Here's the question to ponder as you read this review: Is the Acura TL SH-AWD too much of a good thing?
Let's start with the name itself.
Acura TL SH-AWD.
The car has not one, not two, but three (actually four if you don't count the hyphen) designations.
Don't get us wrong the designations are all good and they all stand for something we like in our cars.
Acura builds fine sporty cars with a strong emphasis on high tech engineering
TL is one of Acura's more popular models with total projected annual sales of around 70,000 units this year.
BTW: Our tester which came with a terrific short throw six speed manual, a freely revving 305 HP 3.7-Liter V6, and all of the go fast parts to make any weekend warrior a star on his or her local race track.
And if you crave exclusivity keep in mind that this manual AWD version of the TL is projected to account for only a few thousand units, or a small proportion of overall TL sales.
SW-AWD stands for Super Handling All Wheel Drive and the TL certainly delivers when you push it around a corner. The car's computer controlled electrons in combination with the cars differentials do their magic and the TL takes corners like a slot car on steroids.
So what's not to love?
To be honest the TL can all too often seem like a thrilling episode of engineers gone wild.
Instead of being one well executed high performance machine with single-minded focus like the car's German competitor (you know the ultimate driving machine) the Acura TL SH-AWD comes across as a technology packed show car stuffed with too much engineering know-how, and not enough of that secret ingredient that turns good cars into great ones.
And in case you are wondering that secret ingredient would be passion.
Let's start with the design.
Controversial would be an easy way to describe the raptor (and we're not talking about the Ford F-150 but instead the bird of prey) like front end treatment of the TL.
Is that a raptor's beak poking out of the TL where a car's grill normally resides?
You have to admit that love it or hate it the TL's styling is very fowl…like. (sorry about the bad pun).
Once inside the first thing you'll immediately notice are the buttons. They are everywhere. We counted no fewer than 16 different functions on the vast array of buttons located just on the steering wheel.
Don't even think about all of the various buttons on the dashboard. In an attempt to simplify today's ever more complex driver/car inter-phase Acura took the unusual step of separating the navigation system from the rest of the car's secondary control. So unlike a Lexus, for instance, the TL's climate controls are not accessible through the large LCD screen.
Instead Acura bundled all of the controls (in a very logical manner we might add) in the center stack which (from an engineering perspective) seems completely logical, but in real life can be as perplexing as a corn maze on Halloween.
We kept trying to access the various HVAC using the LCD screen simply because that's how everybody else in the car biz does it now-a-days in this near luxury segment.
That's not Acura's fault, but in a world of touch screen smart phones and iPads, the trend is certainly your friend.
On a much more performance note, the TL has the shortest "short throw" shifter in the car business.
Shifting the TL through all six forward gears is a matter of just a flick of the wrist. The Subaru WRX STI could learn a thing of three from how easily and joyfully the TL shifts.
The news only get's better under the hood which hides a typical free revving and perfectly matched V6 Honda engine.
Normally we believe that there's no mood that spending money frivolously won't improve just as their is no car that more horsepower won't make better, but in the TL the power it it just right for the chassis.
The TL's power to weight is a Zen like balance of perfection. Unfortunately we've read reports that the TL brakes let down the car on the track, but we've only managed to race it around our local track for three laps and that wasn't really enough time to get the brakes hot enough to fade.
We can report that while driving the TL to the local Whole Foods in the rain we experienced zero brake fade.
In other words, for most typical buyers the TL's brakes are not going to be an issue.
And neither is both front and rear passenger space.
While the TL has a wheel base about the same size of a Audi A4, the car is stretched in about every direction beyond the Audi making for a very comfortable and easy fit for both front and rear seat passengers.
The overall quality of the interior material is on par with most competitors except that in some very odd places the Acura gets all economy car like. For instance the interior door latch is one those cheap plastic pieces painted to look like metal that screams rent-a-car.
This is certainly an odd choice of cost cutting materials as it never fails to remind the driver, each and every time he or she exits the vehicle, that their Acura could have been a Lexus.
And our car's as tested sticker of $44,245 certainly didn't qualify it for the typical rent-a-car fleet.
On the other hand, the fine stitching on our tester's supple leather seats combined with what must be one of the most exquisite steering wheels in the business was a pure joy to behold and hold.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
– Forget it
because you can't have too much of a good thing.