First traffic, now weather
The previous TL was an early adopter of real-time traffic information, incorporated into the navigation system. The new TL goes a step further by adding weather info-including radar weather maps, forecasts, and alerts-supplied by XM satellite radio. The navigation system, which also includes an eight-inch screen, voice recognition, and a rear-view camera, is part of the aforementioned technology package. Two other elements to this geek's dream are keyless ignition and Acura's ELS audio system, a 440-watt, 10-speaker powerhouse with DVD audio and a 12.7-gig hard drive. Like the standard TL stereo, the ELS unit can also has USB and aux inputs (with seamless iPod integration), Bluetooth connectivity, and standard XM satellite radio (the latter includes a note function, which can remember the title and artist and a sample snippet of up to 30 different songs).
Bigger car, bigger engines
Like the previous TL, the new car comes in two versions, with two different V-6 engines. The base car's V-6 has grown from 3.2 to 3.5 liters. Output is up from 258 hp to 280, with an additional 21 lb-ft of torque for a total of 254 lb-ft. Fuel economy, however, remains 18/26 mpg. Replacing the old Type-S as the top model is the new SH-AWD. Its V-6 displaces 3.7 liters, and makes 305 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. As its name implies, the SH-AWD also comes standard with all-wheel drive, a first for the TL. Fuel economy for TL SH-AWD drops by 2 mpg (highway) compare to the old Type-S, for an estimated 17 city/24 highway. We were sad to see a manual transmission disappear from the TL options list. It will return for 2010, but for now a five-speed, paddle-shift automatic is the only available gearbox.
We started our drive in the base TL, where we were concerned about 280 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque flowing to the front wheels. But cranking the wheel and stomping on the gas elicited only minor tugging at the wheel. Honda engineers reduced the front-end lift under acceleration, which creates less change in driveshaft angle and helps mellow torque steer. Of course, torque steer is not a factor for the SH-AWD, which can send up to 70 percent of its power to the rear wheels. The all-wheel-drive system also features Honda's torque-vectoring capability, with clutch packs on either side of the rear differential that can open and close to transfer torque across the rear axle. The 305-hp car has a sporty exhaust note, and its shorter final drive ratio helps it sprint from 0 to 60 mph about one-half-second quicker than the base car, according to Honda.