Acura's TL SH-AWD is a very different beast compared with the standard TL model. A bigger engine, sport suspension, and all-wheel-drive system set the TL SH-AWD apart, making it a reasonable competitor to the BMW 3-series. Beyond its sport capabilities, it can also serve as a comfortable commute car.
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Acura's design language is controversial, especially with the large grille piece. However, this grille certainly gives the car a unique look. We like the tight grille openings, which give the front of the car a clean design.
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This 3.7-liter engine gives the TL SH-AWD 305 horsepower, and makes a delightful exhaust note. Although it uses Honda's VTEC valve timing technology, it lacks other efficiency technologies now coming into vogue.
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A strong belt-line runs the length of the car, while the rear roof-line slopes dramatically down. All TL models are sedans, with enough space in the rear seat for adults to sit comfortably.
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Setting the TL SH-AWD apart from the TL are the four exhaust tips and, more importantly, Acura's all-wheel-drive system that vectors torque across the rear wheels.
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With the Technology package, the TL SH-AWD gets an LCD at the top of the stack, with a large knob/joystick controller below it. That controller looks a little obtrusive for a car that aspires to luxury, but it is very usable.
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The TL SH-AWD's sport suspension makes the steering nicely responsive, while the all-wheel-drive system minimizes understeer.
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A monochrome display in the instrument cluster shows the all-wheel-drive system's torque distribution. At the push of a button you can also see trip and fuel economy information.
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The Acura's six-speed-manual transmission has an excellent feel, with a very precise gate and short throws.
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The hard drive-based navigation system shows maps in decent resolution, although it does not have 3D maps. It also shows traffic data, and routes around serious traffic jams.
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The navigation system also shows weather information.
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The Acura TL SH-AWD's navigation system's Scenic roads mode is one of our favorite features. It includes scenic drives in almost every state in the U.S.
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The Bluetooth phone system lets you dial numbers on screen or by voice, and also downloads phone contact lists.
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You can rip music to the car's hard drive, and browse for it using this interface, which shows the same style as other cabin tech screens.
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The Acura's iPod interface is strangely dissimilar to the car's own hard-drive audio interface, showing music categories in this simple list format.
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The car's stereo can also use the Bluetooth system as another source, although as with all Bluetooth audio, it does not let you browse a music library, and does not show song information.
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The ELS audio system, which comes with the Technology package, uses its 440-watt amp to produce surround sound.
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A rearview camera is the only driver aid technology that Acura makes available in the TL SH-AWD, but it includes a distance overlay.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET
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