The next generation of Acura's best-selling TL midsize premium performance sedan goes on sale this week with a starting price of $34,955 (plus $760 freight).
Long the stalwart of the Honda luxury division, the TL returns for 2009 with numerous changes, beginning with an optional 305-horsepower V-6 engine, the most powerful in Acura's history.
There also is a new, bolder exterior design that Acura calls "emotional and powerful." It's also quite beautiful, especially for a Honda product. Honda designs are never polarizing as some other automakers' are; that's why Honda products such as the TL find such broad acceptance in the marketplace - there is nothing controversial about them.
In a big push to try to create some momentum for its languishing premium brand, Honda is introducing redesigned models of all three of its Acura sedans for 2009. The others are the entry-level, compact TSX and the flagship full-size RL.
"The completely re-designed TL's performance, sophistication and styling have been dramatically elevated to satisfy both luxury sedan buyers and enthusiast drivers," Dick Colliver, Acura's executive vice president for sales, said in an announcement of the TL's pricing.
"Its introduction marks a new and exciting era for the TL and for Acura."
Honda was the first of the Japanese automakers to create a separate premium brand, with the introduction of the Acura Legend in 1986. It was the impetus for the launch of the Lexus brand by Toyota and the Infiniti line by Nissan in 1990.
Since then, however, both Lexus and Infiniti have had more success in finding favor with upscale buyers, with Lexus by far the most successful of the three. Lexus has become one of the most-upscale names in the auto world, catering to high-end consumers, while Acura has been somewhat directionless, playing mostly at the low end of the premium market.
Acura's problems stemmed from its early reliance on affordable entry-level cars that were priced in the upper teens to low-$20,000s (the Integra coupe), while Lexus concentrated on upscale customers who could pay $30,000 or more for a car.
Two other issues also impeded Acura's growth as a luxury brand: no V-8 engine and no rear-wheel-drive. Upscale luxury cars in the vein of a BMW or Mercedes are expected by their buyers to have both of those attributes.
While that's not particularly a problem at the lower end of the premium scale (Lexus uses a V-6 and front-wheel drive in its entry premium sedan, the ES), but it has prevented Acura from playing in the upper echelons of the luxury market where the Lexus LS 460 sedan is a hallmark vehicle.
The only exception was the Acura NSX mid-engine sports car, whose prices were well into the upper end of the scale, but even it suffered from the lack of a V-8, and was dropped after 2005.
The RL, as Acura's top model, was intended to be the answer to cars such as the LS 460, but without a V-8, it hasn't been able to rise to a point even close to the top Lexus.
Honda still has no rear-drive cars, but has solved that problem at least to some degree by introducing its trademarked Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, which now will be extended to the TL line for 2009.
The '09 TL is based on the design of the newest generation of the popular Honda Accord, which arrived for 2008.
The rollout of the new TL is coming in two stages. The first to arrive is the two-wheel-drive version, followed by the new all-wheel-drive model in November.
The all-wheel drive is designed more for performance than for snow or ice driving. It allows car to act more like a rear-drive vehicle, and helps eliminate the pesky torque-steer problem that often plagues front-drive cars with powerful engines. Torque steer is the tendency of a front-drive car to turn on its own in the direction of the wheel that is getting the power (in most two-wheel-drive cars - without a differential lock - only one wheel gets power at a time).
Two engines will be offered, one in the front-drive and the other in the all-wheel drive.
The TL's $34,955 price brings the front-drive model equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 280 horsepower and 254 foot-pounds of torque. It's connected to a sequential SportShift five-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel- mounted paddle shifters and Grade Logic Control, which helps keep it from constantly changing gears while going up or down hills.
This engine replaces the 3.2-liter, 258-horsepower V-6 of the 2008 model.
Even with the boost in power, the new engine has the same EPA ratings as the 3.2-liter -- 18 mpg city and 26 highway.
For performance buffs, only the all-wheel-drive model will do.
With a starting price of $38,505, it comes with the 305 horsepower 3.7-liter engine, which has 273 foot-pounds of torque. Its EPA ratings are 17 city/25 highway, about the same as many midsize or larger crossover utility vehicles.
The front-drive TL is offered with a Technology Package for $38,685.
The Technology Package includes a navigation system with voice recognition, AcuraLink real-time traffic and weather-radar mapping, an ELS 440-watt premium audio system with 10 speakers, a keyless access system with pushbutton ignition, a backup camera system that displays on the dash-mounted navigation screen, and premium Milano leather upholstery. The sound system includes DVD audio playback, a 12.7-gigabyte hard drive, and XM satellite radio.
For the all-wheel-drive version with the Technology Package, the price is $42,235. Adding 19-inch alloy wheels and high-performance summer tires raises the price to $43,235, which also includes the Technology Package.
Standard TL features include a power moon roof, dual-zone adaptive climate control, 10-way adjustable power driver's seat, and an eight-way adjustable power front passenger seat.
The base audio system has eight speakers, 276 watts, a six-disc CD changer, AM/FM radio, XM, Bluetooth audio, a USB port and an auxiliary jack for an iPod or other device.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1995. Contact him at 210-250-3236; chambers@ star-telegram.com.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|David Thomas||Cars.com National||August 18, 2008|
|Cars.com Staff||Cars.com National||August 18, 2008|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||June 25, 2009|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||June 4, 2009|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||January 11, 2009|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||December 14, 2008|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||October 31, 2008|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||September 28, 2008|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||September 4, 2008|
People Who Viewed This Car Also Viewed
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Acura TL
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.