousins.

If you’re considering the all-new Acura, you really should get in the TL and then get in the TL SH-AWD. This is not a model trim level difference. They are completely separate vehicles in performance and personality.

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