2009 Acura TL designer Art Osborne calls it "Keen Edge Dynamic". Many internet users have applied their own colorful metaphors, but regardless of how you feel about the 2009 TL's styling, it's unlikely that one will drive past without being noticed.
In the new design, you can still detect a tiny bit of the third generation TL's styling, but the new TL has adopted a more conspicuous look. The design is keyed by Acura's notorious Power Plenum grille and blends hard edges with bulging contours and geometric shapes in a bulky package that's intent on commanding attention.
My first impressions of the 2009 TL's styling were decidedly mixed. Walking around the car, the proportions struck me as being slightly off, and some of the panel cutlines and design elements looked awkward (particularly the small body panels located immediately above each headlight). The concept photos that we were shown alongside the new TL looked great, but clearly something was lost in the translation to glass and steel. Size-wise, this car looks much larger than the outgoing TL.
Seen "on the street" from the seat of another vehicle, the design comes together better. On the road, it projects a wide, muscular image, particularly when viewing from directly head-on. Seen from directly behind, the TL maintains its muscular image, but a flourish of styling elements maybe does more a bit more harm than good.
Depending upon which model you choose, the 2009 TL is offered with three different wheel sizes and styles. Base models get 17" silver painted split 5-spoke wheels, which look a little bit undersized on the TL. The SH-AWD's standard 5-spoke 18" wheels are an improvement, both in style and proportion, but it's no surprise that the SH-AWD's optional 19" split 5-spoke wheels look the best from a proportional standpoint.
The 2009 TL's interior speaks much of the same design language as its predecessor. At the same time it shares clear family ties with the 2009 TSX interior, particularly with respect to the soft grained dash textures, floating-needle gauges, and center stack configuration. What's clear is that the TL's interior designers have been granted with fatter budgets than the TSX team, as evidenced by the TL's richer trim pieces.
The 3rd generation TL was Acura's first model to feature genuine aluminum interior trim bits. The design was well received, but owners soon found that the aluminum trim was prone to getting dinged and nicked up in normal day to day use. Acura addressed this problem in the 2009 TL by sourcing a "dent-proof" metal trim material. It's called PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition), and as the acronym implies, it basically consists of a vaporized metal film that's been deposited on to a plastic substrate. This results in a trim that has the look and feel of solid metal, but it's lighter in weight, dent-resistant, and more easily formed to fit complex contours. This PVD trim is integral to the 2009 TL's "double cockpit" theme, which is one of the carry-over design elements borrowed from the third generation TL. The PVD trim defines the boundaries of each "cockpit", essentially wrapping around each front seat passenger.
Leather upholsters the 2009 TL's standard 10-way/8-way (driver/passenger) power seats on all models. Technology models get upgraded full grain, perforated Milano leather hides. A two-position memory function (tied to the keyfob) keeps track of seating positions, mirror adjustments, radio presets, climate control settings, MID presets and more for two different drivers. SH-AWD versions get special high-bolster front seats for additional support and double stitched seams for a sportier appearance.
The 2004 TL broke new ground with its amazing Acura/ELS sound system. It's hard to believe, but the Acura/ELS system in the 2009 TL has been improved. More system power, two more drivers, and the introduction of new Super Dynamic Range (SDR) midrange drivers and a new Super Low Distortion Subwoofer (SLDD) makes for one of the best sounding car audio systems on the market. Distortion is amazingly low, and the system is tuned to deliver a frequency response curve that closely matches the studio environment of a sound engineer. The fidelity of playback and surround effects afforded by the 5.1 channel DVD-Audio format simply has to be heard to be believed.
Comfort and Convenience
The 2009 TL delivers a high degree of comfort for both front and rear seat passengers. High quality soft touch materials are evident throughout the interior. The front seats are highly supportive and easy to adjust for optimal comfort. Rear seat comfort has been improved in the 2009 TL as well. The rear bench offers improved thigh support and rear passengers enjoy 1.3 inches of additional legroom and a 0.5 inch increase in shoulder room. Unfortunately, rear headroom has been reduced by a half inch in 2009, and it was already somewhat tight in the 2008 TL.
The 2009 TL features numerous pockets and cubbies for storing small and medium-sized items. New for 2009 are small pockets on each side of the transmission tunnel console between the front seats - these are perfect for stashing your cell phone, PDA, or MP3 player while keeping it within easy reach. An internally illuminated center console is topped with a soft leather-covered armrest. The notch on the leading edge of this armrest reveals a sliding tray which provides another convenient location to stow a cell phone or MP3 player. The 2009 TL's glovebox has been enlarged 25% and includes a document shelf for keeping the owner's manual and other important documents organized.
Acura's normally one to sweat the details, and overall, the TL's interior is fantastic, but it's not quite flawless. First of all, it may seem like a petty thing to complain about but I strongly feel that everything that the driver touches and feels should impart a strong sense of quality. Typically, this is one of the areas where Honda and Acura excel, but there are two items where I feel the TL has let us down. The first one is the sunglass holder in the headliner. It feels like the same flimsy, cheap unit that's been found in many past and current Toyota and Nissan models. This is a big departure from Honda's standard sunglass holders, which have a sturdy feel and refined operation. The second gripe is probably a bit more petty, but the painted plastic interior door pulls look and feel out of place, not only in this particular Acura, but ANY Acura model.