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2009 Acura TLI'm a pretty big fan of Honda. I don't agree with everything they do, but for the most part, they turn out some pretty excellent cars. But what on Earth is going on over at their luxury division, Acura? A few weeks back, guest writer Brian Chee reviewed the 2009 Acura TSX, and was underwhelmed. (I drove the car myself and agreed with him 100%.) Now we come to their mid-size TL, also all-new for 2009, and again, I am left scratching my head. What, exactly, is Acura trying to do? Why would someone buy an Acura over an Infiniti, a Lexus, a Mercedes, a BMW or a Cadillac? I'm not just asking a rhetorical question here -- I seriously want to know what you think, because I'm just not getting it. Check out my 2009 Acura TL test drive and review, then come back here to the blog, click the "Comments" link below, and share your thoughts on Acura. Maybe you guys and gals can clue me in. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Aaron Gold

February 23, 2009 at 3:50 am
(1) Johnster says:

I don’t know what Acura is thinking either. The grills of new Acura cars are hideous. There must be a market for a smart aftermarket company to sell some more conventional looking grills to fit Acura’s TL, RL, and TSX models.

And the difficult-to-use navigation system is inexcusable.

February 23, 2009 at 6:29 am
(2) Peter V says:

Aaron – I’ve been a Honda guy for years, hoping to one day step up to Acura luxury (it all started with the original Legend Coupe). But this new crop of Acuras is crap. Styling is too sharp, and the ergonomics, long a Honda strong point, has fallen far from the original tree, so to speak.

I will say that I saw a TL in my local Acura showroom with a painted grille, and it made a HUGE difference in my opinion of the styling. Acura should make that standard.

February 23, 2009 at 6:46 am
(3) Mike in AR says:


I agree with your assessment. Acura could have done a much better job. The previous TL was a very nice looking car.

Frankly, Acura’s design studio is really going in the wrong direction. The new styles are so ugly, even with the reported new driving dynamics, I am not interested in even test driving the TL.

Also, a 5 speed transmission?

You are right, I would much rather go for the G, or the C, or the 3 series, or the Genesis…


February 23, 2009 at 8:30 am
(4) DocVB says:

Hideous front grille. Use this car for the next Robocop remake!!!

February 23, 2009 at 2:51 pm
(5) Eric says:

Up until this year, I would have given serious consideration to either the TSX or the TL. The new designs are too similar to each other, and the grilles are absolutely hideous. They might work on the trucks, but they don’t on the cars at all.

February 23, 2009 at 10:38 pm
(6) Hawaiian Don says:

Aaron, by now you know that a bigger Honda fan than I would be a hard to find; but this Acura is a total loser. Your review is right on every count. That “Robocop” (as DocVB so aptly chacterized) visor fascia is absolutlely ludicrous for a luxo cruiser, as is the dashboard layout. Recently, I had the option of selling Honda or Acura. After checking out the incoming models, I went to Honda. I just cant figure how these two cars came out of the same tent!!!

February 24, 2009 at 6:56 am
(7) Gary G says:

Well, that makes it unamimous, Honda has lost track of their ususal flawless course of blending style and driveability.
The new ’09s are ugly from every angle and lumbering on the road.
We own last years TSX and it’s a delight. A recent service visit put us in a new TL for the afternoon. The car was sluggish off the line and in cornering it rolled and tossed like a 50′s lead sled.
From the drivers seat the high window sills made it near impossible for my diminutive lady friend to find any sort of balance between visibility and driver positioning settling finally on a pick-up truck like “high seat” position for the sake of safety in afternoon traffic.
We drove it home, parked it, drove my older truck the rest of the night and complained about the looks and performance (or lack there of) for the rest of the evening.
We’ll be keeping our TSX a year longer instead of helping stimulate the economy by investing in any new Honda.

February 24, 2009 at 7:46 am
(8) Cober says:

Hey Aaron, are you feeling o.k. This lacks your usual humor and you’re covering a boring as hell car. Throw us a bone already. I can’t afford a new car right now but it doesn’t stop me from reading all your usually fun reviews.

February 24, 2009 at 9:36 am
(9) gary from Atlanta says:

I did not like the last TL either, but they are all over Atlanta. I bet they sold 25,000 slate grey ones in Atlanta alone. Women love these cars. I am sure they will sell. They will cover parking lots all over Atlanta.

February 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm
(10) Ed Mercanti says:

When I bought my TL in 2005, its base price was the same as the G35. However, the TL had no options (everything was standard) and the G35 had pages of options. It would have cost me almost $5,000 more to buy a similarly outfitted G35 than a TL. At that time, you could get a 6-speed manual transmission sport model (stiffer suspension and Brembo brakes) at the same price as the automatic version of the TL. Of couse, I bought the 6-speeed manual sport model. Today? I’d buy a BMW M3. If I was looking at 6 cylinder vehicles, it would be the G37. Acura has destroyed the beautiful lines of their TL and overpriced it.

February 26, 2009 at 10:46 am
(11) dallas says:

I think the new lexus line is head and shoulders above the acura line right now the IS250 and IS350 and so forth are so nice. I would say the lexus is not great at any one thing just really really good at everything.

March 8, 2009 at 3:04 am
(12) Jack A says:

I’m really wondering how old you all are (no offense), but boy! How critical can most of you be? As for me, a 52 year old male car enthusiast, I would like to state that, I really love most everything about the ’09 TL, including the looks! It’s a head turner even in Beverly Hills. Case in point: while I was exiting a parking structure, someone ran from behind, took a look at the side, (since I happened to stop for awhile, ran to the front, and signaled his thumbs-up in approval. Wow! At the car wash earlier today, practically everyone was just looking (in a sea of mostly 7 & 5 series Bimmers, S, E, M , G class M-Benzes, Lexus LS 460L and GS), an experience I haven’t had since the good old days of the original Datsun 240Z.

Yes, I agree like most of you, when I saw the pictures for the first time online, I was a little surprised, perhaps perplexed at the designs of both the front grill, as well as the rear end of the TL. However, upon seeing it in person, I actually have come to liking the styling. And the more I saw it, the more I liked. It has grown on me quickly. Now, I really, really like the design! In fact, I just traded in an ’06 M-Benz E350. When you see it side-by-side most comparative cars, they would just look dated–even the ’08 E350 w/ sports package, which I really like. Probably, the TL is too futuristic or a little advanced for most of you…but we are now in the last months of this decade. 2010 us almost here. So, ugly or its synonyms, are not appropriate for the car. Upon reading most commentaries, I just can’t help but completely disagree with most of you.

Therefore, I am writing this honestly written comment/contribution. Mind you, it’s a look that will grow on you. If not now, eventually. Another point would be the BMW 5 & 7, the Audis, and a host of somewhat different (maybe even radical) vehicles that automotive enthusiasts/reviewers have initially criticized, but eventually loved . In fact the side view reminds me of another good looking car, the Lexus GS…one of the models I considered (along with the BMW 5, M-B E350, Infiniti M), and in 2005, had me have a hard time on the car to buy an drive. Ultimately, at that time, we got both an Acura RL and an M-B E350 (both leases have matured last year).

Just imagine that it took me 3 months to finally decide on turning in the E350 means I took the time to evaluate and analyze getting the next car–a 2009 ACURA TL–which admittedly, I have fallen in love with, including or should I say, especially the exterior and interior aesthetics.

I have compared it w/ the ’09 Maxima and in both looks, features, performance, ride, materials, handling, low-band acceleration, etc, the TL wins. Also include in the comparison, were the following: ’09 E350, C300 sports, BMW 528 & 535, Infiniti G35 & M35, Lexus ES350 & GS 350, Jaguar XF, and Acura’s own ’09 RL. Now I’m very satisfied driving a Black on Black elegant and beautiful TL. It’s so much fun, which I have evoked to the salesperson who accompanied me in my several test drives (7 over time).

When you consider the price, it’s simply no contest! It’s the perfect and intelligent choice for somebody like me who would like to get the best value for my money, and at the same time enjoy my SoCal driving w/ a good blend of comfort and sporty cruising, roomy enough, loads of Advanced Technological features, each of use, intuitive navigation system, outstanding sound system with 5.1 Surround DVD-Audio (BTW, I’m also an Audiophile with Bowers and Wilkins 800 series speakers, Parasound Halo Power Amps & Controller), very precise steering, etc..

Yes it has more buttons than others, but I would rather say enough to make it so much easier to operate without having to endlessly navigate. To me the toggle control (like an i-drive, works just like a computer mouse does. With all the technology and features, there is no way out of that…either it’s too simple looking without the buttons, but difficult to navigate, or it will have to be fully loaded with buttons, just like a cockpit of an airplane. The TL has the perfect combination of having both. On home sound systems, you can get away with buttons because you have remote controls–but not with cars. Agreeably, there are applications that at times, doing with less clutter makes things look more elegant.

In the cases of newly acquired things, definitely familiarization takes some getting used to, but not for long in the case of the ’09 TL. BTW, our family currently have the following: 08 BMW 335, 08 BMW 328, 08 MB E350, 07 Lexus ES, 06 Acura MDX, Honda S-2000, Mini-Cooper S, Honda Ridgeline that the family members drive. We had an 05 RL, 04 TL 6-speed stick w/ Brembo, 2002 TL-S, ’93 300E, Saab 9000, 05 Porsche Cayman, ’89 BMW 6, M-Benz 300 SD, ’85 Nissan 240 SX, ’86 Nissan Maxima, etc.

For the price, maintenance costs, predicted reliability and considering the economic conditions we are in, the 2009 ACURA TL stands out is a very intelligent choice! Yet, you have a sporty-luxury car with some bling!

So, go ahead grab, enjoy and have fun driving the 2009 Acura TL!

Excellent work Acura.

March 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm
(13) Tom Evelyn says:

I have owned 3 Preludes 84, 88, 00, a 94 Accord and currently a 04 TL. My 04 TL with Nav is my favorite. I am 54 years old and loved the sportyness of the 04. I was so disappointed when I went to update to this years model in December.
Honda did the same thing to the Prelude. Took a perfect car and blew it up to a big car.
The TL size, Nose and “Cadillac” rear is all big turn offs. Then Honda moved the Nav into the dash takes away the intuitive touch screen. I was told the people didn’t like the finger prints. Does Honda even talk to it’s customers that loved the )04-08 lines and features? I am now looking for an 08 with the options I want, move to BMW or wait to see if Honda comes to its senses and fix this mess within 18 months. I am so disappointed and mad as hell. As you can tell above I like Honda’s dependability but can’t see myself in this car.
They can drop the price to 25K and I still wouldn’t buy it as is.

PS I believe the previous comment must be from Honda. Who else would write a book in the comment section.

July 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm
(14) Angelo says:

The 2004-2008 TL has a boring and generic design. On the contrary, the 2009 TL has personality. It’s a beautiful, sporty car, that gives a new, fresh image to the sports sedan concept. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, and should not be main focus of a car review. This car has amazing handling, and is quiet. The Infiniti G37 gets great reviews, but it’s a very noisy car! I don’t care about performance when I have to tolerate all that noise. Aaron Gold’s review is way off…2 stars for the Acura? You gotta be kidding me! Putting aside all its great features, I also care about reliability and resale value!

August 8, 2009 at 3:47 pm
(15) Ruben says:

Honda sold out to a combo of the green movement and the ugly movement(remember the earth dreams f1 car?)… their lack of any sports car designed within the last decade, no NSX… and now this ugly monstrosity… I’ll see u folks over at the Toyota dealerships.

August 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm
(16) hapa says:

“Why would someone buy an Acura over an Infiniti, a Lexus, a Mercedes, a BMW or a Cadillac? I’m not just asking a rhetorical question here — I seriously want to know what you think, because I’m just not getting it.”

I just bought one…so to answer the question as succintly as possible – preference and price. Clearly people have an issue with the looks and with the recession, Acura made me an offer too good to pass up.

Detail –
It was the car that suited most of my needs (comfort, safety, features, (perceived) resale, and price). Yes, I wasn’t wowed with the styling, but it’s not that bad overall and it is different which I do like. Yes, I agree with most that the grill is a bit _____ (fill in the blank as beauty is sometimes in the eye of the beholder or in this case ugliness.) However, I figure I’ll just replace the grill with an aftermarket grill when they come out with all of the $$ I save or just get it painted black).
(eg. see RonJon grill http://tl.acurazine.com/forums/)

I test drove many cars: Lexus ES350 and IS 350, Infiniti G37, Hyundai Genesis, Nissan Maxima, Cadillac CTS Lincoln MKS, TSX V6, Toyota Camry SLE, Honda Accord (v6), Mercedes C-series, Pontiac G8, BMW 3-series. Basically almost every four-door sedan out there priced between $25K – $45K

At the end of the day, while a BMW is really really nice, I couldn’t afford one and based on my experience with a 2003 BMW 300i (wZHP package), I am not sold on BMW’s reliability (same with Mercedes), not to mention the cost of general maintenance if you own the car. Lexus ES (too much of a boat). IS 350 (too small for my kids).
Toyota Camry (it’s still a camry – enuf said). Honda Accord, didn’t have the luxury feel. CTS nice, but too pricey and my preference for the interior is more on par with BmW/Acura. G8 (nice motor – hella fast) but fit/finish wasn’t there. And so on and so forth when comparing to other cars.

This was the best car to suit my needs (some performance, some comfort, some tech) sans styling in the right price range (and it doesn’t bother me if people don’t care for the ‘beak’ b’cos @ the end of day I’m driving the car and not standing around looking @ it).

January 16, 2010 at 2:34 am
(17) Robert R says:

I have been driving the 2009 TL for a few weeks and really do love it. The front panel is a bit confusing but the voice commands are very easy and instinctive. The driver’s seat is the most comfortable I have ever experienced, including any seating in and out of a vehicle. It just hugs you and the Milano leather is better than Coach glove soft. I don’t love the front grille but the rest of the styling is very sweet, making the styling of competitors such as the BMW and Infiniti look fat and dated. I difinitely do recommend this car.

January 18, 2010 at 11:58 am
(18) Johnny says:

To Jack A (12). You actually like the styling of the front grill and commented that “it grows no you”??? Really curious what your wife looks like LOL

February 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm
(19) Paul Allyn says:

People complaining about the front grill, Get over it all ready. I have read so many reviews by paid experts and yes, most don’t care for the grill, but as for as the rest of the car including handling, performance, interior, sound system, and the Tech. package, they are all hard pressed to find anything bad about it, except for this joker. For the ones who say they’re running to Lexus, go run. You want a “Soft, Fluffy, Mellow ride that you can’t control, where the car drives you, then go for it, I guess that kind of ride is great if your in your 70′s. I bet that the majority of people here stating how horrible the front looks have viewed it only from their home computer, never went to the dealer for a test drive or in the market to actually buy.

I did the same, wasn’t even going to actually test drive it because of the photos on the net. Big mistake, It’s much better in person then whats shown in a print ad. And like someone else said, the grill is not the priority, and it will grow on you if you buy. All it took was one test drive for me. In fact, I agree that the other luxory sedans look like they are now outdated. You like having a back bumper that looks like every other luxory car, the straight bumper that wedges slightly back in to the trunk, BORING. It’s the 21st century, 2010.

I’m not in love with the grill, but from the grill back, I think it’s a sharp looking vehicle. If you hate the looks of the entire car, then it’s not for you. It’s 2010, this is a modern look, if you rather stay with your older outdated look and keep your 07 and not upgrade just because of the grill, I believe you will be missing out. THis car has so much more to offer to pass on because of the front grill, the interior and the tech / sound package is just two places to start with, as one professional reviewer stated, the sound system in the TL is argubly the best sound system out there today.

I agree, The styling may be arguable, however the entire package cannot be faulted, test drive one. This may be long, and NO, I don’t work for Acura.

March 30, 2010 at 12:04 am
(20) terry says:

Had an 02 acura and liked it.bought an 09 and I love it.smooth ride and I agree you have to see it in person and drive it.you will love it to.the nose takes some getting use to but the car is well worth the money.

May 17, 2010 at 12:46 am
(21) John Quint says:

Acuras “power plenum” (what ever the hell that is) means one thing:
ACURA is the EDSEL of this millenium as long as they continue with this hideous design and don’t try to feed us that “Oh give it a chance it will grow on you” crap because if something as hideous as the current Acura design philosphy were to grow on me, I would treat it like a wart and cut it off. I could design a better looking car with a Crayon!

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