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Photos: 2009 Acura TL SH-AWD

Acura updates its cabin tech substantially with the new TL, while splitting the model into a base TL model and the more powerful TL SH-AWD. We test the latter and find out that, while Acura makes a good car, it still doesn't achieve the luxury afforded by its competitors.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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2009 Acura TL SH-AWD

Acura updated the TL for 2009, changing the exterior styling, tuning the engine, and upgrading the cabin electronics. The company also offers a whole new version, the TL SH-AWD, fitted with a bigger engine and all-wheel-drive.

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2 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Styling

The grille shows further accentuation of the controversial Acura beak, while a stronger belt line encircles the car. The hood fits cap-like over the front of the car, with seams inboard of the fenders.

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3 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Powerful engine

The TL SH-AWD gets this new 3.7-liter V-6, which makes 305 horsepower. Acura advertises it as the company's most powerful engine in a production car.

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With seating for five, the TL SH-AWD makes a comfortable commuter and family car. But it also has sporting aspirations, with a suspension more sport-tuned than the standard TL.

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5 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

SH-AWD

Acura models are built on front-wheel-drive platforms, but the sporty, SUV, and high-end cars get all-wheel-drive. With this TL, the SH-AWD stands for super handling all wheel drive.

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6 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Dual tips

The TL SH-AWD gets a dual exhaust system, each fitted with dual tips, although the latter is just for show.

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7 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Trunk space

Trunk space isn't huge, but roomy enough for most needs. It would be tough to fit the luggage of four people for any trip more than a week.

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8 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Non-luxury interior

The interior of the TL SH-AWD is very nice, but it doesn't stand out as a luxury cabin. The materials are all soft plastic, brushed metal, and leather.

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9 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Buttonitis

The steering wheel, although cleaned up from earlier versions, is still studded with too many buttons. The controls between the spokes don't look well-integrated.

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10 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Tachometer

With the tach tipping over 5,000rpm, the engine makes an impressive growl.

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11 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Automatic transmission

Although better than on previous Acuras, this five-speed automatic is a weak spot in the car's performance credentials. For the 2010 model, a six-speed manual will be available.

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12 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
Acura refined the center knob a bit, using bigger buttons devoted to the navigation system. An audio button sits above it, but the cell phone display can only be brought up by a button on the steering wheel.

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13 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Traffic reporting

Acura has long integrated traffic with its navigation system, but this version works better, offering dynamic routing around incidents.

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14 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Weather reports

Weather is a new feature in the TL's cabin tech. You can look at forecasts for regions around the country, or this Doppler map for rainfall.

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15 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Bluetooth cell phone integration

The phone system imports phone books, a new feature from past versions. The system also can stream music from a cell phone with Bluetooth streaming capabilities.

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16 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

iPod integration

iPod integration is a new feature with the TL, connected through a USB port in the console. That USB port also works with USB thumb drives.

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17 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

XM satellite radio

XM satellite radio is an essential part of this cabin tech package, as it is the means by which traffic and weather information are transmitted to the car.

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18 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

CD ripping

You can store music on the car's hard drive, ripping it from a standard CD.

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19 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

ELS audio

The car uses Acura's ELS audio system, which produces good surround sound through 10 speakers in the car.

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20 of 20 Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive

Audio quality

Although there is a subwoofer, this system sounds best with acoustic music, as the bass isn't particularly strong.

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