From the day the TL SH-AWD arrived at our offices, our staff was critical of its controversial styling, quickly filling the Acura's logbook with unflattering comments. "Pontiac Aztek aficionados, rejoice: Your luxury car is here!" wrote one editor. Another noted, "She's not a looker, unless you dig a Cyrano schnoz and a can-opener smile." The least disparaging remark? "It's different, to say the least."
Although backhanded compliments were about all the praise we could heap on the TL's sheetmetal, naturally our deep, genuine crew managed to look beyond the Acura's unbecoming façade. "The TL suffers from the same syndrome as did the Subaru Tribeca
," said Truck Trend Web producer Melissa Spiering. "Its symptoms are obvious to most, with a hideous front grille and a ridiculous looking rear end, but what's hidden inside is amazing." Indeed, most editors fell in love with the TL's posh, feature-laden interior that boasts sumptuous Milano leather sport seats, high-end ELS audio, a thick-rimmed leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with contrast stitching (an SH-AWD exclusive), Bluetooth phone and audio capability, real-time traffic and weather updates, satellite radio, Zagat restaurant guide, and a nav system that can be operated while on the move. Of course, the contemporary cabin garnered a few nits as well. The center stack, with its large rotary knob and plethora of buttons, was often a challenge to decipher: "Looks as if it could control intergalactic travel," said assistant Web producer Carlos Lago. Some of the trim bits, e.g., the "3D metallic" accents, were deemed cheap-looking, and the Bluetooth phone system occasionally had trouble syncing to various cell-phones.
Shortly after the $43,995 TL landed in L.A., we took it to the test track, where it zipped from 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds and through the quarter mile in 14.8 at 96.9 mph. In our handling and braking tests, the Acura, with its torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system and Michelin Pilot Sport 2 summer tires, put down 0.91 g on the skidpad, 26.0 seconds at 0.73 g through the figure eight, and 103 feet in 60-to-0 braking. Super handling? Infiniti's new rear-drive, 330-horse M37 can beat, well, none of those figures.