2010 Acura TL SH-AWD with Six-Speed Manual

The film Roxanne, written by Steve Martin and released in 1987, is a modern version of the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac which was penned exactly 90 years prior. A random fact, the original version is actually responsible for the modern usage of the word “panache”. In the more modern version, double-edged-sword Martin portrays the main character named C.D. Bales. A small town fire chief, CD is a witty and talented man held back by a prominent feature which he is greatly sensitive about. He has a massive nose and it causes him to perceive his image as ugly. In the end, he and the title character Roxanne profess their love for each other as she sees that he is so much more than just a man with a big nose, and he realizes people view him differently than he views himself.

The first generation Acura TL is a mid-size luxury sedan which was released in 1995 (1996 model) to replace the outgoing Acura Vigor. It was a solid blend of sporty driving and luxurious amenities. As the years passed, the TL has gotten sleeker, more luxurious, and more powerful. In 2009, the TL has entered its fourth generation and it’s now facing a crisis. People are staring at its nose and overlooking the rest of the car. The Acura team is hoping to change that with the 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD equipped with a six-speed manual transmission.

The 2010 TL SH-AWD pushes go-juice through a 3.7L V6 engine which produces 305 hp and 273lb-ft of torque. Power is intelligently sent out to all four corners thanks to the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system. This unit moves the power where you want it to be. Driving around town, the system will send 90% of the available torque to the front wheels but mash the gas or enter a twisty road and up to 70% of the torque will get sent to the party in the back. If conditions call for it, up to 100% of the torque sent to the rear wheels can be directed to one wheel. Steering response is great and like an confidence lacking Twilight fan, this car seems to enjoy being  pushed around.

The great part about this particular TL is the available transmission mated to the engine. Instead of a boring slushbox or I’ll-shift-when-I-feel-like-it paddles, this Acura has a six-speed manual gearbox. It is a welcome surprise in a luxury car and lends real credence to me calling this a sports sedan. Not content to just sit there and look out of place, the transmission moves between gears efficiently and with less play than I expected to find. As I’m piloting this mid-size Japanese luxo-machine, I find myself enjoying the journey. I am involved in the process of driving and it puts a smile on my face regardless of whether I am carving up a canyon road or slicing through the nearest In-N-Out parking lot. There is a connection between driver and car that is often lacking in this particular section of the automotive industry.

The interior of any Acura is a comfortable and high tech environment. This 2010 TL SH-AWD is certainly no exception to the rule. Everything falls within easy reach and the seat provides plenty of support without being too firm. It’s truly a space for both driver and passenger to be happy. The front seats are multi-way power adjustable and heated, and the dual-zone climate control has an auto-humidity sensing function. Besides the pleasing climate, the Acura TL provides an aural blast for the senses thanks to a 10-speaker Panasonic ELS surround-sound setup. At 6’3″ I was comfortable in all four seats (I don’t ride center-saddle, thanks) and I didn’t even need to have the driver’s seat pushed all the way back, which is always a bonus for rear-seat passengers.

The interior design however, is not completely wonderful. The center stack is a maze of buttons and switches and I feel the design is poorly thought out. It seems that they tried to cram as much into the space as possible. Despite all the buttons they still managed to squeeze in a central control knob which handles operations for most of the on-screen systems. I feel like they can go one way or the other…make that knob handle more and clean up the design, or get rid of it and make the interface touchscreen. The design is in an in-between place and it looks weird in an otherwise stylish cabin.

The 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD is a true luxury sports sedan. It has performance on par with the Audi S4 and, BMW 335i. It is priced in line with the competition ($44,245 as tested) and it’s a well built fancy-Honda. Yet it has one glaring issue that some can’t get past – the exterior style, specifically the nose. From most angles, the TL is actually a pretty handsome sedan. Viewed from the side or at an angle it flows wonderfully from the headlights, across the shoulder line, back into the tail and down into the high-flow sport tuned exhaust outlets. It’s clearly an Acura and it possesses a casual elegance which other cars try too hard to capture. Some folks might smile as they view pictures of the TL…until they come to a view of the front end. It’s hawk-like in appearance and stands out from the body due to the large amount of satin silver it projects into the world around it. It doesn’t photograph well either which gives the average auto-forum Internet critic plenty of ammo to slam this car.

Here’s the thing though…you’re wrong.

The TL SH-AWD looks good in person. Sure, I would take some paint to that beak but the rest of the car works quite well in the style department. It’s aggressive in certain spots (the rear end and roofline) yet reserved in others (the soft shoulder and hood). The 19″ wheels tuck nicely into the arches, and look right wrapped in 245/40 ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sports tires. I ask that you get up close and personal with an Acura TL next time you see one on the road. After spending a week with one, the nose has grown on me.

The 2010 Acura de Bergerac TL SH-AWD 6MT gives the well-healed automotive enthusiast what they are looking for…a luxury sedan which looks good parked in front of the office yet looks even better hauling ass across a twisty mountain pass. Will you lose out on an excellent car because you are caught up staring at the nose or will you look past one minor polarizing appearance issue and welcome Steve Martin the TL into your garage? You stick with the trendy German Schnell sedans while I drove off towards the rising sun.

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