The unceasing risk inherent to benchmarking your competition is that they have smart, creative folks all working just as hard to improve their products.
The brass ring on the sport sedan ride is one of the most highly coveted in the world, and it's also the fastest-moving ride there is.
A Day of Reckoning
We are compelled to admit that this was an Acura event that took place at a facility owned by Honda (overseen by the Transportation Research Center) with all the test cars supplied and prepped by Acura R&D. It's not exactly our usual comparison format, in other words. This was our opportunity to drive a prototype of the 2010 Acura TL Super Handling All-Wheel Drive six-speed manual transmission (SH-AWD 6MT), so Acura arranged some track time at its test facility near its U.S. engineering facility in Ohio, and a competitive set of sport sedans.
The competitor cars each featured a manual transmission, the sportiest configuration currently available, and aftermarket brake pads that would stand up to an afternoon on the racetrack. The cars included a 2008 Audi S4 Quattro manual; 2008 BMW 335i Sport; 2008 BMW 335xi Sport and a 2008 Infiniti G35s.
We'd go out, run one lap, two hot laps and one cool-down in lap. Then we'd come in and switch cars with our press colleagues and repeat until all five cars were sufficiently flogged. We repeated the round robin twice and were given the opportunity to revisit any two or three cars we thought we hadn't had enough time in.
The 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT kicked serious butt. And we're not talking tenths of a second on a 1.6-mile racetrack, but instead 2 seconds (a light-year on a short racetrack like this) separated the TL from the next quickest sedan, the Audi S4 Quattro, on the challenging Dynamics Handling Course. This Alan Wilson-designed, 13-corner course is a laboratory instrument, and it dissected the strengths and weaknesses of these five cars with an array of fast/slow, compressed/unweighted, opening/closing corners.