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Acura

2010 Acura TL

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When it comes to luxury sedans, the most important factor to making sales is ease of use.  When people look for a luxury car, they are generally not looking for a car that is hard to drive or requires a lot of work.  Hence, steering is usually easy and responsive, the seats are comfortable, and the transmission is an automatic.  Well, the new 2010 Acura TL is sticking with the responsive steering and the comfortable interior, but there will now be an option for a manual transmission.  Why?  Because when a car is this fun to drive, a manual transmission enhances the experience.

When the Acura TL was redesigned for the 2009 model year, it received some, well, odd styling.  The front bumper comes to a point, almost like the prow of a boat, and the front grille looks like an oddly-proportioned smile.  Put the TL next to a few other luxury sedans in its class and it definitely stands out.  The new option for a manual transmission will also set the TL apart from most competitors, but the company doesn’t expect the transmission to be a big draw:  they’re expecting only about 5% of sales to be manuals, but those 5% are in for a very fun ride.

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What makes the manual so fun is that car that it is paired to, the Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) model, which has a 3.7-liter V6 engine, producing 305 horsepower.  This transmission marks the company’s first AWD manual, and they’ve done a heck of a job on it.  The shift throw is short, only 8mm, meaning that shifting through gears is a breeze.  Push in the clutch, apply some slight pressure on the shifter, and it pops smoothly into gear.  Acura tried to make the transmission shift as easily as the manual from the Civic Si, and they’ve done it.  Also, the sticky third gear from the Si manual is nowhere to be found on the TL.  And the clutch itself is smooth and even.  Only the most novice manual drivers will cause the car to lurch and buck.  This may be the easiest manual to drive.

The suspension and steering from the regular TL haven’t been altered for the manual version, but the stick transmission weighs less than the automatic.  That makes the ride a bit stiffer, but you won’t really notice it until you start throwing the TL through the corners.  Then your smile will be as goofy as the one on the front grille.  This car is quick, nimble, and incredibly responsive, thanks to the quick-throw manual.

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The bottom line is that, for under $40,000, you can get a luxury sedan that drives great, and can handle a track faster than its BMW 335, Audi S4, and Infiniti G37 competitors.  If you’re at all inclined to favor manual transmisions over automatics, give the 2010 TL a try and you won’t be disappointed.

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