By on August 10, 2011

Even if the Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT were not a good car, it would still deserve our support as the only upscale midsize sedan available with both all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission in North America. Even BMW has vacated this space. You can still get the 5-Series with either all-wheel-drive or a manual transmission, but not both in the same car. If you need all-weather capability and ample space for four adults, but also want to row your own, the TL is it. So, what are you stuck with?

The 2004-2008 Acura TL was an astonishingly attractive car. There was nothing flashy about the exterior, but its athletic proportions, its angular (but not too angular) lines, its size—everything was just right. But then the Accord was super-sized, and took its Acura platform mate with it. At the same time, Honda had somehow received the message that its designs were too subtle. So the 2009 TL was cursed with bulky bodysides, pointy ends, and a chunky chrome cheese grater for a grille. A unique look, certainly, but also one with many vocal critics. For 2012 the pointy ends have been blunted and the grille genericized, yielding a blander exterior that, while still not likely to inspire lust, should at least blend safely into the crowd.

The 2012 TL’s interior received no readily evident changes. So the atmosphere remains high-tech and the materials semi-premium, roughly on a level with Buick and Lincoln. Ergonomics are first rate, with the secondary controls logically arranged and close at hand. Many functions are handled via a large knob mounted just ahead of the shifter—so close that I bumped it a couple of times while grabbing third. The instrument panel isn’t nearly as low or compact as those in classic Hondas, but the A-pillars are thin by current standards, the windshield rake and instrument panel depth are both moderate, and the view forward is open. The view rearward is compromised by the high tail and sweeping roofline, but this is typical of current sedans. The nav system includes a rearview monitor to aid in rearward maneuvers.

While other auto makers shape and space their front bucket seats’ side bolsters to fit the average NFL linebacker, those in the TL are shaped and positioned to actually provide lateral support for the average adult. Yet the thickly padded seats are also comfortable unless your posture is more upright than most, in which case the headrests jut too far forward. In the rear seat, knee room is plentiful and headroom sufficient for adults up to 6-2 or so. The shortcomings here: minimal toe space under the front seats and a cushion that’s a little too close to the floor. At 12.5 cubic feet, the trunk is small, especially considering the 194-by-74-inch exterior. And, as in other Asian upscale sedans, the rear seats don’t fold to expand it. The glove compartment and center console are similarly minimal.

Honda’s engine technology remains about a decade behind the bleeding edge, so there’s no boost and no direct injection. While even “nothing wrong with pushrods” GM finally coughed up the nickles for DOHC, Honda remains wedded to a Rube Goldberg valvetrain that connects the dozen valves in each head to a single belt-driven cam. So the valleys between said valves aren’t as deep as they’d optimally be. No matter. While 305 horsepower is on the low side for a modern, premium-burning 3.7-liter engine, the big V6 delivers where it counts, with strong, immediate responses and a song that gets sweeter the closer you get to the 6,700 rpm redline. Even without a turbo it’s possible to get to sixty in well under six seconds. GM’s, Ford’s, and Hyundai’s V6s might employ more recent technology, and Infiniti’s might be stronger, but the Acura powerplant sounds and feels the best in this bunch. But when you don’t want to hear the engine, you don’t. When cruising at highway speeds the exhaust, so throaty at full throttle, is barely audible. Despite a 3,889-pound curb weight and all-wheel-drive, fuel economy isn’t bad, either, with low twenties reported by the trip computer in suburban driving. (The EPA reports 17/25.)

Though not the engineering powerhouse it used to be, Honda remains the master in a few areas, and manual transmissions are one of them. Despite some softening in the car’s overall character, the TL’s six-speed shifter retains short throws that positively engage each gear with the direct, mechanical feel of a rifle bolt. Though clearly under pressure to cater to a broader market, Honda’s engineers drew the line here. The gear ratios are near ideal, with a short first gear then a minimal drop with each shift. While it would have been easy given the minimal sales potential to toss a manual transmission into the car and call it a day, someone clearly sweated the details.

The TL’s all-wheel-drive system, though largely unchanged since it debuted in the 2005 Acura RL, similarly remains the standard towards which other manufacturers should aspire. Perhaps if Acura’s marketers had coined a catchier trademark than “SH-AWD” (doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the way “quattro” does) the engineers would receive the recognition they deserve. While active rear differentials intended to provide all-wheel-drive cars with the feel of a rear-driver have become increasingly common, they often fail to make a substantial difference. Acura’s system goes a step further than simply shunting torque to the outside rear wheel—it actually spins this wheel a little faster than the others. Get on the gas through a curve, and the effect is readily evident. Like the best rear-wheel-drive cars, the TL can be precisely steered with the throttle. Despite the TL’s decidedly nose-heavy 58/42 weight distribution, underteer is minimal to begin with. With even a touch of acceleration it’s gone altogether. Press on and the chassis progressively transitions into oversteer.

And then you run up against the not-so-good changes. Last year the car was available with sticky 245/40YR19 Michelin PS2s. For 2012 these have been replaced with 245/40VR19 Goodyear Eagle RS-As that, according to the Acura flacks, “offer significantly improved performance in snow and ice.” What they also offer: much less grip and squishier steering feel on dry pavement. Adding insult to injury, the 19s are now only available together with a blind spot warning system and cooled front seats as part of the Advance Package, and this package is only available with the new-for-2012 six-speed automatic transmission. There’s now only one tire available with the manual: 245/45VR18 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4s. A touring tire, these readily (and loudly) give way when subjected to more than half of the capability of the drivetrain. Go for a quick corner exit, and the rear end rolls over into a mushy slide. If they were going to make only one tire available in conjunction with a clutch, it shouldn’t have been this one.

The aforementioned roll indicates that all isn’t quite right with the suspension tuning, either. The suspension is far from soft, with a somewhat lumpy, busy ride. The 2010 I drove a couple years ago felt harsher, but the suspension tuning supposedly remains the same so this is probably because the 2012 car is quieter. Bumps are still felt, but they aren’t so much heard. Despite this firm tuning, when pushed the car doesn’t feel as tied down or as precise as the best, partly because the body structure isn’t as solid, and body roll is especially evident at the rear end in hard turns. While the TL initially feels responsive and agile thanks to quick steering and the trick AWD system, push it and those inches and pounds make themselves known.

The 2010’s electric-assist system didn’t provide much in the way of road feel, but at least it had a heft commensurate with its quickness. For 2012 they’ve lightened the SH-AWD’s special steering calibration to, in the words of the press release, “generate a more relaxed on-center feel at normal road speeds— a steering feel that more closely matches that of the front-wheel-drive TL.” More relaxed? Try comatose. There’s now a dead zone on-center that, in combination with the quick ratio, makes it too easy to dial in too much angle. Even off center and at higher speeds the lobotomized steering never approaches its former firm feel. Some manual transmission intender asked for this?

If you want a 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT, then it’s going to list for $43,770. With the manual transmission the Tech Package (with nav and ELS audio) is mandatory while the Advance Package is not available. As mentioned in the intro, there are no direct competitors to this car. The closest match: an Audi S4, which has tighter handling but also a tighter interior. Equipped like the TL SH-AWD Tech, the Audi lists for over $12,000 more. Adjusting for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool narrows the gap to just under $11,000.

Don’t need the premium brand or the perks that attend it? Then (as some readers reminded me below) Subaru offers the Legacy GT (or at least did in 2011; changes for the 2012 haven’t been announced). The LGT with nav lists for $9,600 less, and adjusting for feature differences cuts this to about $6,800. There’s actually more room inside the Legacy, but the interior materials and driving experience aren’t what they were in the 2005-2009 car.

My criticisms notwithstanding, the Acura TL is a good car, even a very good car. If you need the traction of all-wheel-drive and a midsize interior, but also want to have fun, this is your car. Nothing beats a manual transmission for driver involvement, and the TL’s is one of the best. The highly responsive engine and chassis similarly encourage uncivil behavior. But the TL could have been a great car. The engine, transmission, and drivetrain carry the ball within a couple yards of the goal line, only to have the steering and tires promptly fumble it. With the 2012 revisions, Acura has tried to address the shortcomings of the 2009-2011 car, but it’s hard to see what they were thinking with these tweaks. The powertrain remains optimized for driver involvement, while the lighter steering and mandatory touring tires do a mushy 180 in the other direction. Tires, of course, can be swapped in an hour. With any luck, it’s also possible to have a dealer reflash the steering system with the 2010 software. So perhaps these changes for the worse can easily be reversed. But to put so much brilliance and sweat into the powertrain and then hobble it makes me wonder about Acura. Who do they think this car is for? Unless they’re trying to kill what remains of 6MT sales (and perhaps they are), they should pair the SH-AWD with tighter, more communicative steering and stickier, sharper-handling treads pronto. Marketers can’t identify the tastes of the target buyer? Just ask the engineer who fine-tuned the transmission or the one who dreamed up the trick differential what he’d like in his car.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

129 Comments on “Review: 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT...”


  • avatar
    jj99

    This car is not loaded with a bunch if trashy gimics that Detroit is trying to differentiate itself with.

    It is the best sport sedan available at any price. It looks great. It runs great. And, it will be reliable well into the mid 200,000 mile mark. And, it will have resale value far better than the Detroit lineup of rental queens.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      While the comparison with domestics may hold true (although I’d rather have an SHO), at a price in the mid 40s the TL is also competing with the likes of the BMW 335, a car that handily beats it in almost every measurable way. Even putting aside the aesthetic problems of the current model, $45K is simply too much for an up-market Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        BMW looks better and drives better. But, they are less reliable than GM and Ford. Forget that one.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        In practice, the 3′s passenger cabin is quite a lot smaller. The 5 is really a more apt comparison, size wise.

        The 335 is, contrary to what most probably believe, not nearly as stable at speed as the TL 6MT. The Bimmer is possibly faster in the tight stuff, but gets scary in bumpy sweepers before the TL does. At least this was true for a 2010 TL on summers vs. a 2007 335i Sedan with sport package and standard runflat abominations. For the record, a 2010 M3 made both of them seem like 60s Cadillacs with alignment problems. And the Panamera is better still. But quite a bit pricier and with no manual available for the last remaining manual market in the world…

      • 0 avatar

        I have reviewed the TrueDelta reliability data on BMW, Ford, and GM and overall, BMW may be more reliable. It may be argued, that BMW, is at least as reliable at a minimum. Premium vehicles seem to suffer from less reliability on all sides except the Japanese.
        As far as the Acura is concerned, we have little need of 4WD in a family car down here in the South. I try not to discuss asthetics because they are so subjective but nothing draws me to this brand.

      • 0 avatar
        otbricki

        This car as reviewed has the equipment, dimensions and drivetrain of a loaded BMW 535 X-Drive. That is a far more expensive car.

        Throw in the legendary costs and attitudes you have to deal with in the BMW service department and that takes it up a notch in owner cost and pain.

      • 0 avatar
        carr buff

        I love to read posts by guys who read Road & Track , and have never owned or driven the cars they comment on ..

        I have owned them all my first TL Was 2000 . I had 5 other Acura’s after wards a 2001 CL S a 2003 TL S A 2004 TL A 2005 TL And A 2006 TL ,Then I bought a 2007 Infiniti G35X Then A 2009 G37 X Then a 2011 Mercedes C350 4Matic

        The Infiniti was a rocket , faster than Any Bmw 3 series , but a lot of body roll , it was faster than an Audi S4 . I live in Montreal where winters get pretty brutal and a lot of snow and Ice .
        Those cars were primarily winter cars to me , by far My 2012 Acura TL Sh Awd is a superior car in every way shape and form for a big car it surprisingly has no body roll the Awd System isn’t a limited Slip Differencial system , no its not as fast as the Infiniti or the Audi S4 or Bmw 335I But in the 12 months I have owned it I have never gone in for service , its not an upscale Honda at all , a lot of the technology from Honda may be in the car , but as far as an Ultimate driving machine goes Reliability and Peace of mind count for a lot , I will put my 2012 TL UP Against A 335 any day of the week forget the difference in price which is 15 grand more for the 335 , consider resale value and holding its value . BMW’S are the ultimate money losing machine , want to talk about Performance Porsche !!!!

    • 0 avatar
      MBsam

      You must own one or something. Best sports sedan at any price? That may be the overstatement of the century.

      It certainly doesn’t look offensive anymore but not GREAT. It’s still got that highly Honda-esque look and middling interior which is actually pretty damn gimmicky in its execution looking like a Sony boom-box with all those buttons and digital displays.

      My parents would like this though because it’s inoffensive and they too are locked in that baby-boomer “Japanese cars are made with special secret reliability sauce” mentality.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Well jj did admit the 3 series looked and drove better – how it drives is pretty crucial for a sport sedan. So maybe he is retreating from the hyperbole of “greatest sports sedan at any price”.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Mike, just being honest. While the BMW looks better and drives better, when you lay out 40K+ for a car, it had better be dead on reliable. I have seen so many new BMWs on the side of the road. In fact, I think I have seen more of those on the side of the road than any other brand.

      • 0 avatar

        “My parents would like this though because it’s inoffensive and they too are locked in that baby-boomer “Japanese cars are made with special secret reliability sauce” mentality.”

        Because they are often still right. As much as we don’t like the way the TL looks (although the facelift looks very good in person), as much as we hate the new Civic, and dislike the Accord and Crosstour, there is still nothing to say they aren’t reliable, and lots to say that they are.

        Historically, Honda’s were made solidly, had fantastic cutting edge engine tech, were athletic and sharp, AND had great reliability. Just because we’ve lost some of those characteristics, doesn’t mean we’ve lost all of them.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      Steering feel and grip are “trashy gimmicks” now? “Best sport sedan at any price” is kind of a joke too. Even I don’t care for BMW and I know that a 335 is a fundamentally better car in every way. Or a CTS-V, which isn’t really in the same price range (because it’s a real premium car on a it’s own chassis, and not an uglier, tarted-up Accord.) But whatever; all those middle-managers need something to tell the world that they couldn’t get bought on a Mercedes or BMW.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        The TL comes from a different school of car building than the Bimmers and Benzes of the world. The latter are built from the grounds up as luxury cars, meaning relatively costly basic platforms. Which is then, for the models in the $40,000 range, not tuned and outfitted in a very inspiring fashion.

        While the TL, is a “cheap” car tuned much closer to potential.

        The results in feel are different, but not with one necessarily better than the other. I’m probably a bit of a Honda Fanboi, from the Integra R days, but that car was similarly a cheap car done to perfection, as opposed to the 3 series, which was always a basically good, expensive car without much care put into it at all. Same goes for the twin turbo RX-7. A cheap thingy that was just magic. The new Mustang is supposedly another example, at least in Boss trim. There can be something charming about a cheap car tuned to within an inch of it’s life by tuners who like to drive, vs. simply another well designed from the grounds up appliance.

        When BMW puts as much care into the 3 platform as Honda does to the Accord platform to make the TL SH6MT, they arrive at the M3. Which has the same kind of hopped up and cared for feel, just turned up to 11.

      • 0 avatar

        “Steering feel and grip are “trashy gimmicks” now?”

        He was speaking in reference to American cars, right? I think you would have difficulty finding a lot of American cars that deliver similar or better road feel in this price range. Regal? CTS? Maybe?

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      JJ99 – “I have seen more of those on the side of the road than any other brand”. I suspect that hyperbole to be an echo of all the other internet forum guys that have also never owned a BMW.

      Go over to Michael’s website TrueDelta.com and check out the reliability ratings for 2010 3 series and 2010 Acura TL. The TL has an average of 49 trips/year/100 and the 2010 3-series is 17 trips/year/100. That seems like the 3 series is also more reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        “I have seen so many new BMWs on the side of the road. In fact, I think I have seen more of those on the side of the road than any other brand”

        -jj99

        Where do you live? I hardly ever see any cars on the side of the road, only work trucks with overloaded trailers, certainly the shoulders are clear of BMW’s. In fact here in KC I probably see more BMW’s representing the last twenty model years than most any other brand. When was the last time you saw a 80′s Oldmobuick? or 1st gen Integra?

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        dswilly…i still daily drive my ’89 civic around FWIW. But I do see a lot of old bimmers rolling around. Hmm maybe an e30 is my next car.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        dswilly, around my neck of the woods, I have seen many BMWs and Range Rovers on the side of the road. I have also seen a few Volvos. All were newer cars usually driving the Boston to Wellesley stretch on the mass pike.

        When it comes to newer cars, the only other I have seen was one newer Explorer. So, no BMW, Range, or Volvo for me.

        Last year, I saw a near new Range HSE on the cross bronx. I was worried about that guy. Wonder how that one turned out.

        I have never owned a BMW. I used one for several weeks as a loaner. But, I do have a 12 TL in my stable of cars. I use it a couple times a week. I like it a lot, except the side view mirrors bug me when they tilt down while in reverse. Acura, what is that about?

        Usually, I am tooling around in my 11 Highlander picked up last week. Just traded in the 09 Highlander on it, and only had to add 5300 dollars. I also own a 9 Camry V6 SE I use when I want to go into less desirable parts of town. Then, there is my 10 Pilot I use from time to time.

        FYI … I will be trading the 9 Cam on a 12 Cam as soon as possible. Want to be the first. My neighbor owns a large Toyota dealer and indicated I will get the first 12 Cam SE he gets. I will keep you posted.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        jj99 – The mirrors rotate down so that you can see curbs while parallel parking. For reference, my last BMW (’01 740) did this, and I know they’ve had it around for even longer. Sorry it took a decade for your tarted up compact to grab a nifty feature the broken-down-on-the-side-of-the-road marques have had as standard for a while. And for the record – I would MUCH rather be broke down on the side of the road in a BMW or Benz than one of the Japanese imports – BMW Roadside America is fantastic. And you are far more likely to be able to limp hope if needed.

      • 0 avatar
        EAM3

        I had an ’04 TL 6 speed. I liked the car well enough that I bought it instead of the 330i I was looking at also. Kept it for 3 years and after quite a few unscheduled visits to the dealer (every single window failed to roll back up at least once during my ownership – usually at the worst possible time to fail, A/C took a break in the middle of summer in Florida, other little things) I traded it in. The 2006 BMW 330Ci ZHP that replaced it is still in my garage and not going anywhere any time soon. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        ellomdian – really you’d rather have that slippery slope argument. Hmm, you have a slightly older BMW and it breaks down in death valley with no cell phone coverage for you to call road side assistance and attempt to trek your way back 40 miles and don’t make it – the cops roll you over and there’s a smile on your fact b/c it was a German car that let you down?

        This argument is stupid – I see all German cars or Japanese cars or American cars broken down on the side of the road. How the heck does anyone prove this based on likely outright lies to support ones biased argument. Don’t feed the trolls with troll arguments.

      • 0 avatar

        carguy,

        Isn’t that what I just said?

        Just for giggles, I went to the Acura site. The most power you can get is 300hp and the most expensive vehicle will cross the $57,000 mark? Wow! Acura may have a reputation for reliability but the lack of any real respect for its designs or brand makes its prices absurd. I would take a MB or BMW over an Acura any day.

    • 0 avatar
      meefer

      At any price point? Really? the TL isn’t even the leader in its class. In fact, I can’t think of a sedan I’d want less at this price point. Maybe a Buick or tha Taurus SHO. But if you’re going to open up the can of worms to include any price point, then maybe an some seat time in an ISF, M3, Panamera, CTS-V and heck, while we’re at it, a Rapide could persuade you?

      Then again, you said the TL “looks great” so I can’t trust your opinion on anything now.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        “edited my previous comment because it was just a childish response to what is obviously a troll who is just trying to bait us, and I dont want to play that game”

  • avatar
    The Comedian

    “only midsize sedan available with both all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission in North America.”

    Luxury, sure, but what about the Subaru Legacy? The Legacy is also a midsize (a bit bigger in volume, acutally), AWD and comes with a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      david42

      Indeed, the Legacy 2.5GT shares this Acura’s spirit… though I bet that the extra $12k for the Acura gets you a lot more toys. And from what I read, the Legacy GT has become relatively squishy these days. Still I can see a certain kind of person cross-shopping the two.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Looks like they bought the BIW tools from the last-generation Maxima.

    What’s up with the fancy plastic halo around the motor? This certainly does not reflect Honda-san’s M-M philosophy.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      News flash: Honda-san died in 1991, and his company coasted along in his direction for about ten years before veering into a wall.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian E

        They were at least still coasting in that direction when I bought my TSX in 2006. The second (current) generation is not as good, but even that doesn’t have a giant engine shroud yet.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Toyota should bring back the All-trac Camry! Also, if this spec sold a tad better, I wonder if Nissan would consider making their next Maxima AWD [and bringing back the manual...stupid CVT!] Could be a good way to further differentiate from the Altima

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    “Even if the Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT were not a good car, it would still deserve our support as the only midsize sedan available with both all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission in North America.”

    Ummmm hello, Subaru Legacy GT anyone? You might want to amend your text to say “luxury.”

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    How does this compare to the G37x? Specifically the interior? My wife is looking for an AWD sedan in this price range and is favoring the Infiniti right now. She’ll get the auto so that doesn’t matter and she likes a little “oomph” in her cars, which I translate in to good mid-range torque, but the interior quality is going to be the key factor.

    • 0 avatar
      catbert430

      The G37x interior is roughly equal or slightly higher in quality to the TL.

      It looks especially nice with the optional ($450) genuine wood accents.

      It is, however, substantially smaller or at least feels substantially tighter room-wise.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The wood package makes a night and day difference with the G37. The standard silver plastic makes them look cheap and dreary, but the wood gives it a real luxury car feel.

      • 0 avatar
        drylbrg

        Thanks, the wood trim is definitely on the must-have list. She’s sat in the G37 at car shows and is comfortable with the interior size but I was wondering if I should suggest looking at the Acura when test drive time comes. She is also looking at the LaCrosse and Lexus IS but the G37 is at the top of the list. By what you say I think it’s worth a look.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My brother has a 2 year old G37 (not the X) but the door handle pulls scratch like they were made from chocolate bars. Seriously its horrible… just looking at them causes scratches, I don’t see how this part got past quality control, anyone with rings or fingernails will quickly ruin them. They are painted black over white plastic so even a tiny scratch is easily visible. Seems to be a Nissan thing as the older 350Z also suffers from this problem. Just figured I’d warn ya.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      What about the Lexus GS350? I know it’s getting a bit dated but at least they aren’t so damn common. I see G37′s all over the place today. Also see a lot of TL’s, but mostly prev gen.

      Is the Lexus a lot more $$$. It’s got everything else you want, mid-size, 300+ HP, luxury better than Acura, etc.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Does anyone else see a wolf in doofus clothing? This car (and the Infiniti G37 Sport) has the ability to take sales away from the usual suspects but Acura refuses to sharpen it.

    Obviously the design team had just come off an all night bender when this was penned and lord knows what the executives were on when they approved it.

    It’s got a great engine, great reliability, and a pretty good interior. Give it some worthy sheet metal and watch the sales roll in.

    Same goes for the G37Sport. From certain angles it looks athletic and aggressive. From others it’s a slack shouldered weakling.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Well in thier defense, the LAST redesign was when they came off an all-night bender. This was what happened when they were told to fix it without costing too much. And it is a big improvement over the previous one, but nothing like the 2004-2008 gen. I just drove by one of those a few minutes ago and it still caught my eye as such a beautiful car.

      This one isnt so bad, the big problem is still the grill, and those huge high bumpers make it appear bigger and heavier than it is. As per usual, it looks better in black, but that brings in so much extra maintenance keeping it looking nice.

      The problem with the G37 sedan is the droppy butt, makes it look out of proportion. The spoiler helps a bit, but not much.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Two problems I see: a huge, silly looking, costly (?) plastic border around the engine to cover what? the battery? the washer fluid tank? engine coolant refill? What the hell is going on here? It looks like a picture of an engine inside a frame! At least unlike most manufactures they didn’t cover the engine with a huge worthless piece of plastic too. Doesn’t this stuff just vibrate and add weight anyway? Does covering everything make it seem less greasy and more hi-tech?

    One look at the wheel and dash covered with tons of tiny buttons makes me long for a time when simplicity was the name of the game for Honda’s interiors. I guess the good news is the center console doesn’t look too wide cutting into leg room. Really like most Honda/Acura products around now there nothing inspiring about this car… other then how well it shifts.

    But will anyone notice or care? I’d love to know how many people pick the MT, the numbers must be shockingly low. Didn’t Infiniti ditch the manual box in the G37x (AWD)? When even BMW doesn’t offer it as a choice in a “driver’s car” then you know the days of having 3 pedals is pretty much over.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @JMII: “a huge, silly looking, costly (?) plastic border around the engine to cover what?

      Yes, that’s a different take on the engine cover paradigm – cover everything else in the engine bay. It does frame the engine nicely.

      But part of the reason for having engine covers was to dampen engine noise, like the old fiberglass mats stuffed under the hoods of older cars.

      Another enigma from Honda. No, wait, this is an Acura…

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      As with the engine plastic shround, some don’t want to have any hands on when it comes to their cars and the glorified Honda fits that bill.

      Not sure the significance of awd as reviewers never mention it’s attribute. But thinking those Honda owners don’t want an eztra set of wheels with snow tires mounted on them don’t want to shuffle them out of the basement twice a year. Par for the course I guess but us that use smow tires of any kind, even performance snow tires, know we can run rings around them on their awd all seasons when the white stuff flies, fwd or rwd. AWD does nothing for braking distances as snow tire 2wd are much shorter

      Terrible price to pay for 3-10 mpg the TL looses to…well everyone else getting 28-35 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      I have never opened the hood on my TL. In fact, I have not opened a hood in years. I did not think people opened hoods anymore. Usually, I trade the car when the tires are 2/3rds worn out. I found the resale on Toyota and Honda is so high that you can usually roll into a brand new one cheaply as long as your trade in is pristine. No dings. No scratches. That is a major reason I stick to Toyota and Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Okay, now I know you’re trolling.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Actually, true. I buy them new, take perfect care of them. Then, trade them in. While you may think this is a waste of money, it is actually quite economical. I find I can own a vehicle for less than the lease.

        Long ago, I kept cars for much longer. Now, I just flip them rapidly. Plus, this is good for the economy. If more people that could afford to did this, more cars would be sold, and more people would be working.

        I just acquired the 12 TL in late June. This is the most expensive car I have ever purchased. In 2 years from now, I wonder if I will be able to flip it cheaply. I hope so.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Um, why not just lease them then? Seems like you’re the perfect customer for a cycle of two year leases.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …Long ago, I kept cars for much longer. Now, I just flip them rapidly…

        And you consider your experience to be valid regarding reliability? So you can afford to do this (assuming you are telling the truth)…good for you. Now when you start rolling over 150K we can talk about long term reliability…

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        golden2husky … Yes I have done very well. However, this does not make be any better than anyone else in this world. In fact, it makes me no better than a person living in a trailer park, or even homeless. So, please don’t hold this against me. If I was the type that was a showoff, I would be driving expensive vehicle. In fact, I have reservation about buying and driving an Acura. Sometimes I think I should have done the Accord. I figure once in my life, I would do this.

        However, from an economical standpoint, I just traded a 9 highlander against an 11 highlander for a difference of 5300 dollars. 09 had 43,200 miles on it. That is a great deal. In my opinion, this is only possible because the car buyer knows the vehicle will last for 200,000 miles.

        I recently tried this with an 08 Ford product. The offer was for 50% of the Ford’s price. I walked away and gave the car to my teenage kid. The car has had a number problems after the warranty ran out. I learned my lesson.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        “from an economical standpoint, I just traded a 9 highlander against an 11 highlander for a difference of 5300 dollars”

        A $30kish new car is never only $5,300 more than its two year younger counterpart. I believe your analysis omits your 24-36 months of payments. Or your Honcura dealer is a moron.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Let’s also attribute the low difference to the tsunami-induced used car price surge of 2011. JJ should check back in with us in 2013…

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        You have to realize that people on the Internet make stuff up to support their opinion.

        For instance: I’ve never opened the gas cap on my car as I drive downhills always everywhere I go. Plus I get bored with cars so I trade it in every week because we all know used cars don’t lose much value over new ones (yep with Honda’s or Toyota’s my trade in is the same as the purchase price basically – and they don’t lose value of up to 40-50% every 4-5 years from new – only other car makers have this problem). We all know the unbeatable quality and perfection of a Honda or Toyota – the brands that never make mistakes and their cars never breakdown only because I wrote a line on the Internet saying so. Now, I do live in a trailer park so that makes me able to judge everyone else – can’t afford a good house b/c I spend all my money on cars though.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        “I have never opened the hood on my TL. In fact, I have not opened a hood in years. I did not think people opened hoods anymore”

        Unbelievable! Some car guy you are. Come on now, do you really even own a car?

        Yes, most normal people do open hoods to at least add washer fluid. Some brave souls even check oil, air filters and other simple items.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I dont actually mind the plastic trim covers on new cars so much, newer engines are not very attractive like the old days, lots of wires and hoses and such, the plastic tends to clean up the engine bay a lot. But this one just looks dumb, and with the huge gaps it cant really provide much sound deadening either.

      I could care less about the plastic trim though, if they would make the rest of the car right. I am dissapointed that they softened it.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I am writing this before reading the review.

    I hope Michael mentioned what an engineering feat Honda has accompished with their J series V6 engines. No one EVER mentions that they are getting 305hp/275tq from SINGLE OVERHEAD CAM design without direct injection. Maybe some would prefer more moving parts, but these engines are smooth as cream and dead reliable. They have beautiful aural characteristics and more power is always ready to be unlocked. A J-pipe and high flow cats do wonders for this motor.

    Just listen to this TL pull away from a stop. Close your eyes when you listen and tell me what you think you hear….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ualcJ87InNM&feature=related

    I will also mention that due to Honda’s continous evolution of the same engine series J30 to J37, that it is possible to walk into an Honda dealer and pick up a crankshaft for 3.5 Oddyssey or 3.7 MDX and drop it directly into a 2000 Acura TL 3.2 (of course, you will need con rods and pistons from an RL). I think Honda deserves much more credit then they receive for the parts commonality they are able to maintain across vehicle lines. This is responsible engineering.

    I am a diehard GM and Honda fan. Both brands have served me extremely well over the 100,000′s of thousands of miles I have logged on their engines. Whats very interesting to me is how well the VVT 3.5 pushrod V6 as peformed for me with a 4 speed auto; 30mpg HWY all day.

    Back to this car.

    This is my next car. Either a 2010 or refreshed 2012 with 6MT.

    The design is gorgeous. Yes, gorgeous.

    If you ever get a chance to drive behind one while it is driving beside say an E-Class, 5 series, or A6; it is evident that the TL is another generation ahead in exterior design philosphy. I think the 2009-2011 was also a fabulous design but I understand the negative reaction. The integration of the grill was painfully evident as a marketing decision that was inconsisten with the rest of the cars advanced exterior asthetics.

    If you want a manual transmission, AWD, 4 door car and that will run 200,000 miles without a hiccup you have very very few choices if any beyond the TL.

    Clearly I carry some bias towards Acura. But I sincerely believe this car is an amazing peice of technology (exterior/interior design, AWD system, user interfaces, and glorious-reliable engine/transmission)….

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Please, Hondas break as much as any other car. Break, rust and wear out.

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        +1 And fixing them yourself is almost impossible

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Sorry, but in my experience, they do not. And every mechanic I speak with agrees with that assessment.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, vvk, in my families experience (and our friend’s experience) this simply isn’t true. And you know it. And CR knows it.

        Useless anecdote: Since 1994, my dad has had two Accords. One a 1993, one a 2003. Both have delivered many many many almost completely trouble free miles. Change the oil, do routine maintenance. Keep driving. This is the type of ownership experience many people find, and why many come back to the brand.

        P.S. I’m the only one in my family that hasn’t owned Hondas. A move I have often regretted when comparing ownership costs.

    • 0 avatar

      I gave the engine its due.

      The 2010 TL owners participating in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey have been reporting average reliability so far:

      http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Acura&mc=5

      The 2009 was only recently added to the survey, and not yet enough 2011s, so no stats for those yet.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      Not gorgeous, FWD platform means too much overhang

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      It will be a very long time before I own another Honda product. The only one I ever had (05 Odyssey) ended up in lemon law court for issues which began the day after I bought it new. I traded that awful vehicle as soon as I won the case (specifically related to electric sliding doors). But at least its engine was quite nice. To be fair, the arrogant service department at the dealership was no help, expressing shock that a Honda could break.

      I know they build a good car; mine just wasn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      I avoided buying a TL until the 12 arrived. Could not handle the old grill work. But, the new one is perfect looking. I also like the way the slant was removed from the back.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Michael,
    I’d be curious about your views on this car vs. some 6-speed manual front drive competition, like the Volvo 30 series, Audi A4, Buick Regal (probably only the GS) and similar. AWD is nice and all, but you tested the Acura as a sports driver, and not as an aid to traveling in inclement weather. How does it do against these other models?

    • 0 avatar

      Haven’t driven the Regal GS yet. Do you mean the C30 compact hatch? A very different sort of car.

      The thing is, for driving fun there really is no substitute for rear-wheel-drive–except for the AWD system in the Acura. It really is unique, and focused much more on driving dynamics than other AWD systems, even Audi’s. SH-AWD makes the TL feel very much like a RWD sedan.

      This is why it’s such a shame that they don’t tune the steering, suspension, and tires to fully exploit it.

      • 0 avatar

        Can an AWD system not be designed to both improve performance in dry and work well inclement weather?

        My fairly tall Subaru is helped in the corners by its AWD. And, obviously, also fantastic in the snow.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @Echild, I think the point is that they have conflicting goals. Since the Acura system was designed to make a FWD chassis feel more like a RWD car, its programmed to allow the dynamics that Michael described, basically it allows the chassis to oversteer like a RWD car, allowing you to correct steering with the throttle at higher speeds. Your Subaru system was designed to provide additional traction over FWD, giving your car a more confident feel in snow or rain.

        Your AWD will perhaps feel better in corners, but it could feel even better if it was programmed to have more rear bias. But the Acura system might not work as well in the snow because the rear bias is counter-intuitive to what you want in slippery situations. I am sure it isnt BAD or unsafe, just not quite as good as a Subaru.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    If it lasts as well as my 98 3.2TL (made in Japan, C32 V6-4AT, 2 less feet of front overhang), then I might have to consider one in about 5 years. My aunt and uncle have an 03 3.2TL and an 07 3.2TL-S, both are wonderful cars. Unfortunately, I’d probably be a little disappointed in some of the operations of the small controls. I guess a new chassis and 105hp would make up for that.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I’ve had these as loaners a couple of times, and while I love the seats and the engine, I agree that the steering is a complete snooze. My bigger problem, though, is the interior. There’s so much dark plastic jutting out into space that you feel like you’re sitting deep in a plastic bin. The belt line is (or at least feels) much higher than the previous generation’s, which doesn’t help. There may be fewer buttons than many cars these days, but why so many more than the ’08? And when did it become fashionable to replace wood with silvery plastic? What is this, the 1956 World’s Fair? A lighter color (every one I’ve driven or seen has been black inside) might help the car feel airier, but it won’t improve visibility or make it easier to use.

    Ultimately I feel like my automotive prayers could be answered by swapping this car’s front seats into my ’08 TL. Really, I can’t emphasize enough: they are _fantastic_ seats.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    What is the point of a Manual transmission anymore? With nearly every new car having Tiptronic, a clutch seems outdated.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      If you ask the question like that, it sounds like you’re ready for the Google Self-Driving Cars.

      I also suspect that you either have never driven a manual, or that the only ones you’ve driven have not been engaging.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      “What is the point of a Manual transmission anymore?”

      Some of us stand while we take a piss.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        Posted on this further down, but seriously – grow up. I could call you a pussy because you use power steering, and disc brakes, and have a roof between you and the elements. Believe it or not, a well sorted computer controlled gearbox will shift faster, cleaner, and more reliably than you ever have. Yes, pulling into 3rd in a dog-leg feels as satisfying as closing the bolt on a clean 30-06, and dancing your feet in the pedal box makes you feel like you are a driving god when you pull it off JUSSSST right. But these (and more specifically, this) is a commuter vehicle, and while I object to the blandification of the mainstream automotive culture today, the mentality that real drivers buy stick, and the endless whining from “enthusiasts” who haven’t stepped foot or dropped more than 20k$ in a dealership in the last 2 decades is really grating. It makes us all sound like elitist grey-beard drunk rednecks. Manufactures are following the market, and the MARKET has stopped buying manuals. If you want to change that, get over yourself, your kids, your luggage capacity, your safety, and most importantly, your budget and support one of the manufactures who cares about performance.

        You know, like Lambo, or Ferrari, or Porsche. Oh wait, they all have FANTASTIC new gearboxes with nary a stick in sight. Because rowing your own is an anachronism, and while I may choose to write with a fountain pen on weekends when I am feeling special, I have an endless succession of rollerballs to get my job done during the week.

        /end rant

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Dude asked a question. I gave him an honest answer.

        “But these (and more specifically, this) is a commuter vehicle…”

        Uh, no it’s not. It’s a $45k, 305 hp, AWD car, not a Scion iQ, sir.

        For what it’s worth, I’m one of those hapless folks who dropped $20k in the last two decades (actually the last year) on the last stick.

        I had to hop a plane and fly several states to get it, as the world is filled with folks who would rather have less control & enjoyment (and, of course, $$$, due to price premium and servicing) and you’re right, the market/inventory is following these MciPod tastes.

        But you know, going on a 1,800 road trip last week, winding through the mountain roads between NC and Canada, it was all worth it.

        If you’ve got bum knees, or have to commute 45 miles through concrete, hey, slushbox, all good.

        But if you’re here to tell me that I’m wrong because I don’t aspire to piss sitting down, well, check mate, my friend. Check mate. I really don’t care where the market is going.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Hil-f’in-larious!

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Hah!

      • 0 avatar

        “Dude asked a question. I gave him an honest answer.”

        No you didn’t. You gave him a juvenile, sexist, obnoxious comeback that wasn’t funny, accurate, or deserved. Honestly it is BS attitudes like yours that frequently put me off otherwise great websites like this.

      • 0 avatar

        Guys, let’s try not to take a matter of personal taste like this a bigger deal than it needs to be. Some like to row their own, others don’t. As a died-in-the-wool manual addict, I get why some don’t like it… though I also understand why folks like cackalacka and others get defensive when their preferences are questioned. Asking “what’s the point of a manual?” is almost like asking a gay person why they have sex… you may not see the appeal or “point,” but it’s a personal thing and they’re probably already well aware that they’re in a minority. A bit of a dick move, in any case… at least that’s how I see it.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Oh, I’m well aware that I’m in the minority (and I am a dick.) If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have had to travel six states up the east coast to pick up a 6-speed GTI last year when there were acres of DSGs in-between.

        Don’t get me wrong, the DSG is a nice piece of technology with marginal speed/efficiency improvements, but… it costs $1700 more up front, requires $400 servicing every 40k, and (given that this is Volkswagen we’re talking about) it is a veritable, very expensive time bomb. And that’s just the financial aspect; the principle reason we prefer manuals rests in the fact that I drive the car, not the other way around. Situational awareness = control = safety, not to mention a more pleasant driving experience.

        As a jaded ex-lover of Honda, nobody likes to bash the path Honda’s been for the past decade more than I. That said, the first sentence of this article offers those of us who enjoy driving the hope that circa 1995 Honda might one day return.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @cackalacka… Now it all makes sense…. GTI drivers are known to be dicks… LOL

        I had the same problem when I was shopping for my GTI, at least a 10 to 1 ratio DSG to sticks. Obviously, we are losing the battle when the last remaining true “hot hatch” is getting impossible to find with a stick. I had my heart set on a stick, but then I drove the DSG and I really liked it better. Of course, I was buying used so I didnt have to take the $1700 hit on initial purchase, and I got one with the 100k warranty on the DSG, so I have a little insurance. But I went into the deal knowing I would have to service it, and knowing that it could very well grenade on me after the 100k mark.

        You will probably call me a pu$$y for getting it, but I chose it and (mostly) dont regret it. Sometimes I really hate the lag off the line, but since I drive around all day in traffic I enjoy not having to deal with the clutch. On higher speed driving on twisty roads I can still enjoy the shifting like a manual, and the rev matching is fun too. Its definitely faster than a manual GTI, not that it really matters, but it is. I also have another car with a stick, so I have that when I want the joy of a real stick.

        Bu would I do it again?? No… probably not, I will stick to real manuals after this car.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Oh, DSG is a cool piece of technology, they are fun to drive (at least the one I took on the test drive was marginally more fun than the traditional slushbox.) But there is a lot of chatter on the fan sites regarding servicing. Hopefully the technology will evolve since the auto industry seems intent on phasing out the left pedal in N.America.

        Oh, and even though you’re marginally faster/more efficient, you’re right, I will call you a pussy!

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      I won’t be a jerk with my response like certain others, that’s a perfectly valid question. The clutch gives you more control and lets you do things with coasting, and getting power down in low traction situations. Torque converter automatics with manual shift are not as efficient because of the torque converter, and generally lack the direct feel. Some may bring up the EPA numbers on newer automatics being higher than the manual equivalent, but that’s an aberration. There are several reasons for it, but the most important is that the numbers between auto and manual aren’t directly comparable. Also, many of the manual shift systems in those are dreadfully unresponsive and have limits to what you can do. Dual clutch systems address some of those issues, but they’re generally more expensive, and have had issues with reliability and shift quality. Overall, the manual tranny is probably the most durable and dependable in the long term as well. Combine that with the fact that a lot of people just enjoy the experience of driving a manual tranny; a surprising amount actually. I can honestly say that I would never buy a car with an automatic, and I am someone who welcomes the self driving cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      What is the point of a Manual transmission anymore?

      Why get an oil painting when a digital camera can render an image with much greater accuracy? Is Grain Alcohol a better better beverage than a fine red wine or single malt whiskey because it’s alcohol content is higher? It’s all about individual preferences. One persons idea of perfection may be different than another persons – and perfection sometimes requires a bit of imperfection.

      • 0 avatar
        thesal

        I still can’t figure out all you anti-manual folks.
        At the risk of sounding a little eastern philosophical,
        Driving stick is not a chore or needless Activity, it’s a state of mind.
        Its a fantastic mechanical bond, ripe with tactile sensation and great
        satisfaction when when mastered.

        I drove a 135i with a dual clutch the other day and came back
        Completely ubdewhelmed. Yeah, it shifts faster and matches the
        Revs better than I ever could, but where’s the pleasure?

        Feeling the synchros whirr as you slide into the gate, the heel-toe
        Downshift when you get it just right, slamming into fourth, dumping the
        clutch and hitting the gas. Oh yes, with all this on my commute to work,
        two things become very clear:
        I never need a morning coffee
        I’ll never buy an automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        vento97

        >Feeling the synchros whirr as you slide into the gate, the heel-toe
        Downshift when you get it just right, slamming into fourth, dumping the
        clutch and hitting the gas. Oh yes, with all this on my commute to work,
        two things become very clear:
        I never need a morning coffee
        I’ll never buy an automatic.

        You’re preaching to the choir, my brother! Precisely why my car and my pickup have manual gearboxes!

        If a vehicle doesn’t have three pedals and a stick – they can keep it…

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you mcs and thesal. Great responses that do the argument for manual service.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        @thesal… I think if I had read your comment 2 yrs ago, I probably would not have bought my GTI with a DSG. Excellent description!

        Oh, and for the record I still piss standing up, even after 2 yrs of DSG driving. :)

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    Another ugly car from the also-ran “luxury” brand. How many will be fooled into thinking that this really better value for the money than a 3-series, C-class, or CTS? Of course, we will hear all kinds of stories about how amazingly reliable this car will supposedly be, but I’m not buying it. If your main concern in buying a luxury sports sedan is reliability, then you’re not really looking for a luxury sports sedan anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Wow.

      Given that every car ever made is a complex compromise between things like performance, comfort, reliability, initial and ongoing costs, “luxury”, etc., you are able to definitively say that this car is not the right compromise for anybody.

      Must be nice to know things that decisively.

    • 0 avatar
      suspekt

      My 2003 J32 6MT—

      150,000 miles

      Original clutch, axles, CV joints, engine mounts, radiator, window motors/regulators, fuel pump, steering rack, hoses… you name it, ORIGINAL.

      I dont understand your point. V6 manual transmission Honda’s are very reliable.

      I have zero respect for cars that perform well in warranty. I think the true test of engineering prowess begins after 100,000 miles.

      GM LS motors with manual transmissions and Honda V6′s with manual transmissions are true engineering marvels. NOT supercharged direct injected V6 Audi’s or twin turbo piezo injected BMW’s.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      PintoFan: Another ugly car from the also-ran “luxury” brand.”

      We aren’t talkking about Lincoln and Cadillac here…

      PintoFan: How many will be fooled into thinking that this really better value for the money than a 3-series, C-class, or CTS?

      Those who prefer not to be on a first-name basis with their service department, for one thing. Sorry, but a CTS, for example, is not more reliable than an Acura, your fondest wishes to the contrary.

      PintoFan: Of course, we will hear all kinds of stories about how amazingly reliable this car will supposedly be, but I’m not buying it.

      You don’t “buy it” because you substitute your opinion for fact.

      PintoFan: If your main concern in buying a luxury sports sedan is reliability, then you’re not really looking for a luxury sports sedan anyway.

      Really? And this is based on exactly what…?

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you geeber. I got halfway through a response to this guy, but just couldn’t be bothered. You’ve voiced my thoughts exactly.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The funny thing is that I saw PintoFan in another thread advising someone to dump their 134,000 mile Acura TL, as surely the point of diminishing returns and reliability headaches had been reached. He’s owned some really high quality cars since he got his license 6 years ago. We should all take his advice.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    Jesus guys – I am almost done with this. Give me a well engineered slush-box with sporting aspiration in my daily driver 4 door. If it isn’t carrying an M-badge or -R or something similar, it just doesn’t need a manual anymore. I realize that we all like to feel like Senna on the way to the drudge of the 9-5, but shifting gears in heavy traffic is a pain. While I hate that the majority of the public is losing (or never had) the ability to shift a stick, I feel it is more indicative of the lapse of attention paid to the act of driving, not simply a wave of laziness targeted at pissing off enthusiasts.

    If the checklist on the car includes carbon fiber, hand formed aluminum panels, functional aero effects, obscure british part numbers, or a wood chassis, it had better have a stick (or a good reason for not offering one.) On the flip side, I feel like there is an unwarranted hatred of genuinely good performance oriented automatic systems – you CANNOT shift gears and rev match in .00001 of a second the new super-trannys can.

    Why can’t we all just get along?

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    “Even if the Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT were not a good car, it would still deserve our support as the only upscale midsize sedan available with both all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission in North America. ”

    ONLY? Err, you don’t need to get past the As to find another.

    Furthermore, if you think that Honda is the only company that can build AWDs that handle like RWDs, you obviously haven’t driven an Audi with a torque vectoring rear diff.

    I generally enjoy your reviews Michael, so I’ll chalk it up to an off day.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam

      Zeke, in my experince, S4 tends to understeer quite a bit more than the TL. S4 is for sure better than the average Audi but they still haven’t been able to completely get rid of the dreaded understeer. My impression is based off 2010 model and I know that they have updated the rear diff so maybe it is better now. The 2010 TL though really had 0 understeer, quite surprising for a car which is far from ideal weight distribution.

    • 0 avatar

      The A4 isn’t midsize, and the A6 hasn’t been available here with a manual in years.

      I don’t think I’ve driven an Audi with the torque-vectoring diff yet–an S4 is scheduled for October–but have driven other cars with one. It makes a difference, but not nearly as large a difference as the system in the Acura.

      • 0 avatar
        ZekeToronto

        Whether or not you (or the EPA presumably) consider the A4 a mid-size, there is no denying that it gets cross shopped against the TL on a daily basis. IMO the size class issue is a red herring.

        I look forward to your review of a torque vectoring differential-equipped S4.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        @Michael:

        Since I have an in with the Audi dealer here (went to school with the sales manager), I got to drive an A4 with the torque-vectoring diff, and it makes a big difference in the S4′s handling. But, like you, I think the Acura system works a bit better, mainly because the Audi still has most of the engine hanging in front of the axle, and no amount of trick diffs can fix that problem.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        My buddy has a 2011 S4 MT with the active diff and no drive select (probably a rare combo). I got to do some hard cornering and on-ramps with it a couple of weeks ago. It does not understeer at all when accelerating out of corners. It actually feels like it’s oversteering a bit; about the same amount as during a high-rev throttle lift on the same car. So it feels a bit odd to get the same reaction from the chassis whether you lift or press harder. You usually need RWD wheelspin to feel that with a conventional setup, and a RWD with wheelspin will not feel nearly as sure-footed during the process. I don’t know whether I like it though. It feels a little odd, and it seems unnecessary for street use. It probably helped him get his awesome lap times at our local track though, as it’s a widened kart track that requires some tight turns. Once you’re used to it, having the confidence to get on the throttle earlier – knowing that it will finish bringing the back end around – has to be worth a few tenths.

        We didn’t even test drive the TL before he bought his S4. If it still looked like the previous generation but with this engine and AWD system, we probably would have to see if they’ve improved the suspension since then. The looks were a deal breaker, even though he liked his previous car: an Acura 1.6EL.

        Exceptional review. After reading that, I feel like I just finished test-driving the car.

      • 0 avatar
        dreadnought

        Actually the A4 and the S4 are much less front-heavy than the TL.

        Audi A4: 54.9-45.1 (Front/Rear)
        Acura TL: 59.4-40.6 (Front/Rear)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Consumer Report say all Honda’s dropped in ratings recently.

    http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/08/honda-redesigns-is-the-automaker-resting-on-its-laurels.html

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Last one I drove was a ’11 SHAWD 6MT. With the pre-delivery inspection we have to drive the car 10mi.

    Being it was Minnesota in January, there was a freshly fallen, 3in of snow on the roads that Hennepin Cty hadn’t bothered to clear yet.

    This one had the Michelins, and held its own if you know how to drive.

    Even with those, VERY stable in snow.

    If you keep it in third or fourth at about 40, it’s almost better than an MDX.

    I’d buy one for sure if I could afford it.

  • avatar
    Acd

    “The 2004-2008 Acura TL was an astonishingly attractive car. There was nothing flashy about the exterior, but its athletic proportions, its angular (but not too angular) lines, its size—everything was just right.”

    Michael, in those two sentences you explained exactly why I recently bought a used 2008 TL and didn’t even consider a 2009 or newer model. Here’s another example of the newer version of a car not necessarily being better.

  • avatar
    CaptBlackberry

    Dare I say it? The Saab 9-5 is available as a manual and with all wheel drive when spec’ed with the four cylinder engine. Irrelevant considering the moribund state of Saab? Probably. But you can find them on a dealer’s lot and buy one should you be so inclined.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    This was sounding like such a great review in the first half, I was actually getting excited about a Honda/Acura product again. Even the price, which seems insanely high, could be justified if they made a great car. I was even trying to picture that giant snoz in a different light… maybe remove it completely? Paint it black??

    Then we got to the chassis part of the review, and I remembered why I have been so pissed off at Honda. They completely drop the ball when it counts, and let the marketing guys ruin it for the enthusiasts.

    I dont care if they want to dumb the car down for the general population, give them the soft tires, mushy steering, automatic gearbox. I can live with the jutting plastic and electronic overload inside. But to offer a genuine sports sedan aimed directly at the enthuiast, that gets such a glowing review on the powertrain, and let it fail because of some tires and software?? Just pisses me off to no end!

  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    “Two problems I see: a huge, silly looking, costly (?) plastic border around the engine to cover what? the battery? the washer fluid tank? engine coolant refill? What the hell is going on here? It looks like a picture of an engine inside a frame! At least unlike most manufactures they didn’t cover the engine with a huge worthless piece of plastic too. Doesn’t this stuff just vibrate and add weight anyway? Does covering everything make it seem less greasy and more hi-tech?”

    Just opening that hood and seeing that crap would make me walk away from it……..

  • avatar
    Madroc

    The fact that someone is still putting some thought into the 6MT instead of just throwing one in reminds me of the scene at the end of Neverending Story where the princess holds that tiny grain that remains of Fantasia — the last little spark of hope for Honda/Acura. I know my ’06 TSX has an excellent one. Light, progressive clutch, gear ratios laid out to make the engine sing (not inflate the window sticker by 2 MPG), and the best shifter feel I’ve experienced this side of an S2000. As long as they continue to do that for an option that probably has a 3% take rate, they may yet come back. Now they just need to put a turbo 4 and a 6MT in the TSX wagon and I may stay in the fold.

    In that regard I’m not sure if an LGT is in the same class. I’ve never driven one, but the 6MT in my wife’s 2010 Outback is nothing special compared to the Acura. Still more fun than a slushbox, CVT, or “DualClutch Tiptronic! I drive it to work!” though.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Is it possible that the tires on the 6MT were chosen strictly for a 0.5 bump in MPG? Perhaps it came down to tenth’s of a MPG and the rounding of the decimals made the decision on the tires on the 6MT for 2012. The gearing on the 6MT is remarkably short and I wouldnt be surprised if the 6MT revs higher in 6th @ 80mph then the 6AT in the same scenario.

    I have found that changing the tires can have a dramatic effect on steering wheel.

    If $600 set of Koni adjustable shocks, $300 sport springs, and $800 in aggressive rubber remedies the maladies Michael has pointed out, then I think we have a winner here.

    As mentioned previously, my next used car will be this vehicle. As soon as it hits $25,000, it will be purchased.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I liked your previous comment, and you make some very valid points, and I would never try to argue that Honda/Acura products are generally dead reliable. I dont agree with your assessment of the design, but looks are subjective, and I think your 2003 TL is a really great design.

      The changes you mention are small, and aside from the soft steering, they will probably fix the problem for not too much money. It isnt too much to ask for you to make those mods on a used $25k car to make it “perfect”. But I think it IS too much to ask for someone to make them to a $47k brand new car that was supposed to be designed as the performance model of the line-up. And thats my problem, if Acura dumbs it down this much, then no one will buy it, and you will have a lot less options for a used one down the road.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    I now have driven 3900 miles and 14 weeks on my 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD with Advance Package and automatic transmission. Michael Karesh’s review is thoughtful and spot on, though I do have some different conclusions. After 250 miles on the original Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, my TL got a set of Continental ContiExtreme DW tires, which dramatically improved roadholding, comfort, and handling; they are grippier, quieter, and smoother-riding. (Similar tires from other manufacturers would likely provide similar benefits.) For a large car, the TL’s trunk is too small, its opening too small, and its contours inconvenient. Forward and rearward visibility is sharply restricted. In the twisties the TL carves the corners precisely, but I have to move my body and head to look around the wide, steeply raked A-pillars to see what’s ahead. (I’m 5’8″.) The seats are comfortable and supportive. The SatNav is excellent. Oddly the only display of time is a small digital display lost in the lower center of the instrument panel. The paddle-shifters are nicely positioned and in S-mode, the transmission responds quickly. About the TL”s exterior design, the less said, the better. The car has been trouble-free. At 72 mph on a level road, the indicated fuel consumption was 29.3 mpg. As I drive spiritedly, fuel consumption on the highway is typically 26 mpg; in the city about 21 mpg. These figures are roughly equal to the 2007 Subaru Legacy GT spec.B with six-speed manual that I used to drive.

    A quick reading of the posts leads me to believe that none of the posters have driven a 2012 TL and that there’s misinformation about Subaru AWD systems. My 2007 Subaru spec.B and my family’s 2007 Subaru Outback 3.0 R do have rear-bias AWD systems.

  • avatar
    drvanwyk

    “only upscale midsize sedan available with both all-wheel-drive and a manual transmission in North America”

    I assume you don’t count the Audi A4 or A6? Or are they not grouped under “upscale” but rather “luxury?”

    I am rather curious.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The A4 is not counted as midsize because it’s smaller than midsize. The A6 is not counted as a manual transmission car because it’s not available with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, in the photos here, I counted 60 buttons, knobs and switches, and that’s NOT counting anything hiding behind the steering wheel and the window controls. We may knock IDrive, but at least we know what they were trying to avoid.

    My main problem with this car when I drove it related back to the zillion-switches dashboard – the car feels overly teched and electronic. It left me cold. The steering felt like it had artificial feel built into it, like a mid-’80s Pontiac. The interior is cold and austere, and you can’t dress it up with an option sheet. And then there’s the dashboard, which is clearly summoning up a business-jet cockpit theme, but this isn’t a business jet.

    But on the other hand, it IS a big, commodious car for its class and price, and the performance is there. But it’s a soulless machine.

  • avatar
    nancy4u

    Hello Dear,
    it give me a great pleasure to write you after viewing your profile Here at(www.thetruthaboutcars.com) which really interested me to have communication with you if you have desire with me. so that we can get to know each other. Remeber distance does not matter .but love matters allot in life and i will be very happy for you to write me through my email ID for more detail about me and i will sent you my picture and more detail (nancy22patric@live.com)
    yours lovely in love nancy
    PLEASE CONTACT ME WITH THIS(nancy22patric@live.com)

  • avatar
    Wayne

    Hi all,

    I am new to this site. I just went through an ordeal with this car. On memorial weekend this year I bought this very model from a dealer that is 30minutes away. Everything was great until the Friday right before Labor Day weekend I got a low oil light indicator came while on way to work. The car just turned 4,300 miles and I checked the dipstick and it was bone dry. I called Acura Roadside and they towed it to the nearest Acura dealer which is different than the one I bought car from. They did their check and couldn’t find the cause of the issue. All they know was the oil is 2 quarts low. They performed oil change and sent me on my way with a charge for $42.95. The service guy said it’s normal for SH-AWD to burn oil. I called Acura Client Relations and they said this is not normal and they will look into it. 3 weeks in the guy seem to have close the ticket. I called numerous times but my district case guy at Acura Clients Relation never call back.

    There was another issue I logged with them. The second issue was the tow truck that Acura roadside sent was some clown during the towing process he did about $1k of damage to my front bumper. His hook dented bumper on way up and he scratched the front bumper on way down as he was unloading it. I spent countless hours with Acura Roadside vendor (Cross Country Motor) and Tow truck company’s insurance and I finally got my front bumper fixed just this past Friday. Today I dropped by the dealer where I bought car from to speak with the GM while my sales guy was there. The whole 45 minutes they denied everything. They said they did checked the oil as part tof their PDI(Pre-Delivery Inspection) but yet they have nothing to show. It was a complete waste of my time.

    What is my recourse now? The car seems to be fine and I check the dipstick every week and the oil level hasn’t move. This is probably my last Acura. Thanks for any advise. .

    • 0 avatar
      Wayne

      So it is since May of last year that I got this Acura TL 2012 SH-AWD 6 speed manual and it has been burning oil at rate of 2.0 to 2.5 qrt about every 5k miles. At first the dealer GM told me to ignore it is part of normal break-in process and said it should never happens again. Another 5k miles later the same thing and then he got his service guys to do oil consumption test for 5k miles. The first 1k miles the oil didn’t move according to dip stick. The next 1k miles it burned a bit over half a quart and they added oil. The next day the manager sent me an email saying according to Acura it’s perfectly fine for car to buy 1 qrt every 1k miles. I have been telling them the oil burn rate isn’t steady. Somewhere between the last 4k miles is when 2.0-2.5 of oil is burned. I have been calling Acura client relations and they kept telling me to go work with dealer. When I told the girl from acura clients relation she believed the dealer and I pressed her that it isn’t normal for a modern car to burn 2.0-2.5 qrt oil every 5k miles she got all rude. It doesn’t appear the Acura client relations people received any sort of basic 101 auto training and I think this dealership I bought the car from is blowing smoke up my ass.

      I have such a bad experience with Acura and their service. What is my recourse since I don’t have a huge pile of dealer receipts to prove my point? Like clock work when the car computer calculated my oil life at 30% I have to add more oil because it’s 2.0-2.5 qrt low. I can’t let it go down to 10% so I can change oil. It isn’t normal that I have to change oil pre-maturely. I also concern my catalyst converters is taking a beating. I don’t know what other headaches I am in the store for later down the road.

  • avatar
    DenverDr

    Drive ~42K/year (Civil engineer in the western states and can’t fly); Recent company purchased cars include G35x, 330ix; Audi Allroad; 2010 535xi (Boxster S for fun and wife’s 335x coupe). After a complete let down by terrible BMW 5 series build quality, I decided to make a switch to my first Honda product especially with the mileage. I bagged Audi after the Allroad fell apart at 71K and now BMW (wife has a short commute so mileage is not an issue and we do like her 3 coupe). I was hesitant to go with the restyled TL-6MT because of the absent cache. In short, I’ve been totally impressed and anyone who thinks that other cars “blow it away” are drinking the BMW or Audi coolaid. In many ways, this car is a nice mix of 3 and 5 series attributes. It is extremely well balanced – doesn’t outright win any single category, but is excellent as a whole package. The 6MT is simply awesome. The interior is super comfortable and I prefer multiple buttons over menu driven idrive. Not sure what the future holds, but the 6MT is a keeper.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States