It’s tough going out there in the near-luxury sports sedan arena, and the game has moved on, with every major player offering all-wheel-drive and some crossing the 300 hp threshold. Who wants to be left out of that club?

Acura has addressed both these issues in the all-new 2009 TL. There are two models to choose from: The front-wheel-drive TL ($39,990) powered by a 280 hp 3.5L V6 and the $44,490 TL SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) with a 305 hp 3.7L V6.

Both models get a five-speed manumatic with paddle shifters.

Mechanically, Acura may be playing catch-up here, but stylistically, this 2009 TL isn’t pandering to anybody. Distinctive, bold, sneering — these are words that spring to mind when first viewing the TL’s angular, metallic snout. The creases and cut lines around the trunk and taillights are equally ginsu-knife lethal, and the well-defined blisters above the front wheel arches add muscle to the front haunches.

As it is with most model makeovers, the 2009 TL casts a larger shadow than is predecessor — wider by 30 mm, taller by 10 mm, and the wheelbase is stretched by 34 mm.

Rear seat leg and hip room increases, and the TL boasts a 371-litre trunk (354-litre for the SH-AWD).

The TL’s extra girth puts it between the BMW 3 and 5 Series, the Mercedes C and E-Class, et al. Acura is looking to attract buyers from both those segments.

It’s a fresh interior too, with organic flowing lines that radiate from the driver like waves in a pond. Acura is eschewing the Germanic one-knob-for-all-functions philosophy here, peppering the dash, steering wheel and console with more buttons than a cardigan factory.

Once you figure out where everything is, however, it beats trying to keep one eye on a screen while scrolling through menus.

Those familiar with Acura will know technology is a big part of this maker’s identity, and gizmo-geeks won’t be disappointed here. Standard fare is Bluetooth connectivity, multi-information display, XM satellite radio and a 276-watt eight-speaker audio system with six CD, Dolby ProLogic II, and auxiliary and USB inputs.
While driving the smooth, winding roads of our Connecticut test route, the 280 hp TL felt much more refined than the 2008 car.

It took a nice set during brisk cornering too, but information from the electric power steering (the old car was hydraulic) was nearly non-existent.

The 305 hp TL SH-AWD feels more robust. It rides on 18” footwear (19 inchers are optional) with recalibrated suspension tuning.

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