By on July 7, 2010

Pity Acura. Honda gambled in creating the first Asian luxury brand, and enjoyed four years in the spotlight when this bet paid off, only to then be completely overshadowed by Lexus. Acura has spent the last two decades trying to regain car buyers’ attention. The logical solution: offer cars that look and drive like no others. But what is distinctive it not necessarily desirable. And so we have the Acura TL SH-AWD.

There are over six billion people in the world. Six of them might find the current Acura TL more attractive than its predecessor. This car introduced the cheese slicer grille that has since spread to Acura’s other models. Can’t remember the grille on earlier Acuras? Well, that’s the problem Acura sought to fix, and the new menacing face is certainly distinctive. But sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. One suggested solution: opt for silver paint, so that the grille will blend in.

The problem with this solution: light colors accentuate the massive block of sheetmetal ahead of the TL’s front wheels. This unfortunate overhang, yet another sign that the “man maximum, machine minimum” Honda is no longer with us, is best mitigated by darker colors and the 18-inch alloys optional on the base TL and standard on the SH-AWD. So, light or dark? Well, in dark colors the TL’s crisply chiseled shoulders and fashionably arching roofline are somewhat attractive from some angles, which is better than unattractive from all angles. So dark.

Acura continues to stake out a position between mainstream brands and true luxury brands with the quality of its interior materials. It’s a clear step up from, say, a Nissan Maxima, but about even with Buick and no match for Lexus or the Germans. The TL’s interior styling is somewhat sporty, with a “high tech” ambiance, but even with the faux wood on the center console it feels overwhelmingly plastic and lacking in warmth. One glaring oversight: sunlight often washes out the LCD display for the HVAC and audio systems.

One clear strength: the front seats excel in both comfort and lateral support. Thick C-pillars impede the view rearward, but relatively thin A-pillars and a properly-sized and -positioned instrument panel contribute to an confidence-inspiring view over the hood (if not the wide open view that used to be part of Honda’s DNA). The TL’s 195.3-inch length, nearly equal the RL’s, affords decent rear legroom, though the arched roofline precludes a comfortably high rear seat cushion. The conventionally-hinged trunk isn’t expansive, and the rear seat does not fold to expand it.

GM might have finally caved to logic and introduced a modern rear-wheel-drive sedan platform eight years ago, but “innovative” Honda stubbornly sticks with front-wheel-drive. For those applications where front-wheel-drive just won’t do, Acura lately follows Audi with all-wheel-drive. And so the TL is offered in two forms: front-wheel-drive with a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and all-wheel-drive with a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter. I drove the TL to compare it to the 280-horsepower front-wheel-drive Buick LaCrosse and 290-horsepower front-wheel-drive Nissan Maxima. I opted to drive the TL in SH-AWD form anyway. Why? Because I have a pulse.

Most cars these days, even some acclaimed German sport sedans, feel lazy in day-to-day driving. Their engines and steering systems react slowly and deliberately to inputs, lest they prove tiresome in traffic or on the highway. All-wheel-drive tends to further dull a car’s handling by removing throttle inputs from the equation.

Well, the Acura TL SH-AWD is a refreshing departure from this norm. Blip the throttle, and the lusty, sweet-sounding six immediately snaps you back into your seat. Twitch the small diameter steering wheel even a few degrees, and the chassis similarly reacts RIGHT NOW. The steering doesn’t provide much feedback, but it is quick and firm. Through a rear differential that spins the outside wheel faster than the inside wheel, the all-wheel-drive system contributes to rather than detracts from the dynamism of the chassis. Pair this differential with the strong, responsive V6, and enjoy easily controllable oversteer on demand, a rarity with all-wheel-drive. Thanks to its nose-heavy weight distribution, the TL has an inherent predisposition to understeer, but this is readily overcome. Overcome it overly much, and the stability control kicks in unobtrusively. Even Buick now offers an active rear differential, but Acura’s is far more dramatic than others in its effects.

The transmission is the drivetrain’s weakest link. Shifts aren’t the smoothest, manual shifting is available only via paddles and not the shift lever, and there are only five ratios (in case you needed another clue that Honda’s mission has drifted). Honda recently introduced its first six-speed automatic in the MDX and ZDX, well behind even Chrysler. Perhaps the TL will get this transmission soon. A six-speed manual is available with the SH-AWD, and Honda continues to engineer excellent shifters, but good luck finding a dealer with one in stock.

All in all, the TL SH-AWD is a surprisingly fun car to drive. So why aren’t all cars this responsive? Taut tuning has a price. The TL’s immediate responses to even the smallest inputs would prove tiresome to the non-furious in traffic or on the highway. The ride is very firm, even brutal. Typical of Acura, road noise levels are higher than the luxury car norm. Buick, much less Lexus, has little to fear here.

Ultimately, the Acura TL falls between two stools. Enthusiasts want a more compact car with a more even weight distribution. As well as the SH-AWD system compensates for the TL’s inherent understeer, an inherently balanced chassis would be even better. Non-enthusiasts want a smoother, quieter, more relaxed ride. Both groups want a more attractive exterior and higher quality interior. Honda now seems to realize that it has lost its way, so the next TL should include fewer potential deal-killers. Hopefully the current car’s outstanding responses aren’t refined away in the process.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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103 Comments on “Review: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD...”


  • avatar

    That grill doesn’t look like a cheese grater.

    It looks like a mandoline.

    A cheese grater would be an improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      My thoughts exactly.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you’ve forced me to employ a few more brain cells, I see that I was thinking of a slicer, not a grater.

      I just knew I’d seen this grille in my kitchen drawer.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Behold! The Acura Butterface.

    • 0 avatar
      wpaulson

      The grill is not a cheese slicer or grater. It is obviously a bottle opener (of very large bottles)

      Sheesh.

      Some people are never satisfied.

    • 0 avatar
      al.abama

      Seems like all you guys have to comment on is the exterior design. My beef is with the road noise. I swear when I test drove the SH-AWD, I was really impressed with the car’s strength and handling, and I didn’t notice the noise. Now that I’ve driven mine for 2000 miles, I’m about to scream over the road noise. On top of all the noise from the tires, there is a constant dull droning noise while the car is moving. The dealer says it’s all normal. They ought to be embarrassed — how on earth can this vehicle be considered a luxury car? My 2004 Chevy 1500 work truck is quieter to drive than this Acura.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Grill is simply awful.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    No mention of the equally hideous rearend? They seemed to have designed the rear of the car so you could look just as hideous coming or going. I looked at Acura several years ago before the new direction in design, but I would not even consider owning a car this ugly. There are too many good cars out there to waste my time with one that looks the exterior was designed by a 9-year old during recess.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the rear is just as angry as the front. But I figured I’d already written enough about the styling.

      I really do think it looks okay from the side, in dark colors, with the 18-inch wheels. Too many caveats?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      It looks like ass from all angles. The side profile greenhouse is generic, while the front fender detail is clunky, with overly-bulky overhangs front and rear.

      It’s completely artless.

  • avatar
    segfault

    It looks like either a Transformer or a single-blade razor.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    Can you say “FUGLY”???????????????

  • avatar
    BDB

    It’s a shame what Honda has done to Acura’s styling.

    The earlier Acuras looked classy, the new ones look like the stylists watched one too many anime films. Same thing happened to Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      No lie, the current Acuras and Mazdas are off my list on looks alone.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      +1, which is a damn shame, especially for Mazda which used to be by far my favorite Japanese brand.

      I’d rather have nicely equipped LaCrosse, or even a Taurus SHO, over this.

    • 0 avatar

      The LaCrosse feels very different, with much less immediate responses. Which can be good or bad or both, depending on what you’re looking for.

      The new SHO simply feels large and soft.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      +1 Acura and Mazda have both managed to come up with the ugliest cars on the market IMO. Neither are a consideration for that reason. Both of their sales numbers would indicate most buyers aren’t buying their products and I’ve got to believe their horrendous styling is playing a big role.

    • 0 avatar
      Episode26

      Yelp, Acura’s without question. At least with Mazdas you get a couple of good angles you can enjoy. This and the ZDX are classy Aztecs, the only good angle is when the car is to your back.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “GM might have finally caved to logic and introduced a modern rear-wheel-drive sedan platform eight years ago, but “innovative” Honda stubbornly sticks with front-wheel-drive.”

    I would argue that GM lost the plot when plunging into the enthusiast driven RWD swamp. Fifteen years ago, the Seville, Deville and Eldorado were all strong sellers.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Nice body, Acura. Call me when you get your braces off.

  • avatar

    TrueDelta has no reliability stats for the current TL yet. Fewer people are buying them, so we have fewer owners to draw on for the survey. Getting close to the minimum sample size for the 2009 even so.

    To sign up to help with the survey:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    TheMyth

    I hate to pile on but…who am I kidding, I love to pile on. Looks like you should easily be able to open a GIANT bottle with that front-end. Does Acura ever listen? All I hear are complaints about this cars styling and Acura doesn’t even budge. Tell you what Acura, lock your designers in a room for a few days, slide some pizzas under the door and don’t you dare let them out until they provide an acceptable, or at least an unoffensive, design. Good grief.

  • avatar
    ott

    If you’ve got to start using COLOR to make the car more palatable before you can decide to buy it, then you probably shouldn’t buy it.

    On a separate note, I’ve seen one of these cars with an aftermarket grille and it looked very, very good.

  • avatar
    NN

    The TL and TSX look butchered with this design style. However, and maybe I’m the only one, but the ZDX, despite it’s practical compromises, looks stunning.

    • 0 avatar
      Toyondai92

      I agree so you’re not the only one!

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      TL and TSX are poorly conceived.

      The smaller (“S”) TSX should have the sport engine and be the AWD-only Audi-fighter (“X”), while the larger (“L”) TL should be the FWD Lexus-fighter.

      And get away from the goofy triangle design motif!

    • 0 avatar
      chrisgreencar

      I agree too — I think the ZDX is really cool looking, and somehow the grill works on it, although it’s just terrible on the other cars afflicted with it. It’s not selling, though — not practical enough, I suspect, and most customers are going for the MDX instead.

  • avatar
    honfatboy

    “… the next TL should include fewer potential deal-killers.”

    Send that idea to Acura’s product planning department.

    “People! The current TL has too many deal killers! The next one needs fewer deal killers!”

    “Aw, boss. How many deal killers can we get away with?”

    “I want no more than three!”

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      Made me laugh.

      When I was searching for the car that eventually became my Maxima, I never seriously considered the TL. Size, weight, styling, and price were all dealbreakers. Who the target audience for this car is, I’ve no idea.

      Excellent review, Michael.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Acura finds itself stuck in the same mold that almost killed off Ford,GM,Chrysler. They do not listen to buyers and could care less.We are supposed to buy Acuras simply because they are what Honda is offering. Nothing else matters. IF I were an Acura dealer I would be dumbfounded by Hondas actions over the last 15 years.It’s almost like they want dealerships to fail.Acura created a whole new segment , then pissed it away. Back in the early days of Honda , mistakes were quickly corrected. Today , they are apparently so afraid of any risk , they deem it better to stay with the losers that they already have, and let the Accords and Civics pay the bills. Acura today stands for nothing,means nothing,does nothing.This mind set is going to run this company into the ground. Given enough time , Honda will hit the wall , not unlike Toyota. In short, Honda is drinking their own kool-aid , and they see no need nor reason to stop.

    • 0 avatar
      chrisgreencar

      In defense of Honda/Acura, maybe rather than being “stubborn” or “blind”, they are just trying to find a different niche. They do sell less than Toyota, but hasn’t it been that way for a long time?
      I’m not crazy about the new styling, either, but at least it’s different, and even though the driving characteristics may not suit the enthusiast, there are those who will like it, and buy it because it offers something a bit different from the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      I agree with your assessment here. There was time, maybe a decade or so ago, that there was a sizable number of “Honda Fanatics” that would buy Acuras simply because they are Hondas. Nowadays, though, the rest of the competitions have pulled even or even ahead of Hondas that I think the numbers are far less now. Unfortunately for Honda and Acura, their designers seem to still stuck in this kind of mindset, much like the Big Three not too long ago. They think they can just built anything they want, and their loyal customers will line around the block to buy it, grateful that the mighty Honda has been kind enough to bestow them a new model. Witness all the current Acuras, the Honda Crosstours, Insight, CR-Z, etc.

  • avatar

    @TheMyth: My thoughts exactly. Perhaps Acura’s design studio was HQd in Times Square, next to the enormous bottle of Coke?

  • avatar
    George B

    Saw a Black 2009 Acura TL out at night a couple months back. Looked ok from the side. If the price was low, I might consider a Black TL. Would need an aftermarket RonJon grill and the chevron on the back painted black before showing it’s face in public. If you go all the way and black out the wheels and trim a 2009/2010 Acura TL could go from ugly to menacing. A Honda Batmobile.

  • avatar
    EChid

    Ugh, can we give it up on the grill already. Every single article these days seems to feature a massive amount of comments about how ugly, aweful, overdone, and generally all-wrong car designs are. And I’m not just talking about Honda or Acura. Suddenly everyone is an automotive design professional and valuable critic of car design? Please. Get over yourselves. And stop. It’s a design. You like? No? Don’t buy it. Indifferent? Test drive it, THEN comment about the car. This whole “Can anyone say FUGLY” ballywho is just annoying, presumptious and genuinely ridiculous. Everyone who says that should be forced to design their own car from the ground up and see how it comes out looking.

    Did we not JUST have an article about the value of only speaking briefly on design, or perhaps not at all? I guess most readers just interpreted that as an appearance free-for-all.

    Don’t get me wrong Micheal, I found your review refreshing, balanced and unbiased (many Acura reviews aren’t these days, but instead feature ex-Acura fans whining about betrayal by car). Its the endless litany of design critiques that bother me.

    /rant

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Should we have to be a race car driver to comment on brake performance or handling? Or a sound engineer to comment on a stereo system?

      There are some singers/bands out there that I can’t stand, can I not criticize them because I’m not a professional (or even amateur) musician?

      I’m not a car designer, but I have eyes, and I think both the design of the TL is terrible.
      ______________________
      I personally would love to hear from an Acura “automotive design professional” about what they were trying to do with the TL. The best I’ve heard so far is “we were trying to be distinctive”.

    • 0 avatar
      Toyondai92

      Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      bnolt

      While I somewhat agree, and it’s no doubt subjective, there does seem to be an endless litany of design abominations being released recently.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      @ajla
      Why are we reading Micheal’s review of the TL and not mine? Well, for starters I haven’t driven the car. I am not an experienced car reviewer, nor do I have much experience writing or driving (age 21). So, in my eyes at least, Micheal has a much more valuable opinion. I know a lot of styling is up to the eye of the beholder and all that, but there is a limit. Most of the people sharing opinions look at the pictures (which may or may not do the vehicle justice), make a judgment, discard car and move on. To get through that review and come out with, not: “I’m surprised by the what Micheal found, given the previous reviews of the TL on this website” or “it would have been interesting to hear his response to the 6spd” its something along the lines of “OMG, the car is so FUGLY lolz kthanksbai !1!eleventyone.” But seriously, its kind’ve an insult to the reviewer, the manufacturer, the engineers and pretty anyone who put any effort into a vehicle if we can only approve of a car based on its looks. Its like everything that is wrong with Hollywood now, but with cars.

      Yes, feedback is good, but endless harping on something that is what it is and has been dissected every which way before. Not.

    • 0 avatar
      swester

      How many times can you spell the author’s name incorrectly?

      I’ve never understood why people cannot get the order of the letters in MICHAEL right, time after time.

      Then again, having read your “rant,” I can see what sort of brain makes those mistakes.

      The author spent two paragraphs discussing exterior design. TWO. How is that unfair? There are plenty of other less-than-stellar aspects to the car (drab interior, 5-speed tranny, price) that the author clearly drew attention to as well.

      And for the record, this automobile is an abortion.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @Echid:

      Although I agree that harping on it isn’t the most productive way to comment, I’m guessing that Mr. Karesh knew a TL review would result in a lot of comments about the car’s design.

      TTAC also isn’t really a site where you need lots of experience to have any credibility. I’m sure that if you (or anyone else) wanted to write a guest editorial in defense of Acura’s current design language that Ed would be willing to take a look.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      @swester
      Oops, my bad Michael.

      And swester, you misunderstand. I’m not attacking the review, I thought the review was balanced and nicely done. I’m just unimpressed with comments.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I’m intrigued by a large car with good driving dynamics. If the price was right on the used car market I would pick up a black one and go full menacing with it. But one of my deal killers would be the lack of sound isolation, luxury cars can be dynamic and dead silent inside.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Too much noise seems to be a fault of all Honda products, for some reason.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Yes even Consumer Reports has started to talk about the excessive road and mechanical noises in Honda interiors. Seems to be one of the ways that Honda has been trying to save money, ie: less sound deadening.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Good call. I remember reading the current-gen Accord added active noise cancellation for exactly this reason,

      But at the same time, high road and tire noise has always been part of Honda’s DNA. Probably has to do with weight savings; they also use thinner sheetmetal and thinner window glass (though the glass meets the same performance standards as their competitors’).

      Less rubber isolation in the suspension may also help explain their historically better road feel compared to Toyotas, though this is just a guess.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Micheal’s conclusions hit the nail on the head but you really have to wonder how Honda got it so wrong after the last model, which sold well on its looks even though the ride and performance were below average for its class.

    There is a large potential market for any car company with a reputation for quality to sell 4 door semi-luxury/sports sedans in this country. That demographic generally favors elegant over edgy designs, likes effortless acceleration, good road handling (not track performance), a welcoming interior and a ride that doesn’t have driver darting around the road in order to avoid minor imperfections. It really isn’t that difficult – even with FWD or AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Common misconception. The TL’s performance numbers, straight ahead and around corners, were fully competitive. A lot of people just didn’t like the FWD feel it provided while doing it.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    What’s with the cross-eyed speedo and tach pods? Seems like every new car design has these. Honda got the basic three circle guage design right back in, what, 1982? Maybe the only way to improve on it is to get rid of the tach or make it smaller (a la the old Mercedes’).

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    In terms of styling, it seems to me that Honda always alternates good and bad generations with every model. Therefore, the next gen TL, Pilot, Odyssey etc. should be good looking cars.

  • avatar
    tced2

    Highly overstyled. Acura tried to develop a “distinctive” style and it is very over done.
    As the review points out, the TL is within inches of the RL. Why bother to buy a (much more expensive) RL when the TL is similar sized? RL and TL in AWD trim are very similar.
    And it continues down the Acura line, the TSX can have the same engine as the TL. What differentiates a TSX from a TL? Not much.
    Maybe Acura can get their lineup rationalized, a top car that is Caddy CTS-sized and RWD. A TL that is V6/FWD and the TSX I-4/FWD. High quality interiors. Tasteful styling.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      Very good points about the similarities between the two cars. A little homework revealed the RL wheelbase is less than an inch longer, overall length less than a quarter inch longer, overall width more than an inch NARROWER, both front and rear tracks more than an inch NARROWER, identical in height, identical front headroom, LESS front legroom and less hiproom front and rear. Included is an identical drivetrain (when compared to a base TL-SH), an additional inch of rear leg room and less than an inch of rear headroom for “just” $8000 more. Does that strike anyone else as absolutely absurd? The difference between a base TL and base TSX is much less absurd. For your additional $5000 you get more power, more room and more of a luxury cachet, as it should be.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      As a TL admirer turned RL owner, I can shed some light on this one.

      The TL is a sporty tweak on the U.S. Accord. The RL is a full-on assault on Lexus/German luxury, built in Japan as a roadworthy but conservative flagship car for executives, and exported to America almost as an afterthought.

      If you drive them back to back, their personalities are completely different. The TL is much louder, stiffer and harsher, and its interior materials have a more self-consciously “high-tech” personality but are visibly much cheaper. The RL’s build quality is considerably better, too.

      Of course, the fact that everybody asks the question is evidence of a deeper problem: Honda failed to admit to themselves that Americans wouldn’t pay $50K for a car that didn’t wow the Joneses with a big name, large overall length, a V8 or RWD. But that’s another subject.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      Exactly, why would you pay that much for less car?

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    The parrot beak styling on the front and rear of the Acura is downright hideous…anything would be an improvement over the current appearance.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Hey! Don’t insult my African Grey parrot! But, yeah, the stylist are out to lunch. But give kudos to the suspension guys for offering good driving dynamics. Perhaps they went a bit to far on the stiffness, but I prefer that over the usual too soft settings. Michael, how was the fit and finish of this one? Door to dash alignment? The ill fits of the last Acura tested here was appalling.

  • avatar
    James2

    @dcdriver

    I’ve noticed that as well. I think Honda holds in-house design competitions, then alternates between the “winners” and the “losers”. This is one car company that is legally blind.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    The thing that bothers me the most about the TL is the size. The previous TL was the perfect size for a mildly sporty, mildy luxury sedan. This new one is huge.

  • avatar

    I realize I’m in a minority here, but I actually like the TL. Sure, the grill is a little startling at first, but it doesn’t look bad in person.

    Also, I’ve seen cases where the grill has been painted the color of the body (specifically, tan), and it didn’t look bad at all. I’m glad Honda has gone out on a limb with this one. It’s not for everyone, and it’s less elegant than the 2004-2008 model, but at least it stands out.

    It could be worse. It could look like the Accord (which is actually legitimately ugly, I think.)

    The interior, on the other, I do find to be cheap-looking and overstyled. That center stack looks like it’s off the Civic or the Cruze or something, not a $40,000+ car.

    Also, like educatordan, I’m intrigued by the notion of a larger car with good driving dynamics. I’d be interested to see a comparison of the TL SH-AWD and new Saab 9-5. They are similar in size and are both likely to be quite a bit more responsive than your average big car.

  • avatar
    Toyondai92

    What, no review with the six speed stick? My dealer regularly has a couple in stock and they don’t last.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      I think the answer to your question was probably answered by your second statement. Then again I’m not a car guru I just like reading about them.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    …the Acura TL SH-AWD

    The name underscores the problem. When Acura first came out everyone admired the Legend, respected the little Integra, and even kind of liked the Vigor. Ad the names stuck. But, pray tell, what is a TL SH AWD DEF XYZ WTF? This sort of thing worked for MB, and even Audi. It just seemed to obscure and obfuscate Acuras. Same thing with current day Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      +1.
      Maybe I’ve been on the net too long or my email is more PG-13 than average.

      I see SH-AWD and subconsciously replace the hyphen with “IT”. The car becomes a curse! WTF Acura?!?

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      “TL” in itself isn’t so horrible as a model name (though it’s devoid of meaning). It’s combining it with SH-AWD that makes it an alphabet soup.

      Compare to the German premium makes:
      A4 quattro
      335ix
      C230 4MATIC

      Only the M-B becomes a mouthful …

  • avatar
    redrum

    I haven’t read every comment here but count me as at least one person who thinks the grille looks OK. It’s at least different, and better looking to my eyes than Ford’s current garish 3-blade grille or Mazda’s smiley face. The rear, though, is a wreck. Looks like someone scored the trunk down the middle and then hit it with a sledgehammer.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    An ugly japanese luxury car?
    That´s just what we need (irony)
    Who is the designer of this junk?
    Chris Bangle?
    Whoever it is, he should be shot.

    Honda made the right descision by not selling it in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      european

      acura tsx = european accord

      i see it this way, americans have such bad taste
      (seeing the sales numbers for chevy impala/ford escape and
      other crapmobiles) that honda needed to uglify
      its N.A. offerings to appeal to the blind masses

      i guess you do need free healthcare to get your eyesights fixed
      *en masse*.

      EDIT: sorry if i got a bit agitated, but wanting to KILL someone
      just coz you dont like the styling of a car????? even if it was meant
      to be funny, it wasnt

      like one poster above said, i dont mind the exterior styling too, but im rather concerned
      with the lack of quality inside, or to clarify, acura’s interior is what honda’s is
      supposed to be. i see no premium in this.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I guess your average Peugeot is a stylistic winner, huh? America does not have a lock on crap taste, or crap cars. Your comments usually have more merit than this…what happened today? Bad day at the office?

    • 0 avatar
      european

      golden,

      i said i was sorry in my edit. i was too harsh.
      and be sure, i dont find all Peugeots of stylistic excellence.
      not at all. but this slander of acura’s design has to stop somewhere. sure, many don’t like it, but there are some (like me)
      that find it ok. and i think that i understand what the designers
      were going for: to make the car look bold. i even find it better
      looking untempered, than with all those possible “fixes” ED showed in a seperate post.

      and yes, i do understand there is a market for the impala. and
      that’s ok too.

    • 0 avatar
      mtl

      The party’s come and gone, but can’t help commenting…
      While I absolutely and passionately concur on its ugliness, the blame should not be on the designer, but rather the people (more likely person) who approved this design. The designer has to be, at some level, an artist. And surely we have all seen art that we find stunning and beautiful, and likewise others that are hideous. Whoever approved the design should be demoted, if not fired altogether.
      If I was an assembly worker that caused a car to be destroyed, I wouldn’t be surprised to be fired. The executive in question has surely lost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lost sales, especially to former TL owners who were eager to update their steeds. And to think they carried this beak-theme across the whole line. Power plenum my @$$!
      I own a 1st gen TL and favour the exterior of the 2.5 gen version, and think the 3rd gen was also a success (esp with manual offer). This 4th gen is a miss like the dizzy kid who nails his dad in the nuts during pinada.

  • avatar
    carve

    I was looking at the RDX a couple of years ago and saw this grille. The salesman admitted sales quickly plumetted. He said there was another problem, too: the headlights. More than one customer said they look too narrow and squinty, like a charicature of Asian eyes.

  • avatar
    IGB

    Buick has really come a long way to be mentioned so many times in an Acura review.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Buick has risen quite a bit, but Acura has also fallen.

      Once a Buick is compared favorably in a Lexus review, then Buick will have arrived back to where it once was as the “doctor’s car”.

    • 0 avatar

      I think some of the big magazines have compared the LaCrosse to the Lexus ES and given the Buick a qualified win.

      The base TL would have been a more appropriate comparison. The LaCrosse rides better or at least more smoothly than the SH-AWD, and certainly looks better inside and out, but isn’t nearly as much fun to drive.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    MK

    I don’t usually read car reviews, but I do read yours. Another well written, thoughtful review. Thanks.

  • avatar
    DeadEd

    I’m with the choir here on the overwrought, and frankly, fugly styling, but I’m more concerned on how the styling negatively impacts the functionality of the car. This version of the TL is probably a pretty good roadtrip car (don’t know how intrusive the road noise is), but I’ve taken the previous version on 500-600 mile trips, and it is a nice ride with decent fuel mileage. However, the rear beak and odd shape of the trunk on this latest version makes it all the more difficult to load large objects. That and cheap, intrusive, hinges limit the ability to pack luggage for four passengers for a week away. For the targeted jr. executive with a family, this is a real liability.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I didn’t like the look of the car when it came out, but I have to say, if it hasn’t grown on me, at least it’s become less offensive. I don’t think I’d wholly object to owning one.

    The problem, I think, is that we’re coming out of a protracted period of conservative design (say, from about 1980 onwards) and into an era of, ah, ‘stand-outs’. Acura’s on the more avant-garde edge, but I’d argue that they’re much less tacky than a lot of what was being cranked out in the late fifties and early sixties.

    Hell, in thirty years the TL (along with, say, the Hummer H2) will probably be considered period pieces.

  • avatar
    boosterseat

    It seems really odd to be saying this, but I’d rather have a new Taurus, especially the SHO model.
    Much nicer looks, similar equipment and both are fast, quality cars.
    Sync is pretty awesome to boot. Am I alone here or is Ford competing with Acura – and winning?

  • avatar
    340-4

    I don’t like the looks of this thing, in or out, and regardless of the responsiveness, nothing here would make me pick this car over the new Buick LaCrosse… except…

    …except…

    …the SH-AWD can be had with a six speed manual.

    Sigh.

    I’ll go test drive the Buick anyway.

  • avatar
    SomeDude

    I am not going to fixate on the grille here. The questionable aesthetics is not this car’s biggest problem. Two far bigger problems with the TL, like the rest of the Acura brand are

    (a) Acura-branded cars are dated if you look past their changing sheet metal. Their engines, transmissions, those are like from the 90s. A 5-speed automatic, that stupid high revving engine with no torque at lower rpm, abysmal brakes, do these really belong on a contemporary premium sedan?

    (b) Build quality is poor. After only a couple of seconds of looking at a TSX (ok, it wasn’t a TL) I noticed a poorly cast caliper on the rear right wheel and that the rear window was not properly fitted. These are glaring quality defects these days, even for some cheapo like the Caliber or Cobalt.

    • 0 avatar
      chrisgreencar

      @SomeDude: You’re right about (B) for sure: I have a 2008 TSX, which is pre-bird-beak, the one everyone loves. I like a lot of things about it, but I have been surprised by some quality issues that I never had on ’90s Hondas that I loved. All of the windows rattle if they’re open even slightly, there is an annoying buzzing in the driver’s window in hot weather, the disc brakes had a strange corroded appearance even when fairly new, the engine idles roughly, a bit of interior door trim peeled off already… this is on a car with less than 30K miles. It’s still a charming, great-driving car, but if all these little defects had happened on the ’80s and ’90s models, I doubt so many would have come back for more. I mean, c’mon, rattling windows? That sounds so GM! Ironically, prior to this I had a ’97 Buick Riviera, not without problems, but it was solid as a rock and never rattled or squeaked in 160,000 miles.

  • avatar
    mrcrispy

    If you could get past the looks, its a fast reliable luxury sedan and its not that bad. But why in holy hell are cars so big these days ?! I won’t understand the desire for a normal sized individual here to keep buying bigger cars, and every reviewer likes more interior space. I’ve talked to friends who are fit and still go for gigantic mammoths they can barely park anymore.

  • avatar
    John R

    Damn. Shame. How long does it take to engineer a RWD platform from start to finish? I can’t fathom why Honda couldn’t have foresee this at least 5 years ago.

    Honda V6 + Honda 6-spd + RWD= BMW starting to perspire.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Indeed. Plus Honda had no problem blowing millions on the S2000, which I doubt they made money on. Yet they’ve let Acura continue on in cost cutting, confusion and a lack of ability to be competitive with the big luxury players. It makes no sense

  • avatar
    Invisible

    LOL
    How typical. Another Agent at an autoblog has stolen yet another TTAC article.

    However, I dare then to copy the recent GM fire thread here. I bet it will not happen.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The garish styling is just the icing on the cake.

    The whole philosophy of this car is confused. It’s a 3800ish lb whale with a drivetrain better reserved for the likes of an actual sports car, with the ride of said sports car but the performance of what it is- a 300HP, AWD, 3800lb Accord. This is in sharp contrast to the more sensible approach of say, BMW or Infiniti, whose equivalent models (3/535xi, G37xs) provide the performance of a sports car with the ride of a luxury car.

    This, the ZDX, the Crosstour and the CR-Z are the four pillars of confusion that personify the deviation from Honda’s better times. I only hope Honda’s next crop of cars have more basic appeal, as they have lost a LOT of die hard fans (including myself) with their wayward thinking.

    First step would definitely be to put all the Acuras on a dedicated RWD chassis, and absolutely kill their garish design language….

  • avatar
    Veee8

    Take this drivetrain and place it in the TSX wagon (eliminate the TL and RL all together) and you’d have a smashing success baby…oh yeah.
    and make mine a TSX wagon with a 6 speed.

  • avatar
    Macca

    I dunno, I’m not as worried about the exterior appearance of the TL, in fact, it’s growing on me from the examples I’ve seen on the road. What does concern me about the grille from a design standpoint is that it appears to be a futuristic, edgy item that won’t wear well with age. What’s wrong with a basic, functional grille with the Acura caliper planted in the middle. Some brands have managed to maintain a fairly constant grille design for decades, with only minor changes for modernity’s sake, but I have a feeling that all of the negative press on the latest Acuras will result in a return to a more demure snout soon.

    What seems much more egregious to me is the cheap interior on a $40k vehicle. Having never been in one, I’ll have to take Michael’s word for it (and I do, from the look of those pictures). Granted, few interiors really come off well in photos (lighting is key) but you can’t hide the hard plasticity of this interior even with the best photoshop skills and dramatic lighting. Particularly bad is the huge swath of plastic-aluminum trim that emanates from the center console. Scratch city, here we come.

    Infiniti seems to take their lumps with interior quality, although the latest designs seem to finally befit their price range. Would some real aluminum or dark burled wood really cut into the margin too much on a car with this MSRP?

    Of course I want to drive a vehicle with an exterior design that I find aesthetically pleasing, but you spend your time in the interior, which is where I’m perhaps an even greater critic of design and build quality. 40-large puts you in the territory of some awfully nice interiors. I realize the price tag on the TL SH-AWD is partially a matter of technology, but I’d rather spend my time in a G37 than what appears to be a slightly tarted-up Accord interior.

  • avatar
    malkiyyah

    As one of the apparently few 2010 Acura TL owners, I feel compelled to weigh in. While I agree the styling is unusual, I personally think it looks great – striking lines with attractive detailing. And its not just me – at least once a week I’m stopped (at the carwash, in the grocery store parking lot, etc) and complimented on the vehicle. However, most of those people are younger – age seems to be a major factor in whether you like this car. Personally, I like being able to drive a luxury car that doesn’t feel like I borrowed it from my grandmother.

    And at least in the tech version, the interior is luxe and lovely. Again, very modern, which some people may not like, but its certainly not cheap looking. Its well laid-out interior is comfortable both for me at 5’3″ and for my husband who’s a foot taller.

    So don’t bash it unless you actually drive one. And while it may not be to your personal design taste, that doesn’t make it crap.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeDude

      Of course you like the car – otherwise you wouldn’t have bought it. True, whether or not one likes the beak and the chunky back is a matter of taste, but so is your liking of the car, is it not?

      Now, what is objective is the fact that TL does not sell. Once I’ve read Mr Karesh’s review (he did see and drove the TL), it becomes clear why this Acura has flopped. It simply lacks in every department that makes a premium sedan. My impression is that, apart from the controversial sheet metal, nothing much separates the TL from the Accord it is based on. And so the question becomes: why buy what is essentially a restyled Accord for $40k when you can get a Cadillac CTS for that kind of money, or the Buick Lacrosse for much less, both of which are much better cars.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      Somedude: I wouldn’t take it that far. The Buick interiors are nice, but Acura still comes off better, and the build is still better. Plus, have you been in a CTS’s interior? I’m sorry, I sat in one. It was disappointing, pretty cheap and had some nasty lines showing. Definitely not as good as Acura.

      And overpriced Accord? Umm, in that it uses the same platform? Beyond that, it uses a different engine, excellent AWD, offers a manual tranny where the Accord dare not and has a compeletely different driving dynamic over the Accord. I compared the two interiors too. Acura is still significantly better. Take a look at cars that compare on the power/tech/fun/equipement levels scale and few compare price-wise. The only way Buick is better is in the ride department, and that is a decision of the automaker. Plus, a Buick is an overpriced Opel, by your calculations, except their are very few changes. Oh, and the ES is an overpriced Camry, etc.

      The reason this car hasn’t sold as well is because expensive cars with taught suspension are a niche market. Once people get up above $35k they expect smooth. This is also the same reason the Mazda 6 sells poorly. Ironically,if Acura went soft riding everyone would whine endlessly about the “good-old days” when Acura’s where driver’s cars and about how consumer demand is forcing every car company to make soft, isolated bubbles for cars. In a marketplace where Honda is becoming more and more of a follower and more mainstream, I’m glad to see they have one model remaining that at bucks their trend a little.

  • avatar

    The huge grille looks OK on the MDX, but overwhelms the smaller TL. Sat in one recently, and while nice, the Bavarians still speak louder.


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