Comparison: 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD vs 2010 Audi S4

Jim Fets

Growing up doesn't have to suck the fun out of driving. You don't have to sell your soul -- and your Mitsubishi Lancer Evo -- and buy a life-sucking, automatic-transmission, front-wheel-drive sled just because you landed a real job and produced offspring. These two luxury sedans appear grown up to the outside world, but when no one is looking, the cars can bring out your inner juvenile delinquent. You probably never thought of the Acura TL SH-AWD and the Audi S4 on the same day, much less in the same sentence. But this duo is remarkably similar in base price, power, and weight. And significantly, they both use torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive systems to ensure that they don't sacrifice one iota of the corner-carving thrills you've grown to love. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the two cars that will change your perception of all-wheel-drive luxury sedans.

In a tit-for-tat comparison between two cars that share the same driveline philosophy, it quickly becomes obvious that the Acura and the Audi are significantly different only in the details. Despite riding on a wheelbase within an inch and a half of the Audi S4's, the Acura TL is about ten inches longer and two inches wider. In fact, its interior is sufficiently voluminous to push the TL into the next EPA size class. The S4's lower beltline and bigger windows give a better view out, though, effectively eliminating any difference in perceived interior size. It's only from the back seat where the size differential becomes pronounced, but the S4 still offers sufficient space for a young family. Although the Acura's trunk is also larger, its rear seats don't fold down.

Slam one of the TL's doors a little too hard, and you can't help but notice how tinny it sounds. Not so for the S4, which sounds and feels like the proverbial bank vault. The S4's attractive interior is up to Audi's typical high-quality standards, but the Acura's cabin is more striking, with a dashboard draped in symmetrical, sinewy curves trimmed with black-on-silver dot-matrix-patterned aluminum that provides a modern ambience without the risk of glare in sunny weather. The punctuation mark is a red metal start button, and although the shifter is located a bit too far toward the passenger side, its heavy weight and perfectly precise throws are among the best in the business. So, too, are the turn-signal stalks. But then there are the buttons. There are seventeen of them on the steering wheel alone, and perhaps another eight thousand on the dashboard. Despite being organized logically in clusters for climate control, stereo, and navigation functions, their sheer number means that it takes a good bit of time to become comfortable using them.

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mo_pho
I have to say that I hate rain-sensing wipers too. They have always only served to frustrate me.Great read!
hmclean
I was waiting for a test like this, thanks automobile. I hope acura makes a type-s 6-speed super handling all wheel drive soon. Then again they may not they may not have space on the trunk to place all those words, phrase acronym whatever!
high_taxes
The article states you can't get rain-sensing wipers in the Acura, a curious omission at this price point. I HATE those wipers! I've had them in several of my cars and feel it's one of the WORST ideas in years. They never work consistently in a given amount of rain. I also can't stand starter buttons, especially when the key has to be put in the ignition first.

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