Since its last major overhaul in 2009, the Acura TL has taken its fare share of criticism due to its polarizing front and rear end design and somewhat unflattering shape. Acura, it seems, has taken the hint and graced the 2012 TL with a number of mid-cycle styling changes designed to breathe new life into Acura’s volume leading sedan. Some of the biggest changes for 2012 can be seen on the outside of the TL, where the previously overworked exterior, with its chunky shape and slightly self-conscious lines, has been replaced with a more conservative design that is likely to appeal to today’s Acura buyer. But like all things, it’s what’s below the sheet metal that really counts, and the TL’s performance qualities - especially those of the SH-AWD trim - make it a truly attractive machine.
What's to Like
Though subtle, the front and rear exterior styling tweaks are a positive step away from the previous armor-like design, and they result in a more understated tone. Two engine choices provide all the get-up-and-go we love about the TL. Acura has kept the positive, responsive handling that was one of the most appreciated aspects of the previous model and, when equipped with the available SH-AWD, it guides the TL around bends at breakneck speeds.
What's Not to Like
While there is a lot to like about the newer, handsomer TL, there are a few little niggles we can’t help but notice. Interior buttons, knobs and switches adorn every inch of the center stack and steering wheel making quick adjustments more difficult and cluttering up the cabin. The navigation system, though better looking and with a higher definition screen, is still as complicated as ever.
Thankfully due to few mechanical changes, the TL drives much like the last generation – a car we enjoyed despite its heft; 4,000 lbs is nothing to scoff at. The tight suspension setup makes the TL feel at home on country roads or tight city streets, especially when equipped with the aptly named Super-Handling all-wheel drive system and the larger, 305 horsepower 3.7-liter V-6. As with other high-revving VTEC engines, most of the power is found on the upper range of the power band, meaning that you’ll occasionally have to go slouching towards redline to get the full amount of power out of the engine, a trait that actually gives an edge to those who opt for the manual transmission.
If you do choose the new SportShift six-speed automatic transmission you won’t be disappointed. The steering wheel-mounted shift paddles give drivers a fair amount of control over the quick shifting transmission. Steering feel still remains a plus on both trims with a positive amount of feedback that’s light at lower speeds and heavier when it needs to be. Overall, the TL remains a balanced back-roads fighter that not only delivers performance when you want it and comfort when you don’t.
Engine and Drivetrain
Mechanically, little has changed for 2012; both 3.5-liter and 3.7-liter V-6 engines remain. The beautifully crafted 3.5-liter V-6 continues to put a pleasing 280 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels. Those searching for a little more spark should look no further than the more menacing 3.7-liter in the TL SH-AWD. For a little more coin the “super-handling” all-wheel drive variant outputs up to 305 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque through a brand new six-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission said to increase both performance and fuel economy. Also available only on the TL SH-AWD model is our preferred choice of transmission, a six-speed manual, which is the right choice for those looking for a little more control and a lot more enjoyment.
Interesting Vehicle Features
Thought standard kit includes an upgraded USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, dual climate control and available sunroof, we recommend the new Advance Package. Those willing to spend more are treated to heated and cooled front seats, as well as a blind spot information system – a real treat on congested city streets.
Key Technology Evaluation
Improved technology features are among the changes for this model year. The appropriately named Technology Package – a necessity in our book – offers all the modern amenities required in a car of this price including voice recognition system, rearview camera, push-button start and navigation with real-time traffic and weather updates. The navigation system has been upgraded with a brighter more vibrant HDD screen, 60 GB of storage and a plethora of new maps.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
You can’t expect a sedan of this caliber (and mass) to have much of an eco-conscious side, but the new SportShift six-speed automatic transmission does bump fuel economy numbers up to 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway on premium fuel, an improvement from the outgoing model. With gas prices again on the rise, the improved efficiency is a welcome sight in our eyes.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The interior remains an astoundingly complicated affair with more knobs and fixtures than a Home Depot. Thankfully, the upscale look and feel make an otherwise anxiety-provoking interior a comfortable place to be, and after sometime in the TL, one gets used to the cluttered dash. Like the last generation, interior space is generous with plenty of legroom front and rear while at the same time trunk space is ample.
The more conservative (and more attractive) design finally suits the look and feel of the nameplate now. The previous front grill and sharp-edged front and rear bumpers have been scaled back and redesigned with more unassuming and pleasant looking fascias. The new lines give the TL a wider looking and aesthetically pleasing stance. The optional 19-inch wheels add additional appeal while newly redesigned 17- and 18-inch wheels are available too.
Market Segment and Pricing
On sale now, the base 2012 TL has a MSRP of $35,605, while TLs with the available Technology Package and Advance Package start at $39,335 and $41,535, respectively. The TL SH-AWD bumps pricing up from $39,155 to $45,085 depending on the package. Our market isn’t short on luxury sedans, and the TL competes against the BMW 335i
, Lexus GS 350
and Infiniti G37
. Power and refinement levels also see it competing with the $50,200 Audi A6 3.0T
What We Think
Acura is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and while the newly redesigned TL isn’t the groundbreaking NSX
, it is a capable and now more attractive luxury sedan, despite a few issues with the interior design. The SH-AWD model in particular holds true to the ethos and heritage of the brand.