Through Ian's Lens: 2009 Acura TL


My first reaction to the 2009 Acura TL was one of great conflict. How in the world did the highly trained automotive designers at Acura leave that ugly plate of chrome on the front of that poor car? In all honesty, I think the designers at Acura were working on something bigger than replacing a grille on a car. They were hard at work instituting design cues that the entire Acura line of cars could execute. After spending some time with the nose of the TL, I can see what they were aiming for. And I really like it.

The 2009 Acura TL is a sharp-looking car that takes the Acura brand to a new level of quality. With a brutish front end that contains a large chunk of matte chrome paint, the TL looks like a Honda Accord dressed up for a “Star Trek” convention (in a good way). Sharp lines from the front flow through the body panels and end at the rear of the car, near the sharp taillights. All this aggressive movement ends at a vertical point in the middle of the trunk. This symmetry allows the TL to look mean from all angles.

Check out the quality of the interior by looking at the full set of photos below. Please leave your remarks in the comments section, and feel free to use the full-screen mode on the photo browser.

By Ian Merritt | April 15, 2009 | Comments (31)
Tags: Acura




I would do a drug test on Ian. He must be smoking something if he thinks the TL is a good looking car.


2009 will go down as the year that Honda killed off (or severely maimed) Acura with butt-ugly vehicles. Goodbye, Acura.

I had a 07 tl type-s, Sharp looking car. but the new Tl....... Just look at it the grill is like a plate. I just traded for a 10 mkz. The inside dosen't look as good but the outside is a heck of alot better!! Come on Honda Get the design team back in gear!!!

Original sheth

To be honest, the rear is worse than the front. The rear is just bizarre. As for interior quality- it's top notch for a Honda. The TL will not remind you of a German car inside. Still no real wood or metal trim. It looks like an Accord with more buttons and a larger nav screen inside- which is pretty much what you have.

funny enough a black one just drove by our offices at lunch and it turned my head. The thing is sharp! I know I'm in the minority but at least it doesn't look like anything else on the road. I love the Infiniti G37 sedan and all, but it doesn't stand out. Neither does a 3 series. This definitely sticks out.

Hey Liger,
You can rough me up all you want but i still think this car looks great. it may not be your favorite design but it does catch your eye when it drives by (maybe because you are blinded by the reflection off of the grille). In 5 years, maybe cars will look more like the new TL and less like anything on the road today.
Wow, did I really just write that?


Original sheth

The Aztek stuck out too. I don't think a car has to be unattractive to be distinctive. I would take the CTS over this ANY day- bold and attractive. While the 3 series is ubiquitous, its still a great looking car. I think the 2009 A4 is sharp as well. I can't think of another car in this class that doesn't have more grace than the TL.

Original sheth


I am not a fan of the ES but its not offensive and it really doesn't have any crazy design elements. Toyota rarely makes ugly cars- they just make uninspired designs. I used to say the same about Honda as well but no more.


I'd rather have a Hyundai Genesis 4.6L.


I basically like all of it except the back. The front grille has actually turned on me a little since its debut. But the back, as OS said, is just strange. Its way too wide. And there's that extremely unnecessary strip of chrome that makes it worse.

It reminds me of "grill's" by nelly. Maybe a billet grill would help!!! other than that i would take it Over any luxury car " Even the non luxury hyundai" out on the market.


does the TL even have wood trim avaliable?

Tom R.

If there's anything here that defines a "new level of quality", it's Ian's photography skills. Ian's use of Chicago cityscapes as a backdrop for his automotive photos is just exemplary. As usual, the photos from the OEM press sites are mediocre (or outright junk) compared to Ian's.

As for the quality of the Acura TL in Ian's photos: rather unimpressive.

Brian E

"Still no real wood or metal trim." - not true, tech model TLs have real aluminum (created with a new whizzy vapor spray process - typical of Honda).

Brian E

As usual Ian's photos are top notch. I actually like the TL a lot too and am looking forward to taking the SH-AWD 6MT model for a test drive when it arrives. The saddle brown leather interior is very sexy too.

I'd look at the A4, except I really don't like my local Audi dealer that much, and I'm afraid I'd have to get to know them a lot better.

Sam F

Great write-up, regardless of what the Ford-GM-Chrysler sheeple say the TL is a very attractive cutting edge car, it's just beyond their level of appreciation. When I bought my '04 550i in 2003 everyone said it looked so "un-BMW" and that it was "Japanese-fied". Well as it turns out my 550i looks just as good today as it did 6 years ago. I have no doubt the TL will be the same way. It's refreshing to read an article that was clearly written by an expert...and with great photos too! I'm now tempted to slip behind the wheel of a TL this weekend for a test drive.


Umm, yeah...way to generalize Sam F. Appreciation for design is so objective isn't it. But I guess I wouldn't know because it's beyond my level of appreciation.

My subjective opinion is that the photography is excellent and that while this car has some interesting elements, it does not exude the classiness, elegance, and prestige that a luxury car should have. The "expert" stated it best: looks like a Honda Accord dressed up for a "Star Trek" convention.


Great Pictures!, and even better looking car. I wish I'd had 42k to buy one. I think Acura is way ahead of it's competition.

Original sheth

"Great write-up, regardless of what the Ford-GM-Chrysler sheeple say the TL is a very attractive cutting edge car, it's just beyond their level of appreciation. "

Actually, the look has been criticized by many in the auto media as well. You are only fooling yourself if you feel that anyone who doesn't like this car is simply lacking class. It's not a good looking car. The best you can say is that it's distinctive. I'm sure the Aztek's designers also claimed that in 5 years the vehicle would look good. Any automaker that copies Acura's new styling direction deserves to watch their sales plummet as Acura's have in recent years.

Original sheth


Where have you seen information regarding real aluminum trim in the TL? I haven't seen anything confirming that. The G37 offers real metal trim.

Tony S

And he said the front end has chrome is completely wrong. It's not chrome, dude.


Tony S, your right.
IT's plastic as can be underneath. I went to the dealer and saw one with a scratch on the grill that revealed the black plastic underneath. What a rip.


One of the few cars that doesn't even look good in black. A severely over-priced, over-blown, over-weight Accord that costs thousands more. You'd have to be an idiot to justify buying it.

Jason M

Nice car, I used to own 2004 TL but this one blows my mind. I should have waited a bit instead of getting A4... oh well...


" their sales plummet as Acura's have in recent years."

Too bad the dope can't tell the difference between Acura and GM-Welfare Motors.

steve b

I have to admit, at first I wasn't too impressed with the look. Actually, I thought is was a little on the ugly side. The front grill was overwhelming and the back looked odd. However, since buying one a month ago, I have learned to love it. I guess it has to grow on you. I get so many comments on my TL and it is fun to drive. I now see the front end as classy and the rear end as a sharp looking. I have had mine for 5 weeks now and have not seen another one on the road yet. ??? I guess it will take time for the look to "grow on" people.
I would recommend this car to anyone wanting to spend this kind of money on a car. I previously had an accord and loved it, but this is definetely a step up. The one feature I love is the door unlock and start system. You never need to reach in your pocket for the key. That will definitly spoil you!
All in all, I am very happy with it----so far!

steve b

One additional comment, At the dealer, they had a TL with the front "chrome" grill and rear wing painted the same color as the body--That looked pretty sharp. It diminished the "zing" or "gaudiness", however you look at it, from it. It would be a nice option if you didn't like the flashy look. keep that in mind as an option.

Chris in Florida

Hi... I just purchased a 2009 TL, after owning Lexus' for the past 8 years. I have to say that the car is stunning in every way. I was a bit skeptical about the front grille, but after seeing the car on the road several times, the look grew on me! I stopped by my local Acura dealer, got a good deal and drove out in a new 2009 TL, no money down, and payments lower than my trade-in ... WOW! I had looked at BMW, Infiniti, and Lexus, but the 2009 TL won me over. Prior to this, I had an IS 250, and ES' before that.

The TL styling is bold, head-turning, and refreshing. And the handling, while stiffer than Lexus, is very comfortable. Now, the new design is not for everyone. But had it not been for the bold new design, I would have traded in my IS for an ES. So, the new look and Acura reputation won over an 8 year loyal Lexus owner ... I never thought that I would leave the Lexus brand, but I did!

Bravo Acura!



After months of research I bought an 09 TL SH-AWD. I previously owned an 01 CL and was going to change brands to see what was up.. Cadillac, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, and Lexus were impressive, but something about the design, features, quality, and reliability swayed me. I like the look, it doesn't follow the crowd and leads into a new direction. When you break the mold folks holler, design changes can be scary and if it's not a bulls-eye however can inspire greater design. Do the damn thing Acura, create your own niche! I look forward to 9 more years and 200,000 miles in my new ride.

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