By KBB.com Editors
If you placed the current Acura TL next to the first generation TL, you'd be hard pressed to equate the two as related. Why, you ask? Because the current TL exudes substantially more attitude than its predecessor, that's why. Gone is the attractive yet sedate styling of previous design, replaced by a bolder sedan wearing a love-it-or-hate-it grille that is now the face of Acura. In addition to six more inches of body length, the latest TL also features more powerful engine choices, an available sport-tuned SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) variant, and a Technology Package that can blow out eardrums as easily as it guides drivers away from stressful traffic congestion. Though not as engaging as competitors such as the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G37, the Acura TL continues to impress with its reasonable price, quality feel and all-around abilities.You'll Like This Car If...
The daring TL continues to be a bargain when compared to pricier models from BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus and others. There's a bit more room for rear passengers, and the larger engine and all-wheel-drive make the new SH-AWD version very entertaining on twisty roads, as well as supremely confident on slick surfaces.You May Not Like This Car If...
From a performance driving perspective, the 2011 TL doesn't offer as much pure fun as some of its competitors despite the addition of Acura's sophisticated SH-AWD system.What's New for 2011
The Acura TL sees no major changes for 2011.Driving It Driving Impressions
With two powerful engine choices, the 2011 Acura TL is poised to stake its claim in the affordable performance sedan segment. The SH-AWD model's 305-horsepower V6 – the most powerful engine ever offered by Acura – delivers smooth acceleration, and the five-speed automatic transmission promises quick, nearly seamless shifts, regardless of whether the gearbox is set to regular drive mode or being manipulated with the paddle shifters. Competitors offer more torque for better response when the traffic light turns green, but the TL's available all-wheel-drive system helps level the playing field. The SH-AWD can push more power to the outside rear wheel in a corner, transforming the TL into a fun family sedan on winding back roads. On the flip side, the SH-AWD version carries with it a ride that's stiffer than that of the base TL.
All-wheel-drive capability has been available on other Acura models for years, and now it's available on the popular TL. Dubbed SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), the system improves handling in inclement weather while also enhancing cornering ability on dry pavement, and is available only with the TL's 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6.
Even in standard guise, the 2011 Acura TL is well-equipped, but the Technology Package ups the game with its DVD-Audio system and 440-watts of surround sound. At the heart of the package is AcuraLink, a satellite system that provides real-time weather and traffic information with a convenient rerouting feature.
Those already impressed by previous Acura interior treatments just might become ecstatic once they get a look inside the 2011 TL. There's more rear leg room than ever before, and SH-AWD versions feature deeply-bolstered seats and a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The driver's seat in the base TL could use a bit more support for long drives, but there's no need for improvement when it comes to the cabin's quality materials. The Technology Package, with its real-time traffic and weather information, is a handy if pricey addition for busy urban-dwelling commuters. Oddly, Acura still does not provide the passenger with any form of adjustable lumbar support (the driver gets a power-operated unit), a strange omission at this price point.Exterior
New from the ground up in 2009, the 2011 Acura TL is longer, wider and taller than any TL model before it and projects a bold, almost concept car-like persona. Most notable is the large "grinning smile" grille, and body panels featuring accentuated contours and curves setting it far apart from most other sedans in this category. Base TL models ride on 17-inch alloy wheels; the TL SH-AWD rolls on 18- or 19-inch alloys, and it has cooling ducts on the front bumper, four tailpipes instead of two and unique badges that say, not surprisingly, SH-AWD.
Unlike many of its competitors, the 2011 Acura TL comes with most of today's must-have features as standard equipment. Those include HID headlights, power moonroof, 276-watt sound system with auxiliary and USB input jacks, hands-free telephone interface, power/heated front seats and mirrors, and leather upholstery. SH-AWD models add sport seats with more robust bolsters and contrast stitching and all TLs protect occupants with six airbags and Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) front body structure, technology designed to dissipate crash energy.Notable Optional Equipment
For 2011, the TL lineup is available with one major option, the Technology Package. In exchange for roughly $3,700, buyers will enjoy a 440-watt Acura/ELS surround sound system with DVD-Audio and a 12.7-gigabyte hard drive, keyless ignition, and a rearview camera. More impressive is the voice-activated navigation system, complete with an eight-inch high-resolution screen, real-time traffic information and rerouting guidance, and weather reports including Doppler-style radar maps just like you'd see during the six o'clock news. Go with the TL SH-AWD for a sport-tuned chassis, 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels (as opposed to the TL's 17s), and available high-performance tires.Under the Hood
With a 3.5-liter V6 now under its hood, the base 2011 Acura TL is nearly as powerful as the 2008 TL Type-S. For those not satisfied with that kind of performance, the TL SH-AWD delivers a new 3.7-liter V6 as well as sport-tuned steering, brakes, and suspension systems. There are two transmissions offered – a five-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode and paddle shifters, or a newly designed close-ratio six-speed manual with Hill Start Assist. Fuel economy figures are comparable with the TL's primary competitors.
280 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26
305 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (automatic), 17/25 (manual)
One of the Acura TL's selling points has long been its reasonable price, a distinction that holds true for 2011. The base, front-wheel-drive model's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at about $36,000, whereas a top-of-the-line, fully-loaded TL SH-AWD goes for about $44,000. That makes the 2011 Acura TL a relative bargain, and as such, buyers are typically paying full sticker price. However, like all things in life, prices change, so check the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com before signing on the dotted line. In all likelihood, your dealer won't lop thousands off the bottom line, but take solace in the knowledge that the Acura TL's resale value is on par with vehicles such as the BMW 3 Series and Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan, and bests the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac CTS and Audi A4.