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Motoring: Acura TL a car enthusiast's car

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 20th, 2014

The current Acura TL has been with us more or less unchanged since the 2009 model year. As I'm writing this article, its replacement model is being showcased at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The new model will be called the TLX, and in a single swipe replaces both the TSX and the TL model from Acura's lineup. How will the new car perform? Time will tell.

I recently spent a week with the current model to see how it has fared over the years. If you're just looking for a short conclusion, I'll tell you right here and now that time has done nothing to diminish its appeal.

These days, even a one-year-old car starts to feel dated. But the Acura TL still looks modern, has a wonderful interior and is simply wonderful to drive.

First let's talk about the styling, which was a bit controversial when it first came out, mainly because of its giant nose, which surely needed some rhinoplasty. Acura bosses perhaps also agreed that the cars nose was a deterring factor for many, and softened it in 2012. The new nose, along with some updating of the car's derriere, turned this once questionable-looking vehicle into one of the most handsome in the business.

The interior got a hardware update but remained largely the same, which is fine because it didn't need any updating.

The transmission did need an update, and in 2012, the TL got Acura's new six-speed automatic, which is not only a smoother transmission than their five-speed unit, but also much quicker, and it improves fuel economy (my week's average was an impressive 10.8 litres/100km).

The engine remained the same, so the base car gets a 3.5-litre V6 motor that produces 280 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque, while the TL SH-AWD, like my tester, gets a 3.7-litre V6 that produces 305 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. This motor is sensational. It is so responsive, it feels like it is connected to your brain, because as soon as you even think about gaining speed, it does.

It also handles beautifully. The SH-AWD (Super Handling — All Wheel Drive) is an intelligently active system that sends the power to the wheel that can best use it. In normal driving, it sends 90 per cent of the power to the front wheels and the rest to the rear. Under hard acceleration, it sends more traction to the rear wheels, and when cornering, it adjusts power side to side by slowing the inside wheel and accelerating the outside wheel. What makes this system special is that its setup is not based on simply providing traction in bad weather, but more to be fun to drive. That becomes apparent when you're driving this vehicle with some enthusiasm; the SH-AWD system provides excellent grip and eggs you on to go into corners harder. If you find yourself in a large, snowcovered parking lot, just turn the traction control off and the TL SHAWD will perform the most wonderful, controlled drifts you can think off. Whoever signed off on the setup of this car must have been a real car fanatic, because it is brilliant.

It is also brilliant when you're just cruising around. On a long, highway drive, it is quiet, comfortable and reassuring. I can drive one across Canada and I bet I'd emerge out of the car at the other end of the country still feeling fresh — and I bet I still would not be bored from driving it.

You must be wondering, where is the but? There must be something I don't like about the car. To be honest, after a week of living with one, I still could not find any flaws. The only thing I wish Acura had added was a heated steering wheel.

It is priced well, too. A base TL is yours from $39,990, and my fully loaded TL SH-AWD Elite model stickered at $49,590. That is much less expensive than an equivalent German sports sedan. I like this car so much, I'd happily buy one if I could.

How will the 2015 TLX fare? I don't know yet, but I hope it'll be every bit as good to drive as the 2014 TL SH-AWD.
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