2010 Acura TL SH-AWD six-speed
2010 Acura TL SH-AWD six-speed. Click image to enlarge

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Six-speed manual

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Acura TL

Ottawa, Ontario – A sport sedan is all about the driver, so it might come as a surprise just how difficult it can be to spec a mid-size car in this class with a manual transmission.

In theory, a stickshift seems an obvious choice in a sporty car, regardless of body style. In practice, many sport sedan buyers choose an automatic, being less concerned with performance than with comfort and the upscale image that the car projects.

That’s why an automatic was the only transmission offered in the Acura TL when it was redesigned into its third generation in 2009. Acura’s parent company, Honda, apparently feels the demand simply isn’t there to justify making a manual transmission available across the line. Where there is demand for a stickshift, however, is at the top of the TL range, so for 2010, the TL SH-AWD Tech Package – the most expensive model there is – can be had with a six-speed manual.

The manual is a no-cost alternative to the five-speed automatic that comes standard in the SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) model, and while you have to pay a premium to get the six-speed with the Tech Pack – the TL SH-AWD comes with a $48,490 price-tag – it’s worth it.

2010 Acura TL SH-AWD six-speed
2010 Acura TL SH-AWD six-speed
2010 Acura TL SH-AWD six-speed. Click image to enlarge

I like driving bigger cars with manual transmissions, mostly because they’re relatively rare, but it also has to do with having ultimate control over what, in the TL’s case, is a very capable vehicle, performance-wise.

The SH-AWD system is notable for how it routes more power to the outside rear wheel in turns. So, while the TL is a front-driver in base form, Acura’s all-wheel drive system helps eliminate the front-wheel drive model’s tendency to understeer through quick corners. Wintry conditions meant I didn’t get a chance to test the SH-AWD system at the car’s limits on dry roads, but it works on slick surfaces too, and makes the car an entertaining drive on a snowy day.

The six-speed transmission is the real news here, and it’s a nice piece of machinery. The shifter moves very easily through its gates, though I’d prefer a more tactile connection to the dirty bits it controls. Same goes for the clutch, which is light but otherwise provides smooth take-up and is easy to modulate. This transmission displayed the same tendency to get hung up during the second-to-third upshift as I’ve noticed in other Honda six-speeds.

The engine, a 3.7-litre V6, gets 305 horsepower, a 25-hp increase over the 3.5-litre motor used in front-drive TLs. This car didn’t feel noticeably quicker than a base model TL I drove last summer; blame that on the extra power being offset by this 2010 car’s extra heft. The TL with AWD and the Tech Package weighs in at 1,797 kg, 114 kg (about 251 lb) more than that 2009 base TL. The bigger engine’s 273 lb-ft of torque is a generous enough figure, but it peaks at 5,000 r.p.m., and the engine doesn’t really feel that athletic till you hit 2,500 revs. At least the engine is a willing revver: it’s smooth all the way to redline, and the exhaust note is very nice.

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