Controversial styling aside, a great sport sedan for discriminating drivers
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT The aggressive styling of the 2011 Acura TL is more than matched by  
its peppy V6 and tenacious, company-exclusive Super Handling All  
Wheel Drive system.

The side mirrors on the 2011 Acura TL are a little narrow, reducing rear visibility somewhat.

There. That's the only complaint I have about the all-wheel-drive version of Acura's mid-size sedan I spent the last week driving. Everything else was just about perfect, including the smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission.

I know that not everyone likes the angular styling and shovel-like nose. I think it looks aggressive and different that anything else on the road, except other Acura's that share the styling cues. Our black-and-silver looked very sleek, especially with the distinctive five-spoke alloy wheels

Anyone who actually drives the 2011 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT - as it's formally known - will quickly forget such quibbles. It's hard to argue with the beautiful and contemporary interior that surrounds you with fine leather, high-quality plastic and tasteful mesh aluminum trim. The leather-covered steering wheel is thick and rewarding to grasp. The Honda 3.7-liter V6 start revs eagerly to its redline in every gear. Body roll is negligible, encouraging spirited driving on winding roads. And the big four-wheel-disc brakes respond instantly to the lightest touch, making it easy to sweep through fast corners.

The controls were well-designed and easy to understand and use. Some cars make it hard to tell the difference between the buttons, but those in the TL are logically grouped and marked.

Out test model was equipped with the comprehensive option technology package that included every gizmo you could conceivable want in a car these days, including a backup camera and super stereo system. The exclusive console-mounted control knob is easy to understand and use, allowing drivers to quickly pull up information on nearby traffic delays and the like.

For some reason, the leather sport seats in our test model were part of the tech package. They are no more adjustable than any other electronically-controlled seats, but were both supportive and comfortable, especially with the heaters that eased cold weather driving.

Legroom in the back seat is ample, but tall passengers need to duck to clear the sloping roof line when entering. Although the company says three adults can fit comfortably in the rear seats, a rise in the center compromises the middle one. The trunk is large and the floor is flat, despite the rear differential.

You can spend a lot more than the $43,245 price tag on our fully-equipped test model and not get a better sport sedan. Everything works together so flawlessly it's hard to imagine how it can be improved. The clutch is light and the shift lever floats cleanly between all gears. The steering is precise with just the right amount of feedback. Drivers can sense the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system shifting the power between the front and rear tires for the best traction. An electric display shows how the power it split, but watching it requires the driver to look away from the road - a bad idea when the information is probably the most interesting.

OK, that was one more 'problem.' But considering everything else to like about the car, just another very small one.

• Model: TL SH-AWD 6MT.

• Manufacturer: Acura.

• Class: Mid-size sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, two and four-wheel-drive (as tested).

• Style: Four door, five-passenger car.

• Engines: 3.7-liter V6 (305 horsepower, 273 lb-ft torque.

• Transmissions: Five-speed automatic; six-speed manual (as tested).

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 16/21.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $35,000 ($43,245 as tested).

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