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2011 Acura TL Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Acura TL was new.


Performance: 8.1

Reviewers treat the Acura TL as two different cars. The base model is a front-wheel drive sedan competing, on price, with about a dozen rear-wheel drive sport sedans. It features electronic steering that many reviewers consider too light, but it makes a comfortable commuter car and family sedan. On the other hand, the press treats the SH-AWD model as a performance car. Its all-wheel drive system helps out the 2011 TL in the performance department, a spot where the base car is lacking. Testers love its steady grip and sharp cornering capability. 

With that said, it’s important for buyers to be honest with themselves about their needs. The AWD system adds several thousand dollars to the price tag and unless you really require that extra performance, it may not be worth the investment.  Especially since a few reviewers have called its wet-weather performance disappointing. An Audi A4 or a well-equipped Subaru Legacy might be better suited to those in areas where all-wheel drive is essential.

  • "Major torque steer in front-drive models" -- Car and Driver
  • "The sport-oriented TL SH-AWD, meanwhile, can keep pace around corners with sport sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37 thanks to its high-tech Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive" -- Edmunds
  • "Base models of the 2011 Acura TL offer a truly sublime driving experience. Even on the bumpiest of roads, you’re not going to be jarred or feel uncomfortable." -- Automobile.com


Acceleration and Power

Base versions of the TL feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 280 horsepower while SH-AWD models carry a larger, 3.7-liter V6 producing 305 horsepower. Although it has more power, reviewers say the two provide nearly identical acceleration as the extra 25 horsepower of the SH-AWD serves to offset that car’s heavier weight. Both versions are liked, and offer a nice balance of power and quiet refinement. 

A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. Reviewers have little to say about it, which is a good thing as testers consistently talk about negative elements of cars. A six-speed manual transmission is optional on SH-AWD cars so performance junkies can have their cake and eat it too. Only a few reviewers have spent any time in manual-equipped TLs, but they seem to have walked away impressed. 

The EPA says that front-wheel drive TLs should get 18 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway, while AWD versions should get 17 city and 25 highway mpg. This means that there is only a little penalty for picking the well-liked AWD system.

  • "The snarl of the V-6 strikes a nice balance between refinement and sportiness, racing from a stop to 60 miles an hour in 6 seconds, according to Car and Driver, while returning 25 miles a gallon on the highway - though a rather unfortunate 17 m.p.g. in town." -- New York Times
  • "The SH-AWD model's 305-horsepower V6 -- the most powerful engine ever offered by Acura -- delivers smooth acceleration, and the five-speed automatic transmission promises quick, nearly seamless shifts, regardless of whether the gearbox is set to regular drive mode or being manipulated with the paddle shifters. " -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In Edmunds performance testing, the base TL went from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds -- on par with most base model luxury sedans." -- Edmunds

 Handling and Braking

Where handling is concerned, there are two entirely different cars sold under the Acura TL name. 

The front-wheel drive base model is a commuter car that will easily meet the day-to-day needs of most drivers, but it isn’t built to win performance comparisons in car magazines. Shoppers should compare it to other front-wheel drive entry-level luxury sedans, like the Lincoln MKZ or Lexus ES

The SH-AWD model is designed to compete with performance-oriented cars like the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. It uses an advanced all-wheel drive system that actually helps to steer the car by varying the speed of each wheel separately to help point the car into turns. Reviewers say it offers a phenomenal amount of grip on dry roads but may not give the wet-road performance some buyers seek in an all-wheel drive vehicle. 

Even the brakes are different between the two models. The base TL’s brakes offer acceptable stopping power but the brakes on the SH-AWD model outperform many competitors.

  • "I won't pretend that I fully exploited the system on public roads, but on long highway on-ramps the TL SH-AWD simply hangs in and goes where you point it, sometimes making the car feel as if it is cheating physics. And cheating physics is fun." -- New York Times
  • "The sport-oriented TL SH-AWD, meanwhile, can keep pace around corners with sport sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37 thanks to its high-tech Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive" -- Edmunds
  • "From a performance driving perspective, the 2011 TL doesn't offer as much pure fun as some of its competitors despite the addition of Acura's sophisticated SH-AWD system. " -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Ample power, quick responses, decent grip, and strong braking are diluted by numb steering. But not much." -- Car and Driver

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