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Discussion Starter #1

What is it?

The 2012 Acura TL takes a step back from its "keen edge dynamic" styling and ends up looking more like the 3rd-generation TL than the aggressive 4th-generation model it's based on. That's the result of customer feedback criticizing exaggerated features such as the so-called power plenum grille and the tall and boxy tail.

As a result the 2012 car has been toned down, and now features a longer hood, a tidier, more subtle grille and a simplified horizontal grille garnish. The overhang has been shortened by an inch, and the lower fascia has a more clearly defined contour line along with new turn signals with chrome accents that provide better front-end definition.

The rear end has been similarly tidied, and the metallic rear-bumper garnish is now half the size it was. A new contour line in the bumper molding does a lot to add horizontal emphasis to what was a decidedly tall look, greatly assisted by a license-plate mount that has been moved upward. A new under-bumper diffuser and bright tailpipe finishers also do their bit.

New wheel designs help distinguish the 2012 car's profile, and the overall effect is undeniably a big improvement on the original predatory look. Along with the cosmetic changes come a few technical incentives, including a new 6-speed automatic transmission with multi-plate torque converter that can perform double downshifts in response to a kick-down request and blip the throttle to match revs as it does so.

The V6 engines continue more-or-less unchanged, but even they receive friction reduction improvements in the form of plateau-honed cylinder liners and molybdenum-buttons on the piston skirts. Ion-plated piston rings complete the low-friction package.

What is it like to drive?

Acura's TL reflects parent-company Honda's insistence on precise handling and stringent body-motion control, so the car is emphatically sporty on the road. The ride's not bad at all, but the sense of immediacy and chassis discipline caused our New York City-born co-driver to question the car's luxury credentials.

True, there is little wood to be found in the interior, but the sense of mechanical integrity in everything you touch reinforces our viewpoint that luxury is often in the eye of the beholder. Yes, the Acura is quiet and smooth enough in motion to support its upscale contention, but it's the instantaneous throttle response, the sporty induction growl, and the responsiveness of the steering that justifies the price tag.

The TL uses an all-electric steering assist system but it's remarkably communicative in the front-drive model, where wheel fight is just a faint suggestion even when the engine is plumb on its torque peak. The all-wheel-drive (SH-AWD) model, for some reason, has a more remote steering feel, despite the fact that some of the engine torque is being directed rearward. Both can be considered refined.

The 280-horsepower V6 in the FWD model feels pretty stout, capable of sub-6-second sprints to 60 mph, and the 305-horsepower version on the SH-AWD car demonstrates predictably strong thrust despite the added weight of its all-wheel driveline. On our drive route it was hard to say which car handled better, but you can exploit the amazing torque-vectoring rear axle on the SH-AWD car by gassing it before you reach a corner apex, and then watch as the car dives in with uncanny resolve.

In less frenetic driving the TL cossets its occupants with all the luxury items typical of the segment, including ventilated seats, traffic-smart nav, and an even bigger hard drive (now 60 gigabytes, was 40).

Do I want it?

The TL's facelift makes it a lot harder to ignore in the entry luxury segment. While we'd prefer rear-wheel drive in a car with this kind of sticker, Acura's drivelines are hard to dismiss purely on those grounds. The TL's build quality is excellent, the durability legendary, and the marque earns top spot in lease residual value according to ALG.

So, yeah, we want 1.

2012 Acura TL

On Sale: March 18

Base Price: $35,605

Drivetrain: 3.5/3.7-liter, 280/305-hp, 254/283-lb-ft V6; FWD/AWD, 6-speed manual/automatic

Curb Weight: 3,726 - 4,001 lb

0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec, est

Fuel Economy: 29 mpg (mfr)​

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

First Drive: 2012 Acura TL — Autoblog
Small Changes Make A Big Difference

For years, Acura approached the evolution of its vehicles with the deliberate patience of a carpenter wielding a sanding block. Rough mechanical or aesthetic edges were banished not with axe swings, but with small motions that seemed barely perceptible compared to the ranging whims of the competition.

Then the 2009 TL came along.

While the automaker had already begun to dabble with its then-new corporate shield grille, the TL took the piece and ran with it in a direction no one else was heading. Ask Acura about the thinking behind the design, and the company will say that the look was a product of the times. When the vehicle was penned, the world was preoccupied with ever larger displays of affluence, and Acura wanted a sedan that was unmistakable in every way. Unfortunately, the 4th-generation TL landed right as the housing bubble popped and the rest of the economy began circling the drain.

In order to right the TL's wrongs for 2012, Acura has put down the chainsaw in favor of the carving knife to build an altogether more attractive vehicle that brings additional fuel economy to the table as well. Are the small changes enough for the luxury sedan to put its dreaded beak behind it?

Acura's designers set about reorganizing the front fascia and the rear valance of the 2012 TL to diminish the vehicle's vertical look in favor of more horizontal lines. 1st and foremost, that involved shrinking the formerly massive grille by backing it away from the headlights and off of the hood. That simple change serves up some much needed proportion to the nose, and a new waterline nestled below the grille and above the air inlets is a simple detail that changes the sedan from slab-faced to athletic. The grille also wears a new variety of materials, including a set of gloss black wings tucked below the shield to help break up the negative space down low.

Speaking of those air inlets, Acura has trimmed down the size of both the turning indicators and the fog lights and added in some attractive chrome detailing to do away with the gaping holes in the old car.

As much as all of the small details help, two larger overall changes up front have made the biggest difference for the face of the TL. The designers trimmed the front overhang by a full inch and pushed the nose down for a more poised look. Park the 2012 TL and its 2011 sibling next to one another and the changes are immense.

That shorter overhang becomes more apparent as you move along the side of the vehicle, where the wheel wells seem pushed to the corners. That effect is amplified by the fact that the company's designers trimmed an additional half-inch from the rear valance as well. Otherwise, you won't find too many differences between the flanks of the 2011 and its replacement. While the company has brought two new 17- and 18-inch wheel designs to the option sheet for 2012, the larger 19-inch roller from the last generation will remain on hand.

Along with that diminished rear valance, the 2012 TL packs a slew of design tweaks out back, too. Those include a significantly smaller garnish along the trunk sill, smaller reflectors and a new diffuser mounted low. That last bit of kit goes a long way towards breaking up the vast cliff face of plastic that adorned the old model and does much to carry the horizontal design cues of the front around to the vehicle's tail.

For all of the moaning that the exterior design of the fourth-generation Acura TL evoked, we never really heard too much bellyaching about the vehicle's cabin. That's largely because Acura got the cockpit in its bread-and-butter sedan right the 1st time around. Designers have swapped out the dimpled chrome accents of the dash and door panels for a fish-scale material that looks more at home in a vehicle of this caliber, and buttons along the stereo are now color-matched to the rest of the controls on the dash. It's not a reinvention of the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but we never felt that the cabin was an unpleasant place to spend time to begin with.

We're still frustrated to see Acura sticking with the company's cumbersome wheel/joystick interface for the infotainment system instead of a more natural touch-screen layout, or at least a horizontally mounted controller. The system sticks out like a sore thumb in an interior that's largely very intuitive. While the center-stack is a bit button-happy, we never found ourselves struggling to adjust the cabin temperature or the stereo's volume.

While buyers are likely to respond to the new face of the 2012 Acura TL, the most serious changes to the vehicle lurk under its redesigned hood. The automaker's engineers have managed to dig up an additional two miles per gallon city and three mpg highway from the lower-rung 3.5-liter V6 engine thanks to aerodynamic tweaks, a few engineering tricks and a new-to-the-platform 6-speed automatic transmission.

That new face doesn't simply look better. It also helps serve up a 5.4-percent reduction in drag thanks to changes in the grille and lower fascia. Additionally, airflow through the radiator has been optimized and new underbody cladding helps reduce turbulence from below to make the sedan as slippery as possible.

Engineers also bolted on a new intake system that focuses on bringing in fresh, cool air from outside of the engine bay. Cooler temperatures mean denser air, allowing the ECU to slightly advance the engine timing to increase torque and efficiency. Additionally, the pistons in the 3.5-liter V6 now make use of a moly-dot coating to reduce friction. The piston skirts wear a matrix of lithium dots that work in concert with a new block boring process to keep mechanical drag to a minimum.

Those substantial alterations join new dual-fine-electrode spark plugs and low viscosity 0w-20 oil to make the 3.5-liter as fit for fuel economy duty as possible. All told, the engine is good for 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway – up from 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway in the last generation – all while delivering 280 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque.

Of course, that leap in fuel economy isn't solely due to the clever engineering under the valve cover. Acura finally said adieu to the aging 5-speed automatic transmission in the 2011 model and welcomed a new 6-speed to the party for 2012. Make no mistake, adding an additional gear makes a huge difference to how the vehicle drives and clearly helps the jump in fuel economy, but competitors from Lexus, Infiniti and elsewhere are all dabbling in gearboxes with an ever-growing number of speeds.

We pinged the company's engineers on why exactly they opted for a more conservative six-speed automatic instead of something with a higher cog-count like their competitors. As it turns out, a larger number of gears was investigated, but officials say they were found to offer returns that paled in contrast to steep development costs and added complexity. The bottom line? At nearly 30 mpg, Acura simply didn't need an 8-speed transmission.

Interestingly enough, even though the more powerful 3.7-liter V6 engine skipped many of the fuel-saving tweaks of its smaller-displacement kin, it also gained an additional 1 mpg in both city and highway cycles thanks to the aerodynamic alterations. That engine is still good for 305 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.

We were able to spend time in both the 3.7-liter-powered TL SH-AWD and the front-wheel-drive TL with the 3.5-liter V6 under the hood during our time with the vehicle. Both sedans deliver refined handling characteristics thanks to a new damper design that uses an internal bypass. Under normal driving conditions, the damper provides an aggressive rate to deliver more precise handling, but should the vehicle hit a pothole or strike an uneven portion of pavement, the valve will open to allow a greater amount of fluid to move more quickly from 1 reservoir to the next. The change allows the suspension in the TL to soak up irregularities in the road surface while still offering a stable driving experience.

While the TL SH-AWD still retains its specific spring and damper rates to work in concert with the vehicle's tarmac-gripping all-wheel-drive system, the standard TL isn't exactly a slouch when the road starts twisting. We found that both vehicles are capable of serving up an enjoyable run through the Texas hills. Unfortunately, the electric power steering on both sedans feels unnecessarily light and vague.

Still, we don't imagine too many TL buyers will find that problem to be enough to dissuade them from writing Acura a big, fat check. The one issue that we simply couldn't wrap our minds around was why Acura insists on offering two V6 engines with this platform. Yes, we know that the SH-AWD system adds a not-inconsequential 242 pounds to the sedan's 3,726-pound curb weight, and an extra 25 ponies goes a long way to offset that heft, but the smaller 3.5-liter V6 is an absolute star. Acceleration from that engine is smooth and linear and seems to offer more propulsion than its power figures would suggest.

For those who don't exactly find themselves braving glacial roads for a good number of days out of the year, we'd just as soon recommend saving some money and sticking with the front-wheel-drive TL with its new-found enthusiasm for fuel efficiency. Speaking of money, Acura has priced the 2012 TL starting at $35,605. If you absolutely must have the SH-AWD, be prepared to fork over $39,155.

It's worth noting that Acura kept the excellent six-speed manual transmission as an option for the TL, but it's only available in SH-AWD configuration with the Technology Package. As such, that vehicle will command a lofty price tag of $42,885. We love ourselves some third pedal, but over $7,000 is a steep price to pay for the joy of rowing your own. Given that the new 6-speed automatic transmission leaves nothing to be desired in the cog-swapping department, we'd have a hard time ponying up for the manual.

We're thrilled to see Acura invested in toning down its over-the-top styling in favor of lines that are significantly more palatable. Here's hoping that the 2012 TL will be the new face of things to come from Acura.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #3

2012 Acura TL / TL SH-AWD Drive ? Review ? Car and Driver
We appreciate the new 6-speed automatic more than the tiny styling tweaks.

We tend to like Acuras. They usually offer decent handling (the company’s torque-vectoring Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system only helps), a high level of technology, and good value relative to the German luxury brands. Since the current-generation TL was introduced in 2008, though, we’ve been unable to get over a couple of significant shortcomings: an automatic transmission that missed the 6-speed boat—making do with only 5 forward ratios—and that awful beak. For 2012, Acura has attempted to address these complaints.

Now That We’ve Got That Out of the Way

1st, the styling. That you should defend your products to the death is PR 101, but even Acura folks admit that, if there was one deal-breaker that potential customers cited when choosing other cars over Acura’s, it was the TL’s, um, controversial styling. The 2012 update should help. While the stylistic changes may not have much effect in pictures, seeing the 2011 and 2012 models side-by-side proves that the numerous small alterations did help.

Changes for 2012 start, of course, with toning down the TL’s divisive grille. Yes, the badge blade and intake aperture remain roughly the same as before, but the clunky silver surround is gone, replaced by a thin chrome frame and new body-color trim piece between grille and hood. The headlight innards are now painted black instead of silver, and the bevels in the bumpers both front and rear have been raised. The supplemental air intakes in the front fascia feature new detailing, while in back, the taillight lenses have been revised and the license-plate mount has been raised. In the process of making all these tiny tweaks, Acura trimmed an inch from the front overhang and half an inch from the rear.

6-Speeds across the Board

While the slightly downplayed styling is a subjective fix—and it might help keep Lexus intenders in the Acura showroom for more than a cursory glance—the fitment of a 6-speed automatic in place of the old five-speed yields considerable fuel-economy benefits. Both of the TL’s engines—a 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque for front-wheel-drive models, and a 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 hp and 273 lb-ft for all-wheel-drivers—carry over unchanged save for some friction-reducing measures in the smaller mill. But the extra cog makes it that much easier to access the sweet part of either engine’s powerband, which is from 4000 to 6000 rpm. Shifts are quick and crisp, and we love the way the transmission holds paddle-selected gears in Sport mode, refusing to upshift at redline. Shifts in drive, however, seem somewhat harsh for commuting. Acura boasts that it has programmed the throttle to blip on downshifts, but it’s pretty disappointing in actual use.

Naturally, we still prefer Acura’s wonderfully organic-feeling 6-speed manual to the automatic. But it’s only available with all-wheel-drive, a fun configuration but one that takes its toll on fuel economy. A manual TL SH-AWD is rated for just 17 mpg city/25 highway versus 18/26 for automatic all-wheel drivers; front-drive models get an impressive 20/29. The best the 2011 TL could muster was 18/26.

Other Refinements

The interior changes very little. Like every Acura, the 2012 TL’s dashboard still suffers from severe overbuttonitis, but some new brightwork around the knobs and between the radio buttons helps things aesthetically if not ergonomically. Ventilated front seats are part of the new Advance package at the top of the TL range, which also comes with upsized wheels (18 inches on front-drive TLs, 19s on all-wheel-drive models) and a blind-spot warning system. The 440-watt ELS surround-sound audio system is spectacular even with MP3s, let alone higher-quality CD- and DVD-audio tracks.

Prices for the 2012 TL start at $36,465 for a base front-drive model, and $40,015 for the TL SH-AWD. Add $3,730 for the Tech package, which includes navigation and surround-sound audio. The Advance package adds the aforementioned equipment to the Tech package goodies and costs another $2,200. (It is not, however, available on cars equipped with a manual transmission.) Those prices still represent a strong value, and now that Acura has mostly fixed the TL’s most glaring shortcomings, it is a stronger entry than ever.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

"Now with less ugly!" isn't the greatest selling point, but revised styling really is the most significant change to the refreshed 2012 Acura TL. Although Acura is marking 25 years in the United States, there's not much new product beside the TL and the recently arrived TSX wagon to help the brand celebrate. That's okay, because Acura expects TL sales to jump 20% this year on the strength of its improved efficiency, quieter cabin, and of course, its new duds.

It's still no Alfa Romeo, but a number of small changes to the 2012 TL have yielded 1 big improvement. In front, a downscaled grille is now complemented by dark headlights and a revised front fascia. A horizontal body line separates the space between the grille and bumper, helping Acura cut about an inch from the front overhang. The rear overhang is down by about a half-inch, as well. Overall, the length has decreased from 195.5 to 194.0 inches.

Acura tells us that about 3-quarters of all TL buyers will go for the front-drive model, which is powered by the same 280-horse, 3.5-liter V-6 as before. No complaints here; the 3.5-liter engine has enough oomph for passing when necessary, and, thanks in large part to the new 6-speed automatic, fuel economy is way up. Along with changes to the front fascia and underbody airflow, the new transmission increases efficiency from 18/26 mpg city/highway to 20/29 on FWD models. Most of the TL's weight is draped over the front axles: 61/39% on front-wheel-drive models, 59/41% on all-wheel-drive automatic models, and 58/42% on the all-wheel-drive manual model.

TLs equipped with Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive and paired with the brand's refined 3.7-liter, 305-horse V-6 remain the most enthusiast-oriented models in the lineup. Acura still offers the 6-speed manual transmission in mid-level trim for the 5% of buyers who want that added element of control. As before, the SH-AWD system can route 70% of available torque to the rear wheels and 100% to the left or right sides as necessary. The result is a better dynamic experience than you'll find on the front-wheel-drive models when you really push the car. The SH-AWD's improved seats get added bolstering help, too.

The TL's 17- and 18-inch wheels have been restyled, but it's the 19-inchers that get Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires, a set of rubber that Acura says offers better handling, acceleration, and braking in the snow, further improving SH-AWD's effectiveness. In the dry, we found the electric power steering lacking in feel, especially at lower speeds. The ride in front- and all-wheel-drive models ranged in harshness but was always acceptable for a car like the TL.

Except for the SH-AWD 6M model, the TL remains more of a sporty luxury sedan than a luxurious sporty sedan. The 2012 model strikes a balance between cars like the Lexus ES 350 and Infiniti G37. The TL's catch-all market positioning is reflected in Acura's ambitious choice of also noting the new Audi A6 as a competitor. Compared to the 2011 BMW 535i xDrive sedan, the TL matches the German four-door in rear seat leg and shoulder room but provides 1.3 inches less rear seat headroom. Trunk space on the TL is also not that cavernous, with 13.1 cubes on front-wheel-drive models and 12.5 for the SH-AWD cars.

With the more expensive RL growing stale on dealer lots, the Acura TL now essentially functions as the brand's flagship 4-door. A new Advance Package includes ventilated front seats and a blind spot monitoring system. The Adaptive Cruise Control technology remains exclusive in Acura's sedan lineup to the RL.

A majority of TL buyers will likely go for the 1 step lower Technology Package, which includes a keyless access (and push-button ignition), perforated Milano leather, an 8-inch high-resolution color display screen, an upgraded sound system with 10 speakers, rearview camera, and a navigation system with traffic and weather information plus 15 gigabytes of space for music storage. All TLs come standard with HID headlights, a moonroof, heated front seats, and 8-way power on the front seats (plus 2-way lumbar for the driver).

It's a decent deal when you consider that prices have only increased $300 across the board. A base TL with front-wheel drive and the 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 will cost $36,465, while a top-line SH-AWD model with the Advance and Technology packages will run $45,945, still below the base price of the RL.

The TL has yet to be rated under the NHTSA's more stringent safety crash tests, but a 2010 model received five stars in every category under the old standards. The current-generation TL received a good rating from the IIHS in the organization's front- and side-impact tests. A power management system will help the TL increase battery life and will turn off interior lights if the battery's charge is low.

Despite the meaningful changes made to the TL for the 2012 model year, it still isn't a standout performer. It is much-improved, however, and should merit serious consideration from those who need more space than a 3 Series can offer and don't want to pay for a 5 Series or A6. Not to mention it's designed, engineered, and made in the good old U.S. of A.

In the end, Acura hopes buyers will give the TL another look without looking away. If they do, they'll find a comfortable, capable luxury sedan that should serve as a solid foundation on which Acura can continue to build its reputation for the next 25 years.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

Numbers may not tell an entire story, but they do help build a business case. When it comes to looking at the figures associated with the fourth-generation Acura TL, which launched in 2009, the luxury sports sedan was a success. The model remains Acura's second best-selling model (eclipsed only by the MDX crossover), and remains the brand's best-selling passenger car. Almost 3 years after its launch -- and even in the shadow of a global economic shakeup -- nearly 34,000 customers ponied up to bring a TL home in 2010.

That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Contrary to popular belief, product planners do listen, and Acura has heard both customers and critics grumble over matters ranging from fuel economy to frumpy exterior styling. Fortunately, the refreshed 2012 TL, which debuted earlier this year at the Chicago auto show, promises to address several of those issues without usurping the TL's successful formula.

Nip The Nose, Tuck the Tail
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the previous TL was its exterior design. Not only was the car considerably larger than its successor, but its angular form -- billed as Emotion Advanced by marketing folks -- was perhaps a little too advanced for buyers. The chunky front and rear fascias, along with an ungainly grille aperture, puzzled pundits and, according to Acura marketing vice president Steve Center, may have been "too bold" in a conservative luxury market.

Consider the matter resolved for 2012. Designers made no changes to the car's profile nor revised a single pane of sheet metal. They did, however, bless the TL with revised front and rear fascias, both of which help the car look wider and lower than before. Up front, the beak-like grille is replaced with a slender, more conservative aperture, which sports a body-colored surround and no longer stretches to the hood's edge. New horizontal edges placed halfway down the bumper break up vertical surfaces, avoiding the shovel-nosed look that plagued the previous TL.

Similar measures were applied to the TL's rear bumper. The car's rear fenders are still quite tall, but by adding horizontal character lines, repositioning the license plate mount, and reshaping both the trunk garnish and reflectors, Acura has managed to craft a tail that is surprisingly proportionate and attractive.

Other exterior revisions include body-colored door handles, darker surrounds for both head- and tail lamp assemblies, and new 17- and 18-inch wheels. The optional 19-inch wheel design is unchanged, although it is now paired with a Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tire instead of high-performance summer rubber.

New Trim and Tech Inside
Fewer visual tweaks were performed inside the cabin. 2012 TL models continue to use the same waterfall dashboard as before, but select accents, including door handles, volume and menu control knobs, speaker surrounds, and shift knob trim, are plated with a platinum finish. Buyers will continue to have their choice of ebony, taupe, and umber interior schemes, although the latter 2 options are now paired with black carpeting and floor mats.

In typical Acura fashion, the 2012 TL isn't lacking when it comes to gizmos and gadgets. Base models receive dual-zone climate controls, a power moonroof, 2-stage heated front seats, a 276-watt audio system, a USB audio input, and Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard equipment. The optional Technology Package not only throws in Acura's navigation system, but improved voice activated controls for both the navi and audio systems, a 440-watt ELS surround-sound system, and an enhanced Bluetooth system, capable of downloading call logs and phonebooks and streaming audio. New for 2012 is the Advance Package, which includes everything found in the Technology Package, but adds both ventilated front seats and blind spot detection.

The new features are welcome, but drivers are still presented with a maze of buttons on the center stack, particularly on cars equipped with navigation. Although we wish for an arrangement as elegant as that used in the larger RL, the TL's interface becomes intuitive over time, and a new stand-alone button on cars built with the Technology Package does allow quick access to phone menus and controls.

Same Engines, But 6 Speeds All Around
Beneath the skin, the 2012 TL largely mirrors its forebears. Base front-wheel-drive models use a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter SOHC V-6. All-wheel-drive models are fitted with a larger 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and Acura's slick SH-AWD system. Not only is the system capable of shifting 70% of the engine's torque to the rear axle, but it can also shift that power to the outside wheel during cornering, both improving turn-in and increasing cornering speeds.

Regardless of the driveline, 2012 TLs receive a new 6-speed automatic transmission in lieu of the aging 5-speed unit. Although similar to the 6-speed transmission used in both the MDX and ZDX crossovers, the TL uses a lower 3.722:1 final drive ratio. This, coupled with some minor exterior aerodynamic tweaks and some internal engine improvements, helps boost fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive TLs are rated at 20/29 mpg (city/highway), an increase of 2 and 3 mpg, respectively. SH-AWD models are now rated at 18/26 mpg, representing a mild 1-mpg improvement over last year's model.

Enthusiasts looking to row their own gears will likely be excited to learn that a 6-speed manual is still available on SH-AWD models, although it is relegated models fitted with the Technology Package. Fuel economy for TLs so equipped remains unchanged at 17/25 mpg.

As much as we'd love to see Acura roll out a performance-tuned TL variant to counter Infiniti's new IPL line or BMW's established M offerings, officials tell us a Honda Performance Division-tuned variant isn't likely to join the fold anytime soon.

A Familiar Drive
We recently had a chance to sample the entire 2012 TL line over the back roads of Austin, Texas -- and although the revised car drives much its predecessor, there are still some improvements.

Despite the fact that the entry-level TL sedans are sending almost 300 horsepower through their front wheels, handling remains remarkably balanced. Torque steer is surprisingly restrained, and mild understeer is only exhibited when the car is hustled into a corner -- and hard. Even then, the electronic safety nannies, including ABS, traction control, and stability control -- never reared their heads during our spirited driving session.

Quick jaunts through curvaceous country roads, however, are best sampled behind the wheel of the TL SH-AWD. Acura's torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system continues to work wonders on the front-wheel-drive platform. In lieu of push, the car happily rotates into the sharpest of corners, all the while remaining planted. The 19-inch wheels incorporated into the Advance Package do provide extra grip, but slightly compromise ride quality over broken surfaces. The larger wheels also add some road noise, but thanks to extra insulation and improved body seals, the 2012 TL is notably quieter than the outgoing model.

Regardless of the driveline, we found Acura's new 6-speed automatic a smooth, quick-shifting gearbox, which quickly responded to throttle inputs with an appropriate downshift without hunting for the proper gear. Over the extremely hilly terrain we sampled, we frequently opted for the automatic's sport-shift mode (which holds gears longer) or controlled shifts ourselves via the wheel-mounted paddles.

Response time when using the latter is decent, but for those looking for the ultimate in transmission control, there's no beating the slick shifting 6-speed manual available on the SH-AWD. In true Honda fashion, its shift travel is smooth and short, although the clutch take-up remains somewhat numb.

The Price Just May Be Right
Will this spruced-up TL resonate with buyers? Acura's volume player might lack the sporting touch exhibited by some competitors -- namely the BMW 3-Series -- but considering the 2012 TL is still fun to drive, and is more refined and only $300 more expensive than the outgoing model, we expect it to be even more endearing to those seeking a luxurious sports sedan than ever before.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
History of the TL

2 generations of bland Acura TLs made way in 2004 for the competent midsize luxury sedan that, as we said in a 2005 review, was finally worthy of serious attention from the established German automakers. With the 2009 TL, Acura has made the full transition from wallflower to hard-to-ignore. Acura’s Touring Luxury car became the best-selling luxury sedan in the U.S. in 2005, but some say the bold 2009 redesign went too far. With the 2012 TL soon to go on sale, let’s take a look at how the model has progressed since it bowed in 1996.

With the 1996 3.2TL (1997 model shown), Acura targeted the lucrative near-luxury sedan segment and considered the Lexus ES 300 the category benchmark. In the review, we said the 3.2TL’s “lines may speak with a soft voice, but they speak unmistakably of success.”

Those lines were backed up by a 3.2L V-6 making 200 hp, 24 more ponies than the 5-cylinder Vigor the 3.2TL replaced. The 2.5TL retained the Vigor’s 5-cylinder 176-hp powerplant. A “slick-shifting” 4-speed automatic was standard equipment, as was the feeling that the car should cost much more given the “cocoonlike cabin environment.” Unlike the less-expensive 2.5TL, the 3.2TL placed a greater emphasis on luxury rather than sport, a tradeoff that would be better balanced for the 1999 TL.

“Recalibrate your impression of the Acura TL,”
we said about the 1999 model. “The new ’99 Acura 3.2TL will prove a stimulating and attractive alternative to the likes of the Lexus ES 300, BMW 328i, and Mercedes C280." Horsepower on the 1999 Acura 3.2TL — built in Marysville, Ohio — was up to 225 and the 0-to-60 mph time was down to 7.4 sec (Acura predicted 8.2 sec).

The Acura name wasn’t as distinguished as other premium automakers, so value was big on the TL: The 1999 model was just $27,950 with a navigation system as the only option. One of the 1999 TL’s few faults? The alphanumeric name: “It’s too bad Acura didn’t bring back the Legend name, as the ’99 3.2TL matches or tops its dearly departed sibling in just about every category, including roominess and performance, while its price brings back fond memories of the Legend’s 1987 debut.”

Big changes continued for the 3rd-generation model. Motor Trend staffers wondered if the 2004 Acura TL in our long-term fleet had been styled by an Italian design house. The experience behind the wheel continued to impress. The refined 3.2L V-6 powering the TL made 270 hp under the pre-2008 standards (258 hp after) and value remained a key part of the car’s formula. Still, with so much power being routed to the front wheels, torque steer was a problem. It took just 6.9 sec to get our 2004 TL from 0 to 60 mph and, aside from a minor brake issue, the car was “essentially bulletproof” during its stay with us.

The same could be said about our 2009 long-term TL. “A year with the TL leaves us in love,” we wrote in the verdict article, “just not with the face.” Well Acura has heard our complaints and restyled the TL for the 2012 model year. The car now uses a 6-speed automatic transmission and is quieter than before. Anyone who’s seen the 2009-2011 TL in person may argue that what’s most important is the refreshed grille.

“TL owners will no longer feel the need to apologize for their choice of luxury vehicle,” we wrote in our 1st Drive of the 2012 TL. In about a week, we’ll start to see if the 2012 TL will resonate with buyers.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #8

There was only 1 problem with the 2009-'11 Acura TL. Its designers unknowingly beat it with an ugly stick on their way to giving the sedan "progressive" styling.

The result was a car praised for its class-topping dynamic abilities but panned for its weird lines, most notably that in-your-face grille. Lackluster sales followed (for the TL, that meant 34,000 cars in 2010), and dealers complained.

Acura blames the car's lackluster reception less on a flawed design and more on the fact that the fourth-gen TL was simply "too bold for the new, more conservative market" brought on by the weak economy. Regardless, the design team was sent back to their CAD screens and charged with coming up with a midcycle refresh for the 2012 Acura TL a good nine months sooner than originally planned.

Less Plenum = More Sophistication
When launching the 2009 TL, Acura used the term "linear fluidity" to describe its styling. This time around, the tagline for the 2012 Acura TL is "sophisticated emotion." In English, that means Acura reworked the car's more awkward lines. The grille is noticeably smaller, while the chrome strip just above the grille is now body color, having the effect of making the hood look longer even though it's completely unchanged.

Other updates include a smaller front bumper, darker-tint headlights and redesigned foglights and turn signals. Together, their main objective is to make the TL appear wider.

The rear got a makeover as well. Again, the goal was to break up the previous car's massive amounts of flat surfacing and shrink its tail end. Acura accomplished this via a smaller rear bumper with a horizontal cutline, a higher license plate mount, smaller rear reflectors, a 6-inch-higher rear diffuser and a thinner bright strip at the base of the trunk lid. All the new styling changes resulted in an inch less overhang up front and a half inch less at the rear for a new overall length of 194 inches.

Gears Are Good
Although the most grandiose updates to the 2012 Acura TL occur at its bow and stern, there is one bit of mechanical news to be had: a new 6-speed automatic transmission from the 2011 RL sedan, replacing the previous 5-speed in both the front-wheel-drive TL and the SH-AWD (super-handling all-wheel-drive) model.

With lower gear ratios for 1st through 5th versus the 5-speed, Acura estimates the TL SH-AWD will accelerate about 0.4 second quicker to 60 mph (figure 6.3 seconds) versus the outgoing version.

A taller 6th gear (versus the 5-speed) aids fuel economy, as does the new torque converter's multiple lock-up discs, which offer better lubrication and improved cooling. These changes, along with reduced piston friction and a new cold-air intake in the 3.5-liter V6-equipped front-drive TL help fuel economy jump from 18 city/26 highway mpg for the 2011 model to 20/29 for the 2012 edition. The 3.7-liter V6 SH-AWD's mpg is less noteworthy, rising only 1 mpg across the board to 18/26, while the SH-AWD 6-speed manual (which has just a 3% take rate) remains at 17/25.

"It still has the same wonderfully competent and stable chassis that makes it a sport-sedan stalwart."​

Above and beyond the notable mpg increases and slightly quicker acceleration, you probably won't notice anything too dramatic in your daily driving with the 6-speed versus the old 5-speed. As with the 5-speed, the new transmission shifts smoothly at all times in Automatic mode, but can also be shifted manually via standard-issue steering-wheel paddles. The software blips the throttle to smooth downshifts, making aggressive driving easier and more fun. It holds gears at redline unless you're in 1st.

About the only downside is the 6-speed's desire to get to high gear as quickly as possible, even if it means lugging the engine a bit. It's all for the sake of the improved fuel economy, of course. Running it in Manual mode gets rid of that problem, so it's an easy fix if you're so inclined.

Oh, Those Engines
Part of the reason the new automatic doesn't massively improve the 2012 Acura TL driving experience is that it was already a damn good driving machine. Credit goes to the TL's powerful, high-revving V6s, the outputs of which remain unchanged for 2012.

The TL front-driver continues with 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 254 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm, while the SH-AWD continues to hold its claim as the most powerful Acura ever, rated at 305 hp at 6,300 and 273 lb-ft at 5,000.

The V6s in both the TL and SH-AWD are quiet and buttery-smooth at low engine speeds. They're equally impressive when you wind them out, too. Both engines seem to thrive on being pushed to the redline, an easy thing to do when using the manual shift paddles.

Crazy for Curves
Another area Acura chose to leave untouched was the TL's double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension — damping, spring rates and antiroll bars remain identical to the specs of the 2011 model. Acura also ditched the summer tire option for the SH-AWD model due to the fact that almost no one (1%, we're told) opted for the grippier rubber.

Without the summer tires, the TL SH-AWD has lost some of its phenomenal, almost unfair handling abilities. But the TL in general (especially the SH-AWD, with its stiffer setup) still has the same spot-on suspension tuning. TLs with all-wheel drive put the power down with the utmost precision thanks to a torque-vectoring rear differential. The lighter front-drive model (3,726 pounds vs. 3,968), on the other hand, has a penchant for spinning its front tires when you exit tight turns with the throttle to the floor.

Although the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD runs out of grip sooner without its stickier summer tires, it still has the same wonderfully competent and stable chassis that makes it a sport-sedan stalwart. Yes, the ride of the non-adjustable suspension is firm and can be jiggly on bumpy back roads, but the car's precision makes it worth any minor amount of harshness.

About the only gripe is the TL's electric power steering. It delivers more assist than we would like, but some of that can be forgiven since it's transmitted through a thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels great in your hands.

Only Fix What's Broken
Since the main focus of the 2012 Acura TL's redesign was the car's exterior, Acura pretty much left the already excellent interior intact. The minor updates include new platinum plating on the center stack and inner door handles, along with optional ventilation for the TL's wide, yet laterally supportive front seats. Other changes include a dedicated phone button on the center stack and active phone pairing to automatically locate Bluetooth devices.

The 2012 Acura TL, which was designed at the company's California studio and is built in Marysville, Ohio, goes on sale March 18. The TL front-driver starts at $36,465, with the SH-AWD beginning at $40,015 (prices include $860 destination), $300 increases for both models. The SH-AWD with a 6-speed manual costs $43,745, the higher sticker due to the fact that it's offered only with the Technology package.

Even with the price increases, the TL is still quite a value compared to most German sport sedans. Dynamically, the 2012 Acura TL is the same stirring-to-drive performance sedan as before, only now with an extra gear and improved fuel economy. Not bad for a car with so much horsepower and a sizable interior.

And although Acura won't come right out and say it screwed up the styling the 1st time around, the significant exterior reworking of this version is about as much of an admission of guilt as you're ever going to get.

It was a smart move. The TL is too good of a sedan to get overlooked because of some overzealous styling. The changes effectively addressed the issue, so now Acura no longer has any excuses. We doubt it will need any.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Popular Mechanics

2012 Acura TL Test Drive
Acura bobs the schnoz of the TL, gives it a far superior, six-speed, and improved steering feel. It's a better looking, sportier TL—and the SH-AWD edition is a sleeper speedster.

On Sale Date: March 18

Price: $35,605 to $45,085

Competitors: Lexus ES350, Infiniti M37, Audi A4, A6 and BMW 3 Series

Powertrains: 3.5-liter V6: 280-hp, 254 lb-ft; 3.7-liter V-6: 305-hp, 273 lb-ft; 5-speed auto or manual; FWD with optional AWD

EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 18–20/26–29

What's New: Acura is 25 years old this year. In the past quarter-century they've had huge hits (Integra, Legend, NSX, MDX) and made a few gaffs (CL, for instance). But the recent design flaw of a huge metallic nose on the 2009-11 TL was significant because it weakened potentially strong sales of Acura's best-selling sedan. Owning up to the mistake, Acura softened the look of the 2012 car by lowering the hood line and decreasing the overall scale of the shield-like beak. The rear has also been made less angular, and the overall length of the car shrinks 1.5 inches. There were minor cosmetic changes to the interior of the car as well, but beyond the re-skin, the biggest upgrades include far more responsive steering, thanks to a recalibrated electric power steering system, and an upgrade from a five-speed automatic in favor of a faster-shifting 6-speed. And, yes, you can still get a 6-speed with a clutch as well.

Tech Tidbit: When Acura toned down the TL's beak and smoothed the car's derriere, they found they could reduce drag by 5.4%, and gain better engine performance by re-routing the intake to ingest more air from outside the car and less from the engine compartment. Cooler air prevents ignition retardation that can rob hot-weather performance. These changes and a 14% taller final drive ratio netted a roughly 11% gain in fuel economy for the FWD model and about a 5% gain in the AWD model.

Driving Character: The best-handling version of this car is the top-of-the-line $45,085 SH-AWD equipped with new 19-inch all-season Goodyear RS-A tires. Along with vastly more responsive and precise steering, the tires allow a lot more range from a car that previously felt inhibited. The SH-AWD, which can not only split power front to back and side to side but overdrives the outside rear tire to help rotate the car around corners, now gains more athleticism from these grippier sneakers. Even the limits of adhesion feel broader, so exploring the edge between mere drift and breakaway is an easy rather than scary dance step we explored during testing on undulating, snaking sun-cooked roads outside Austin, Texas. It helps that (in all editions) the revised steering is both weightier and more precise, with much better on-center feedback and far less vague float. It should also be noted that the new six-speed auto gearbox accepts downshifts more quickly (via steering-wheel-mounted paddles), and that a new feature called Cornering G Shift Control prevents an automated upshift if sensors detect that the car is cornering. What's surprising about the rebooted TL is that via such minor tweaks the car is significantly better and more playful, though never the slightest bit punishing.

Favorite Detail: The Sequential Sportshift automatic in both the FWD and AWD models features a manual mode. Swing the stick toward the driver and the paddles at the wheel allow full manual control. Now for the fun part: Double tap the left paddle and the normally linear-only downshift function will blip the throttle and leapfrog over a gear and downshift from 6th to 4th, 5th to3rd, and so on, provided the gear change can be achieved without damaging the transmission.

Driver's Grievance: Acura claims that most of its customers don't want summer tires, which is why they developed the 19-inch Goodyear RS-A all-seasons. Unfortunately to keep costs down, Acura only offers this tire on the most expensive model of the car, and bundles the bigger 19s (versus stock 18-inch wheels on the SH-AWD) along with a lot of other options, such as blind-spot detection. While the FWD model with 17s handles reasonably enough, as does the SH-AWD with 18s, Acura might be shooting themselves in the foot not offering a wheel-plus-tire-only upgrade for customers with shallower pockets.

The Bottom Line: Even with the softened front end, the TL won't win any beauty contests. The Acura's advantage over cars like the Infiniti G sedan and the Audi A4 has always been its reliability and resale, both of which remain rock-steady. So the new TL, like most recent Acuras, should prove reliable and has grown somewhat more sporty to keep up with Infiniti and Audi, while not seeming so aggressive that a Lexus buyer would dismiss the car. On balance, that likely makes it a very sound investment.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #10

According to Acura’s Jeff Conrad, the TL is slotted as the brand’s highest volume car for luxury and performance. Designed in California and engineered and built in Ohio, “it takes the best of the 1 and carefully improves on that,” said Conrad. The TL is built for North American, Mexican and Chinese markets only, meaning it doesn’t fit with parent company Honda’s global strategies.

The Acura brand is celebrating its 25th anniversary in the United States as a stand-alone brand. In 2010, the brand’s sales were up 27% over the previous model year.

For the cross-shopping set, customers will most likely compare the TL to Infiniti’s G37 sedan, the BMW 3-series, the Lexus IS and the Audi A4. Secondary competitors might include the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes–Benz E350, the Lexus GS and the Audi A6, as base models, but they quickly price themselves away from the TL once comparably equipped.

What’s new?
What’s most quickly apparent is the tidying up of the front-end. The can opener–like proboscis remains, but it appears as though it has undergone some rhinoplasty of sorts. The large expanse of brushed metal has been narrowed down to a more right–sized version, which does not scream out “look at me, look at me!” the way the old 1 did. The result is a wider appearance that cuts down on the bulkiness. Updated headlight surrounds feature a grayed-out look that makes the styling look more contemporary than before.

Other nips and tucks have been performed to the fog lamps and turn signals, while the overall overhang of the front end has been reduced.

A new sequential Sport-Shift 6-speed automatic transmission comes with every automatic–equipped TL. A 6 speed manual transmission is also available, but Acura officials concede that the take rate for the do-it-yourself unit will be about 3%. We weep for enthusiasts.

Much of the design of the new TL will look familiar. Creased bulges over the front wheel wells have become a sort of trademark for the TL. So too, the swept-back roofline. The tightened-up rear-end features a smaller looking spoiler and taillamp housings that look similar to those found on a Mazda Mazda6. Overall we like the appearance of this 2012 Acura TL, but think a reduction in the front fender bulges could only add a new sense of sleekness to the overall design of the body.

In the cockpit

The interior of the TL has undergone minor changes since the last refresh, but that’s not to say it was dated. In actuality, the interior features a handsome play on driver/passenger zones, which allow each their own personal space. On the business side of the equation, a 2–gauge binnacle houses the tachometer and speedometer as well as minor fuel and temperature gauges. A driver information screen resides between the 2 main gauges and changes between the tire pressure monitoring system, fuel economy, mileage, and trip odometer, as needed. A leather–wrapped 3 spoke steering wheel with redundant controls and paddle shift levers allow for easy input without removing your hands from the wheel.

The perforated leather seats offered us great support while cruising along twisty roads in the Texas Hill Country outside of Austin. Our test vehicle featured available ventilated and heated front seats, which kept us from sticking to the black leather that covered our sport buckets. Sure, the seats are conservative in design with a minimal amount of adjustments but they offer great support, and still allowed us to arrive at our destinations without feeling beat up by the car.

The interior has undergone a bout with the body sealing engineers, whose work has resulted in a 2.7 dB reduction in cabin noise. This in the end is all the better to hear the 440–watt audio system. Refinements include Bluetooth streaming audio, dial-by-number, dial-by-voice tags, and faster USB connectivity. An available technology package offers the Acura navigation system with voice recognition, and AcuraLink real-time traffic with traffic rerouting and weather along with the 440–watt premium sound system. Curiously, there is no available OnStar–like system to help with turn-by-turn navigation or vehicle lockouts.

In the engine room

The 2012 TL is available with 2 engines and 2 drivetrains. The front wheel drive model is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with VTEC variable valve timing, which is unchanged from last year’s model. It produces 280 horsepower, and 254 lb-ft. of torque. The SH–AWD version is equipped with a 3.7–liter VTEC V-6 that makes 305 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. As previously mentioned, both engines are available with either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Both are also equipped with external transmission coolers.

A multi-clutch torque converter promotes more efficient driving, which in turn increases fuel economy. As a result, the TL now sees 20 city/29 highway on the mpg scale, which is a 2-mile gain over city, and 3-mpg gain over the highway mileage of the 2011 FWD model. The SH-AWD model shows a 1-mpg increase to 18 city/26 highway.

Driving along the hills give us plenty of time and roads to demonstrate features like the double-kick-down from 5th to 3rd gear which comes in handy while exiting slow turns. The Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive equips the TL with variable torque distribution which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying torque vectoring, which itself means power is sent to the wheels that need it during a turn or other maneuver. It felt as though the TL kept on wanting to grip through the turn and was almost egging us on to apply more power in a way that sounds like the car was asking us, “is that all you’ve got?”

The front drive version was equally adept. It’s just that the SH–AWD version is mo-better.

Leftlane’s bottom line

Acura’s designs have never been about the motoring passion that other brands exhibit. But if technology and bulletproof engineering are some of the attributes you desire, the Acura TL should definitely be on your short list of contenders.

The 2012 model shows Acura’s willingness to continuously improve its products even only part of the way through life cycles.

2012 Acura TL base price range, $35,605 to $45,085.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #11

The Bottom Line

When the Acura TL debuted in 2009, the big story was the front-end styling, which was, if I'm going to be polite, controversial. (If I'm not going to be polite, I'd say it was rather ugly.) For 2012, Acura has made a host of improvements, 1st and foremost being a new front fascia (link goes to photo) that de-emphasizes the grille, along with a new rear bumper that makes the back end look slimmer. Other improvements include a 6-speed automatic transmission in place of last year's 5-speed, markedly better fuel economy, and a quieter cabin. Even setting aside the styling, I've never been a huge fan of the Acura TL -- so will the improved 2012 version win me over? Read on.


* Great to drive
* Outstanding build quality
* Front-drive models get very good fuel economy


* Cabin doesn't feel like a proper luxury car
* Lacks premium features found in similarly-priced competitors
* Small, oddly-shaped trunk


* TL is updated for 2012 with cleaner styling, new automatic transmission, quieter ride
* Price range (including options): $36,465 - $45,945
* Powertrain: 3.5 liter V6/280 hp or 3.7 liter V6/305 hp, 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, front- or all-wheel-drive
* EPA fuel economy estimates: 20 MPG city/29 MPG highway (3.5 FWD), 17/25 (3.7 AWD manual), 18/26 (3.7 AWD automatic)
* Best rivals: Infiniti G37, Buick Regal turbo, Lexus ES350​

Guide Review - 2012 Acura TL test drive

I don't generally comment much on styling; 1 look at my picture will tell you why. Still, I will say that the 2012 Acura TL does look quite a bit better than the old version -- with the emphasis taken off its chromium beak, 1 can better appreciate the TL's subtly aggressive lines.

But styling, as far as I am concerned, was only 1 of the TL's problems. How is the rest of the car?

I'll start off with what I like best about the Acura TL: It's fantastic to drive. The TL is not an over-the-top seat-of-the-pants powergasm like the Infiniti G37; it's more understated, in the way Handel's Violin Sonata in D is more understated than a fully-armed Abrams tank.

The front-wheel-drive TL is surprisingly good, displaying the sort of balance and precision that a watchmaker could appreciate. It also gets significantly better fuel economy than last year -- 29 MPG on the EPA highway cycle, which is very impressive for a car this big and fast.

But the all-wheel-drive SH-AWD model, which gets a bigger, more powerful engine that compensates for its extra weight, is truly amazing. It's superior engineering is best appreciated by those brave and skillful enough to hammer it into a curve at maximum speed and then boot the gas -- a move that would see most cars throw up their hands and go sliding off the road, fulfilling their driver's apparent desire for a quick and spectacular death. Not the TL SH-AWD -- its wicked-smart rear differential shifts all the power to the outside wheel, pushing the car even faster through the turn.

I should note that I am neither brave nor skillful enough to try this maneuver; luckily, during our press preview, I drove with someone who was. (Thanks for the memories, Barry.) For us mere mortals, the TL is just a really nice handling car.

2nd on my list of loves is the impeccable build quality. Fit, finish and assembly quality are so close to perfect that it makes me wonder how other automakers can get things even a teeny bit wrong. Near as I can tell, creaks and rattles don't exist in Acura's universe.

Sadly, my praise for the TL pretty much ends there.

Here's the problem: My job basically consists of writing "If you like X, you should buy a Y." Examples: If you like a luxury car that drives like a sports car, you should buy an Infiniti G37. If you want to be coddled and don't care about performance, buy a Lexus ES350. If you want to impress your neighbors, buy a Mercedes C-Class. Et cetera.

But for the life of me, I just can't come up with a sentence like that about the Acura TL.

Aside from the way it drives -- which, though spectacular, probably won't be appreciated by 90% of luxury-car buyers -- it's hard to find anything at which the TL is head-and-shoulders above the competition. For starters, the interior doesn't feel particularly luxurious. The metal-look trim is contemporary, to be sure, but I think a luxury car should feel like a reward for all the years you had to work in order to afford it. The TL just doesn't do that. (And it's not like Acura doesn't know how; the TL's bigger sister, the RL, has a cabin that is right on the money.) And the TL has 2 issues high on my list of pet peeves: Complicated secondary controls and a small trunk.

Despite Acura's marketing slogan - "Advance" - the TL's gadget count isn't very high. The navigation system does have a crisp high-res screen and real-time weather. Leather is standard, and for 2012 the TL gets heated and cooled front seats, which are a nice touch. But conspicuous by their absence are handy features like headlights that turn with the steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power steering column, and adaptive cruise control, all features offered by the TL's competitors.

In fact, the most impressive thing the TL did during my test drive was flash a HIGH SURF WARNING on the nav screen, which was only impressive because we were in Austin, Texas, 150 miles from the nearest ocean.

When I reviewed it back in 2009, a reader pointed out that the TL beats its competition in most, if not all, subjective performance tests. That may well be true -- but precision with a stopwatch does not necessarily equate to fun in the real world. I'd like to think I'm one of those people who can appreciate the TL's finesse, even if I'm not quite brave enough to exploit it. But I prefer the big-stupid grins I get from driving an Infiniti G37 or a turbocharged Buick Regal. And at the end of a difficult day, I'd rather ooze into the leather-and-wood luxury of a Lexus ES350 or a Lincoln MKZ.

The 2012 Acura TL may be easier on the eyes than the old model, but taken as a whole, it just doesn't fulfill my concept of what a luxury car should be. You have no idea how bad I feel about saying that, because I really do admire the TL's precision engineering and exquisite quality. But at the end of the day, if it were my $40,000, I'd buy something else. -- Aaron Gold

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #12

Candor from automakers is always welcome, even when it comes in small doses.

At the national rollout of its 2012 TL sport sedan recently, Acura acknowledged what had been obvious to auto enthusiasts since the model's 2009 redesign. The TL's restyling was over the top, especially for the gloomy recession market that year.

Sales dropped, and Acura designers went back to the drawing board.

The resulting '12 TL, launched in Austin earlier this month, still has the controversial chrome grille, but it's smaller and sits lower. Headlights now have darkened lenses, and the lower front fascia has a more horizontal design.

Subtle changes to the backside contribute to a slightly softer look, but the new TL's styling remains distinctive and edgy. If photos of the '12 TL still turn you off, give it a chance — proportionally, the design makes more sense viewed in person.

The TL's presence needs respect because the car competes with sharp designs from Audi, Infiniti and BMW in its $36,000 to $44,000 price spread. Over the years, the TL has been a reasonably priced and reliable driver's sedan with reputation for class-competitive pricing and performance, with Honda reliability and value retention.

The 2012 TL, which goes on sale this weekend, and sport sedans in its class are bedeviled by comparisons to the BMW 3 Series, considered by most (including me) to be the handling and drivability benchmark. Indeed, the 3 Series provides a clear target for engineers and designers, but others perform almost as well and have their own strengths, with the TL's being excellent handling combined with reliability and a slightly lower price tag.

More important to me than stylistic improvements were mechanical changes to the TL, which include an automatic transmission with an additional gear (now a 6-speed), more efficient torque converter and smoother 2-gear kickdown for passing.

Engine friction has been reduced, including use of thinner motor oil — 0W-20. These refinements, along with airflow improvements made during the restyling, raised EPA fuel numbers by 2 or 3 miles per gallon depending on model.

During a day's test drive of 2 TLs — a rear-drive model with 3.5-liter V6 and all-wheel drive unit with 3.7-liter V-6 — they felt pretty much like the 2009 TL I drove.

Wind and road noise were better muted, and the new transmission seemed to always grab the correct gear for the conditions as we drove a meandering route from downtown Austin to Volente to just south of Marble Falls and back to downtown.

Handling should be especially sharp with the TL's all-wheel drive model (about $3,500 more with associated amenities), though the difference might be noticeable only at track speeds or brisk running on wet roads. The system feeds more power to wheels on the outside of a turn to take advantage of the weight transfer.

All-wheel drive TLs have 305 horsepower, and a manual transmission is optional. Rear-drive cars have 280 horses. Both are single overhead cam engines and very quick while providing a pleasant exhaust rap. Expect real-world mileage in the low to mid 20s highway and perhaps up to 20 or 21 in the city on premium grade gasoline.

Children and small adults will enjoy the TL's back seat, but anyone taller might bump their heads on the headliner. Rear legroom is tight. Just 2 rear occupants will properly fit since the driveline tunnel restricts legroom for a middle rear passenger.

In the handsome and business-like cabin, front seat occupants are treated to bolstered, supportive, heated and ventilated leather bucket seats, with all the legroom they need. Materials feel and look upscale, with little in the way of gratuitous ornamentation.

Acura has chosen to use a navigation and sound system interface with a few more buttons than some rivals, but the dashboard didn't seem excessively cluttered to me. They can be distracting for the driver, however.

Fully integrated iPod and smart phone integration is offered, as are a well-designed voice-activated navigation and sound systems.

In his 29 years of writing a column for the American-Statesman, Szilagyi has driven more than 1,500 new cars and trucks and is also a host at Marfa Public Radio. Follow him at

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #13

AUSTIN, Texas — No one likes admitting they look bad. But Acura's PR executives, jogging through a semi-awkward script and nearly 60 PowerPoint slides, actually had the bones to say it during a new car launch.

I'm paraphrasing, but for an hour it went something like this: "The 2012 Acura TL may look like the current car, but it's much less strange looking. When we redesigned the TL three years ago, we thought we were pushing the edge like Cadillac, except our harsh angles and that pointy, bulging snout weren't as attractive as we thought they were. Kind of ugly, really."

"So this mid-cycle update has lots of little design tweaks, not to mention better fuel economy and a new 6-speed automatic."

There, doesn't that feel better to let it all out?

The Acura TL, as seen in 2009.​

Most car companies aren't half as honest. To save face and cost, they'll stick with an unpopular design to the very end of the model's lifecycle, even if it means being beaten and dragged into the fire. BMW, citing record sales, refused to throw out its stunningly complex iDrive system on the 2002 7-Series until that car was redesigned in 2009. When Porsche threw out the 911's iconic round headlamps for L-shaped units in 1999, they waited six years to bring them back.

In recent memory, only Subaru has been quick to mend a mediocre design, when it replaced the ill-fated "bug-eye" headlamps on the new-for-2002 Impreza after two model years.

But it's not just headlamps that cause a visual stir. Safety, value, and other practical attributes aside, a car's exterior design is often the #1 reason people buy, or don't.

Think about that kind of pressure. It takes millions of dollars and thousands of hours to turn a designer's dinner napkin sketch into a living, full-metal production car. Along the way, car designs have to satisfy a bureaucrat's stack of safety requirements, add a few ticks to fuel economy, and pass muster from the accountants and every suit with a corner office. Assembly lines have to be retooled, parts suppliers contracted, and lavish hotels booked for piggish auto journalists during the model launch. But in all that mess, years before the cover comes off, a design has to look good.

Preferably, amazing.

Hyundai and Kia are in that latter camp with their new Sonata and Optima sedans. And while Acura hasn't made a classic hit since the long-gone Integra and exotic NSX, they've got a capable sedan that looks like nothing else on the road, whether you like it or not.

For 2012, Acura scaled down the "power plenum" — their name for that big, silver schnoz across the lineup — and they've tidied up the TL in all directions. Thinner headlamps, a
flatter front bumper, shorter front and rear overhangs, smaller reflectors, a raised license plate holder out back — elements that by themselves seem insignificant, but add up to a sleeker package. Still, if you park a 2011 model next to it, you'll have to really study the new car to find them. (For the interior, they added a "phone" button to the dash.)

Engines are unchanged, with the front-wheel-drive model's 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 and 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower V-6 for the all-wheel-drive SH-AWD. A new 6-speed automatic replaces the 5-speed, and together with lower-friction engine components helps bump gas mileage up to 20 city, 29 highway for the base car (versus 18 city, 26 highway). The "super handling" AWD model raises its glass to 18/26, up one for each. A 6-speed manual is available on this trim, and the couple hundred people who order it enjoy one of the best-kept secrets among sport sedans. A precise, well-weighted clutch and a smooth, short-throw shift gate are the perfect match for the sprightly V-6.

Gone are the SH-AWD's optional summer tires — snowy markets like ours avoided them completely — but otherwise, handling and performance are unchanged. Acura has used a torque-vectoring system since 2005, which can literally steer the car through a turn by sending most or all of the rear axle's torque to the outside wheel. Where the front-wheel-drive TL understeers heavily in tight turns, the SH-AWD enters them at higher speeds and yanks right out. Both models enjoy sharp steering and little body roll, but on the right road, the SH is a BMW-whipping joy to behold.

Acura's biggest problem now isn't style — it's how poor the more expensive RL looks in comparison. Where the new TL is a striking, if polarizing, interpretation of the modern sport sedan, the RL leaves little of any impression. Both cars are virtually identical in size, but on the same twisty Austin roads, the RL drives like an old, heavy Buick: a pitching, soft suspension, vague steering, and a dated interior. It's one of those odd, few times when spending more buys you less.

Acura sells a small fraction of those $47,000 cars versus the TL, which starts at $36,465 with destination and can be loaded with all-wheel-drive for about $45,000. A similarly-loaded and smaller BMW 335i xDrive is $9,000 more, the bigger 535i xDrive a whopping $16,000 more.

Who's looking out of place now?

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #14

Whenever a new car comes out, it’s always exciting to see new tech antiquating the old, a breath of fresh air, if you will. The 2012 Acura TL has been refreshed for the model year, with a host of upgrades and further refinements. Unfortunately, few of them were tech.

Acura has long been known for many industry 1sts: VTEC, Drive-By-Wire, and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive. And for the most part many in-car technology 1sts: in-dash navigation, satellite-linked real-time traffic and weather, and XM and Bluetooth as standard equipment. Now, all this stuff is pretty much standard fare.

After the refresh of the TL, it’s apparent that Acura engineers took a more conservative approach to the car (unlike the older one), smoothing out bodylines and fixing the bold shape, as if performing rhinoplasty to Ashlee Simpson (she looked good before!). This is slightly unfortunate because I liked the bold and futuristic look. What nerdy futurist doesn’t like a car that looks like a spaceship from years forward?

The TL’s tech was pretty well equipped when the older, more rhino looking TL, launched in 2008. The features in the infotainment system were pretty good. For it’s year, having live traffic and weather makes for pretty appealing tech. When we drove the new 2012 TL, we were confronted with an accident ahead. The TL knew this ahead of time and took us off the expressway onto a road that ran parallel. We could see all the cars backed up for miles as we drove uninhibited along the road to our destination.

Another great feature is Bluetooth streaming. This along with intelligent keys satisfies our demand to keep both key and mobile in pocket at all times. The updated TL gets AVRCP 1.3 support to control Bluetooth-enabled devices. This means that the car is able to seek between songs and grab metadata from Bluetooth devices (the older system could only play/stop/pause). But, Bluetooth streaming isn’t good enough without the ability to access playlists and menus as if plugged into USB. That, however, won’t happen until AVRCP 1.4.

The sound system in the car is 1 of the best we’ve ever heard, provided you listen to DVD-Audio exclusively. The channel separation and sound staging is near perfect in 5.1. That’s right, near perfect, and a huge departure from two channel sound from USB, Bluetooth audio, or XM satellite. I still wish that SACD and DVD-Audio caught on. I’m glad to see Acura engineers include this feature in the TL.

Whenever traveling around and looking for places to go eat, dance or drink, the Acura system proves useful. It can call up a huge list of places, and even shows reviews from Zagat. Now, I could go into a huge rant about Zagat and how Yelp powered by a smartphone would be better. But I won’t. For those without such smartphones, they’ll be content using this.

1 thing I just couldn’t figure out was the voice recognition. When I did get it to work, it wanted to me to dial a number by saying them 1-by-1. Also, if I wanted to say it by someone’s name, that would require setting up and recording voice tags 1st. Also, the new TL voice command offers the ability to call up music by artist, album, song, etc but it must have not liked my mid-western accent because it didn’t get a single one right. Luckily the USB connection was insanely fast — song scrolling was the fastest I’ve seen, ever.

So, the TL got a refresh but the infotainment didn’t. And personally, it didn’t need it just yet. When the car debuted in 2008 the technology was pretty robust. Considering the starting price for the technology equipped TL being $39,155, it’s not that bad at all. The technology on the TL can hang with the best at this price. I will say that this should be the last time Acura puts this system in the TL. By time the next generation is due to come out, in-car infotainment systems will be light years ahead. Plus, I want to see Acura do something big next, another “1st”, if you will. Oh, and give Nuance a call, they can help with that voice recognition thing.
Crunching The Numbers Tech Report
Base Price: $35,605 No. Of Buttons: 61
Price As Tested: $45,085 No. Of Speakers: 10
New Stuff: LED-backlit display Coolest Feature: DVD-Audio
iPod Song Selection Speed: 10/10 Hella Fast Worst Feature: Voice recognition
Stated Gas Mileage:: 20 City, 29 Hwy Observed mpg: 19 average​


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #15

What Edmunds Says
The 2012 Acura TL should be a strong choice for a midsize luxury sedan.
Abundant user-friendly high-tech features; spacious cabin; smart all-wheel-drive system; superb optional sound system; solid construction.

Base model's numb steering.​
What's New for 2012

The 2012 Acura TL gets revised front-end styling, a 6-speed automatic transmission, improved fuel efficiency, an upgraded navigation system and a quieter freeway ride.


Like it or not, looks oftentimes plays a large role in people's decisions. Whether it is clothing, a potential mate or an automobile we're talking about, looks count big. As such, eye-catching style can often be enough to sway one toward purchasing an otherwise average car. And as the current generation of the Acura TL has shown, the inverse can be true as well -- questionable styling can hurt the success of an otherwise well-regarded luxury sport sedan.

3 years ago, Acura's redesigned TL generated many a raised eyebrow and upturned nose, due chiefly to the car's grille, which resembled a metallic beak. A shame, as the car behind it was a solid performer that offered a spacious cabin, features galore and excellent build quality.

The 2012 Acura TL benefits from a midcycle refresh that tones down the proboscis. This year also sees a replacement of the previous 5-speed automatic transmission with a new 6-speed automatic that can also match revs on downshifts. The 6-speed gearbox will help improve fuel efficiency, as will friction-reducing measures for the base 3.5-liter V6 engine. Acura estimates the 3.5 will come in at 29 mpg highway -- an impressive 3 mpg improvement over last year's 3.5. Other updates include an updated navigation system (it now has a 60GB hard drive, more maps and crisper graphics) and improved sound insulation that is claimed to provide a quieter cabin at freeway speeds. Lastly, the Advance package now includes ventilated seats and a blind spot warning system.

The 2012 TL is once again available in 2 distinct flavors. Those looking for a refined ride, a spacious cabin and a full helping of the latest bells and whistles will be well served by the base model TL, a strong competitor to the likes of the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis and Lexus ES 350. Driving enthusiasts should find the more powerful (305 horsepower versus 280), sharper-handling TL SH-AWD appealing. Blessed with an athletic chassis and Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (hence SH-AWD) system, this roomy sport sedan can hang with smaller rivals such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS 350 on a challenging, curvy road.

In short, Acura took an already competent car and made it better. And this year's more conservatively styled front end certainly doesn't hurt, either. We'll know more about the 2012 Acura TL as we get closer to the car's on-sale date in early spring 2012. Check back soon for complete buying advice and driving impressions.


1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #16

Any of you that read the monthly instantiation of Winding Road’s digital magazine, are likely to have digested your author’s wide-ranging diatribe about the styling of this new-for-2012 Acura TL. For those of you that haven’t (and who aren’t interested in following the link above), we’ll summarize by saying that the styling of the new TL is decidedly more mainstream than the outgoing model, if a little less daring. Beyond that we’ll leave comment of the car’s new exterior design up to you, after perusing our gallery of images, in the “comments” section, below. Have at it.

With the argument about the TL’s reskin thusly pawned off, it remains to be said that this is, mechanically, a car that is very similar to the model that you have been able to buy for the last few years. That’s almost entirely a good thing, we think, as the TL has been providing, albeit somewhat under the radar, a fine alternative to German mid-size luxury cars for some time now. We don’t make that statement lightly, either, as the competition in question is quite good, and Acura’s reputation is, at best, a bit confused in the minds of many buyers/drivers these days.

So, short of the not-to-be-mentioned-again nose job (last one, promise), what’s new for 2012? The biggest change for the driver is a new 6-speed automatic transmission, which can be operated via the same wheel-mounted paddle shifters found in the last version (or via the central gearlever, if you prefer). We found the action of the sixer autobox to be relatively rapid and good to use, though not entirely different in a back-road situation than the 5-speed affair that preceded it. The big wins for the new transmission are a slightly more refined (meaning quiet) character on the highway, and better fuel economy.

The added mpgs are more significant for the 3.5-liter V-6 engine, than they are for the 3.7-liter motor found in the SH-AWD, though. The smaller engine gets a host of tricky friction-reducing technologies, in addition to a revised intake system, to garner economy ratings of 20/29 miles per gallon, in the city and on the highway, respectively. That highway number represents a gain of 3 mpg over the 2010 car. The 305-horsepower 3.7-liter, meanwhile, only nets 1 extra mpg for both city and highway driving (18/26 mpg total). For reference, the lighter, smaller BMW 335i xDrive is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway when equipped with the six-speed automatic.

And that BMW comparison is apt, we think, given that the TL remains Acura’s very best driver’s car, and a good 1, at that. Focusing almost all of our time and energies toward driving the larger-engined SH-AWD version of the TL, we came away with the renewed opinion that car is an enthusiast gem that deserves more of a share of the spotlight.

2 winters ago we were able to test, and then testify to the abilities of Acura’s AWD system in very adverse conditions, but our trip to Texas this time proved that SH-AWD is most fun in the dry. With an aggressive route plotted though Austin’s aptly named “hill country," we pushed the grippy TL over tight and winding roads that do a passable impression of SoCal’s vaunted canyon fare. With a lot of tight cornering and elevation change to push through, we were basically never able to force the TL into giving up its super-sucker grip on the road. Certainly the 245-cross-section Goodyear Eagle tires had a lot to do with that stickiness (that’s the width of tire for every TL model, front- and all-wheel-drive, by the way), but the torque-vectoring system was an absolute wonder in keeping power flowing to the right wheel, too. Mid-corner, no matter the speed, we had the sensation of being pulled around the apex, rather than the sort of controlled, sliding, loss of traction that is the norm a these velocities. It’s probably important to note then, that those who simply prefer the looser, less controlled experience of a well-balanced rear-driver won’t be in some way “fooled” by the SH-AWD experience. The system wants only to maximize grip at speed, and doesn’t mess with trying to impersonate a rear-wheel-drive car.

Even with the relative heaviness of the all-wheel-drive system taken into account, the TL manages to feel a lot smaller than it is. To start, much of the mass of the 3900-pound car is disguised by low-effort steering that is exceptionally responsive. The car’s willingness to rotate is exaggerated (in a positive way) by the fast-acting nature of turn-in. And, while many drivers don’t care for the artificial feeling created by a highly boosted power steering setup, the TL’s lightweight action doesn’t server to remove 1 too much from the experience while at speed. Still, it would be nice if the weighting were more natural here. Volume of steering inputs from the tires and road are pretty average for the class—you won’t get much more information from a BMW, or much less from an Audi. Still, many people equate high-effort steering with being “premium,” which is how the German companies often win enthusiasts to their cause.

We experienced the same very well balanced ride/handling profile that we’d come to expect from the last TL, with what could be appropriately labeled as a “medium-firm” ride for this class of car. There’s more feedback, and less cosseting from the suspension than you’d find in mid-sizers from Lexus (or Toyota, for that matter), though we didn’t experience the sort of racecar firmness we’ve come to expect from true performance sedans like the M3, or the S4. Clearly this kind of tuning is aimed more at the sport-seeking driver than the luxury-seeking 1.

A similar ethos can be seen and felt in the cabin of the TL, which remains exactly as we remember it. That means an upscale blend of leather and metal finishes, along with the very serious-looking, but ultimately easy-to-use central stack. There are loads of buttons to be found here, but the combination of steering wheel controls and voice controls make it pretty easy to keep one’s focus on the road ahead. We also found the seats remarkably supportive and comfortable, though drivers that are slightly skinnier than us may want for thicker bolsters (or better control of the existing bolsters). By and large we felt properly ensconced, but without sacrificing forward visibility.

And, though we had far too little time with the one test car made available on this trip, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Acura is bringing back the manual-transmission-equipped SH-AWD model for 2012. If we could, we’d wave our magic wand and make every enthusiast-leaning shopper of the mid-size premium segment take a test drive in this cog-swapping dream. The transmission is good enough to be transformative in a car that is already plenty fun to drive—short of throw, with smooth, substantial action between gears and almost inerrant precision—and we certainly applaud Acura for making it available again. Mark our words: very few of these will end up being sold, and the stick-shift TL SH-AWD will become a cult classic.

When we reviewed the 2009 TL, we were pushed to compare it closely to the BMW 3-Series, both because of the close pricing and the car’s smaller handling abilities. It’s probably fair to mention, though, the this TL is actually in the size/horsepower class as cars like the A6 3.0T and BMW 535i xDrive, despite being stickered at thousands of dollars less. That’s a dollar/content relationship that we think works out very well for Acura, and one that should be getting more attention.

Redesign? What redesign?

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD 6AT
Engine: V-6, 3.7 liters, 24v
Output: 305 hp/273 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 5.6 sec (est)
Weight: 3968 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 18/26 mpg
Base Price: $39,155
On Sale: Now​

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #17

KBB Editors' Overview
When the current-generation Acura TL bowed in the 2009 model year, its bold aesthetics garnered mixed feelings from car reviewers and the buying public alike. Some liked the sharp angles, while detractors were particularly critical of the large beak-like front grille. For the 2012 model year Acura has softened the TL’s face and made a few other exterior refinements. With a mild facelift and improved fuel economy, Acura hopes the freshened TL will lure even more buyers from varied temptresses like the BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M and Lexus ES.

You'll Like This Car If...
Compared to competitors from BMW, Infiniti and Lexus, the Acura TL is a bargain; offering a lot of technology, performance and luxury for less than the rest.

You May Not Like This Car If...
Even with its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, we found that the Acura TL still isn’t as engaging rear-drive cars like the Infiniti M or BMW 5 Series.

What's Significant about this Car?
The 2012 Acura TL upgrade is a little show, a little go. Underneath the exterior changes the TL sports a new 6-speed automatic transmission that delivers more miles per gallon. The TL is still available in base and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive trim levels, and a new Advance Package has been added to the option list.

Driving It

Driving Impressions
The 2012 Acura TL marries the size of a BMW 5 Series with the lower price of an Infiniti G37 Sedan, but doesn’t capture the performance feel of either. Front-wheel drive and synthetic steering feel combine in a car that’s neither as engaging around town nor as capable at the limits compared to some of its more storied rear-wheel drive competitors. On the flip side, the Acura TL is about 100 times more fun than the soft-tuned Lexus ES 350 with which it also sort of competes. Stepping up to the SH-AWD version nets more horsepower, a sportier suspension and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system that directs more energy to the outside rear wheel while cornering. You have to push the TL pretty hard before you can feel SH-AWD working, but that’s exactly when you need it. Otherwise, around town and on the highway the 2012 Acura TL behaves like most other performance-oriented mid-size sedans.

Favorite Features

6-speed Automatic Transmission
The new 6-speed transmission is the sole contributor to the overall increase in fuel economy. More gears also equal more fun as the transmission is able to keep the engine in its sweet spot during spirited driving. As a bonus, the revised gearing results in lower engine rpm while cruising, resulting in lower cabin noise.

Blind Spot Information System
We like everything that comes with the Advance Package, but if we had to choose one thing, it would be the blind spot information system. These indicators tell the driver if there is a car in the blind spot, which is a handy reassurance when changing lanes.

Vehicle Details

We find the 2012 Acura TL's interior luxuriously sporty. And for the new model year, it's even more luxurious as new platinum-plated trim pieces on the dash, center console and door sills have been thrown in to update the look. In addition to being heated, the front seats are now ventilated (Advance Package only) and the overall interior noise level has been reduced by 2.7 decibels thanks to an increased amount of body-sealing points.

At 1st glance the 2012 Acura TL looks largely the same as the 2011 edition, but a closer inspection reveals the changes. The front and rear overhangs have been shortened by an inch. Up front, the grille surround has been shaved down and the upper portion of it smoothed out, addressing the exterior’s most obvious pain point. Other new additions include darkened headlights, new turn signals and a new fog light design. Out back is a new rear bumper, which includes a relocated license plate frame that sits higher making way for a rear diffuser. The taillights received a color change and the trunk trim is thinner, which we think gives the car a more sophisticated look.

Notable Standard Equipment

The 2012 Acura TL comes well equipped right out of the box, which can't be said for many of its competitors. Some of the most notable features include heated leather seats, a power moonroof, 276-watt audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a 10-way power driver's seat and 17-inch alloy wheels. In addition to all-wheel drive and more horsepower, the TL SH-AWD trim adds to the list by offering additional seat bolstering for a sportier feel and French stitching on the steering wheel, seats, shift lever and parking brake.

Notable Optional Equipment

The Acura TL is available with 2 option packages: The Technology Package and the new-for-2012 Advance Package. The Technology Package includes a hard drive-base navigation system with Acuralink traffic and weather updates, 440-watt surround sound system, Milano premium leather seating surfaces and keyless access system. The Advance Package comes with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) system, ventilated (cooling) front seats and plus-1 wheel sizes (equals 18-inch wheels for the base, 19-inch wheels for the SH-AWD trim).

Under the Hood

Engine choices available for the 2012 Acura TL include a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter or a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V6. A new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic is available on both trims, but the 6-speed manual transmission is exclusive to the SH-AWD trim level. The 6-speed automatic features a "double-kick-down" feature that lets the driver down shift twice (from 5th to 3rd gear, for example) to aid performance in spirited driving situations. The 6-speed auto also improves the city/highway fuel economy of 3.5-liter versions by 2/3 miles per gallon, respectively. When matched with the 3.7-liter engine the new transmission ups fuel economy by one mpg city and highway.

3.5-liter V6
280 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29

3.7-liter V6
305 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (manual), 18/26 (automatic)​

Pricing Notes
The 2012 Acura TL has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $36,000 for the base trim, while the SH-AWD trim level starts at about $40,000. Adding the Technology Package to either trim bumps up the price about $4,000, and adding the Advance Package adds about $1,000 more. A fully loaded TL tops out just under $46,000, which is thousands less than a loaded BMW 5 Series and Infiniti M, but on par with a similarly equipped Lexus ES. As for resale value, we expect the Acura TL to hold residuals on par with its competitors from BMW, Lexus and Infiniti.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
USA 2day

OK, cancel the warrant for aesthetic felonies. Acura has revised its TL midsize sedan so it's not as eye-burningly ugly, and has thrown in some spiffy practical benefits, too.

In fact, Acura accelerated the TL freshening about 6 months to get the 2012 model on sale as soon as possible and quell a chorus of complaints about (mostly) the styling and a few other issues.

That cow-catcher front end and stuck-up tush of the previous TL didn't draw ire just from crepe-hanging auto writers. No, indeed. Actual humans, people who buy cars, were calling it rude names, too.

So, the new schnoz is better-proportioned, generally more tasteful. New tush, ditto. There still seems to be too much overhang ahead of the front wheels, when viewed in profile, though the front's been shortened an inch.

Also improving the look are small, but visually important, touches that include axing some of the garish "chrome" features. (Only chromium-plated metal is authentic "chrome." The auto industry hasn't done much of that for years, and instead refers to shiny plastic as "chrome.") Door handles and portions of the rear roof pillars now are body-color instead of bright "chrome." Headlight trim now is black, not bright. Taillight trim eliminates the previous faux chrome.

Other changes for the better:

•A 6-speed automatic transmission replaces the outdated 5-speed (well, outdated in advertising wars, if not in function), helping boost fuel economy by 1 mile per gallon on all-wheel-drive models, 2 (city) and 3 (highway) mpg on front-drive cars.

•There's a bigger-capacity hard drive on board, which is supposed to spin up the navigation system faster when you start the car, but it still takes awhile for the screen to give you the OK.

And some good things were left alone:

•The 2012 has the same "SH-AWD," which is Acura's acronym for super-handling all-wheel drive. It's optional, chosen by 30% of TL buyers. And they often buy it as a bad-weather traction system, Acura says, even though it's designed as a high-performance cornering technology. It can send up to 70% of the total power to the rear wheels, and of that, can shift 100% to either the right or left wheel. It then can drive the outside rear wheel faster than normal to help pivot the car around corners. A bit like divine intervention mid-corner. Hard to appreciate in the telling; immediately lovable once experienced.

•Same premium leather interior and comfortable seats. The driver's chair is easy to adjust into a proper driving position.

•Same all-around tight feel. Brakes retard momentum right-by-gosh-now with not much pedal pressure. Steering gives you the impression you're actually controlling the car, instead of rotating a mysterious mechanism through a slushy medium.

Doors close with precise feel and sound. Gearshift lever moves crisply.

The TL's taut package emphasizes what buckets of slop some motor vehicles are, and makes it clear that a person could get used to a car feeling just-so, as TL mostly does.

1 odd note: While Acura says it didn't change the suspension, the 2012 felt as if it rode hard. The 2011 didn't seem to have that drawback.

You can decide if Acura sufficiently redressed the styling grievances. And maybe you won't mind the ride. The rest of the changes, however, seem inarguable improvements, especially because Acura was restrained enough to avoid change for its own sake. The result is that the already very good TL is now a notch better.

2012 Acura TL

What? Update of the midsize, 4-door sedan to address complaints about the styling and improve other features. Available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

When? On sale since March 18.

Where? Designed in California, engineered and manufactured in Ohio.

How much? $35,925 including $860 shipping for the base front-drive model, to $45,945 for the all-wheel-drive model with all factory accessories.

Who'll buy? Affluent couple, 35 to 45, with 1 or 2 kids and annual household income averaging $140,000, Acura says.

How powerful? Front-drive models have 3.5-liter V-6 rated 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, 254 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. All-wheel drive has 3.7-liter V-6 rated 305 hp at 6,300, 273 lbs.-ft. at 5,000. 6-speed manual transmission available only on one all-wheel-drive model; others come with 6-speed automatic.

How big? About the size of a Honda Accord, but not as roomy inside. TL is 194 inches long, 74 in. wide, 57.2 in. tall on a 109.3-in. wheelbase. Weighs 3,726 to 4,001 lbs. Passenger space: 98.2 cubic feet. Trunk, 13.1 (front drive) or 12.5 (all-wheel drive) cu. ft.

Turning-circle diameter: 38.4 ft.

How thirsty? Front-wheel-drive model rated 20 miles per gallon in town, 29 mpg on the highway, 23 in combined use. All-wheel drive rated 18/26/21 with automatic, 17/25/20 with manual. Trip computer in AWD, automatic test car registered 13.7 mpg (7.3 gallons per 100 miles) in suburban driving, 15.1 mpg (6.62 gal./100 mi.) in mix of city, suburban, highway use.

Burns premium, holds 18.5 gal. Acura says regular is OK briefly but could damage the engine if used long term.

Overall: Rides hard, looks better, drives great.

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Modern Luxury

In baseball parlance, “the whole package” refers to a player who can do it all: run, throw, field, hit for power.

Applied to the automotive market, Acura’s restyled TL measures up. The sedan isn’t necessarily groundbreaking in terms of technology, looks or power. But the 4-door incorporates all the features that a luxury car requires plus a few extras. It’s arguably the car version of “the whole package.”

The 2012 Acura TL is just starting to appear in showrooms. “We sold our 1st (this week),” said Jeff Rubin, general sales manager of McDaniels Acura on Savannah Highway.

This 2012 Acura TL is parked along Waterway Boulevard on the Isle of Palms earlier this week. The mid-size luxury sedan has a more rounded look and received various technological enhancements for the new model year.​

The model has a base price of $35,000 and runs into the low $40,000s with options.

Rubin says buyers include 2 types in particular. “I would say young professionals and empty nesters.” A financing deal with 0 down payment should entice shoppers, he says.

Among the TL’s makeover highlights are tweaks to the body. The front bumper was made more aerodynamic. The grille was restyled and overhang shortened, according to Acura. Headlights and taillights were updated, and the rear bumper was reshaped. Wheels were retooled as 17-inch aluminum.

Appearance wasn’t the sole change. A new sequential 6-speed automatic transmission was geared to bump up performance as well as boost gas mileage.

Also bolstering fuel economy were friction-reducing engine innovations and a multi-clutch torque converter that curbs heat build-up.

The sedan has 2 choices of engines. A 3.5-liter V-6 generates 280 horsepower. It averages 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway -– a 10% improvement from the 2011 edition. An optional 3.7-liter 305 hp V-6 gets 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway with an automatic transmission and 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway with a 6-speed manual drivetrain.

Up-to-19-inch aluminum wheels are available this year.​

“A lot of the credit comes from the racing industry,” said Keith Drayton, sales consultant with McDaniels Acura. The carmaker uses the same engine on the racing circuit, he said.

To enter the car, the driver carries a fob that automatically unlocks the doors when next to them. The start is push-button. “It’s impossible to lose your keys in the car,” Drayton said. Demonstrating, he tossed the fob into the trunk and pushed down on the lid. It wouldn’t close until he had retrieved the gadget.

Napa leather envelops the driver and passengers. Up front are 2 cupholders and an ingenious compartment where the motorist can sock away a gas card or other items for a quick trip. The glovebox is split, with room above to store papers.

Buyers can choose a technology upgrade that includes navigation system, rear camera and voice recognition. Push a button on the steering wheel and say, “I’m hungry”: a list of restaurants shows up on the viewing screen, Drayton said. Bluetooth hand-free phone use is available. Standard with the upgrade is the top-of-the-line ELS Surround 410-watt premium audio system.

New for 2012 is Acura’s “advance” collection of extras: ventilated (heated and cooled) front seats, 18- or 19-inch wheels and blind spot indicators –- interior markers at eye level that light up as a car passes. The car also was re-engineered to reduce noise.

A 6-speed automatic transmission is 1 of the upgrades for 2012.​

Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear troubles have impacted Acura’s business, Rubin said. “We have cars through April,” he said, and the company will keep dealers informed beyond then. What helps is 75% of the carmaker’s manufacturing operations are outside of Japan.

In a full Tuesday afternoon drive of a $40,195 Acura TL with the advance package, the sedan upheld its luxury status with a roomy ride. Dual climate control and ventilated seats kept the car feeling comfortable.

Intuitive dashboard knobs and redundant buttons on the steering wheel made it easy to switch radio stations, adjust temperatures and convert to cruise control, which has a safety feature that slows the car down when vehicles in front decelerate. A handy information gauge shows tire pressure, miles to empty and other figures.

Steering was sharp, and the car braked smoothly. The vehicle’s sport mode is controlled by paddle shifters; gear changes are displayed, a bit obliquely, on the screen facing the wheel. Power seats are user friendly, and the trunk pops up with the flick of a button on the driver’s side door.

If the TL had a drawback, it was the 3.7-liter engine’s balky acceleration, like a horse that wants to gallop but is restrained by the reins.

Still, Acura effectively streamlined the model’s looks while adding on scores of perks. The result is a mid-size sedan that pairs high-end ambiance with frugal fuel mileage, all at a reasonable price.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542.​

1,199 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
NY Times

TESTED 2012 Acura TL

WHAT IS IT? An underdog sports sedan with a fresh new muzzle.

HOW MUCH? Base price $36,465, $45,945 as tested.

WHAT MAKES IT RUN? A 3.5-liter V-6 (280 horsepower) is standard; all-wheel-drive models get a 3.7-liter V-6 (305 horsepower).

IS IT THIRSTY? The front-drive TL now has a solid m.p.g. rating of 20 city, 29 highway; all-wheel-drive version rated 18/26.

ALTERNATIVES Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37, Mercedes C-Class, Volvo S60.​

“GOOD manners and bad breath get you nowhere,” was a line in an Elvis Costello oldie. And for the Acura TL sedan of 2009, no amount of refinement could mask the faux pas of its metallic beak.

Honda’s low-key luxury brand had hoped to make the TL stand out — in a good way. Instead, its armored grille bombed as badly as the Edsel’s “toilet seat” snout; jokesters likened the Acura’s face to gladiator gear, manga robots and more.

Smarting from the kind of abuse Joan Rivers dishes on the red carpet, Acura has modestly reworked the TL for 2012, with sharper steering, a new 6-speed automatic transmission, better fuel economy and new features. But what shoppers will notice 1st is the nose job and refashioned tail that tone down the visual offense.

Now that the Acura’s metaphorical zipper is only halfway down, it’s easier to focus on the TL’s good points. That’s especially true for the all-wheel-drive version, whose grippy, spot-on handling has been criminally underrated.

In part, that’s because many enthusiasts disqualify the Acura for its basic front-drive layout, which does handicap performance against better-balanced rear-drive sport sedans. But that snap judgment overlooks Acura’s optional Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. The name sounds like comic-book hyperbole, but the technology really delivers biff, bam and kapow. In fact, the groundbreaking torque-vectoring function — which speeds up the outboard rear wheel to help the car execute turns like the Black Swan — has been mimicked by everyone from BMW to Porsche.

And since the all-wheel-drive model has a larger, stronger V-6, any Acura shopper who relishes driving should take the plunge at $40,015. (The front-drive TL starts at $36,465).

The TL is the largest and roomiest sedan in its class and one of the few whose back seat can graciously handle long hauls with long adults.

The cabin is well built, if a bit generically Japanese. The available 2-tone interior and a higher grade of metallic trim add some distinction. And the perfectly formed steering wheel — with thumbrests and contrasting stitching — seems a hands-on homage to BMW’s M models.

The Acura’s surprisingly small and ill-shaped trunk remains its biggest demerit. The car’s vexing center-dashboard controls run a close 2nd, though that swarm of buttons is countered by outstanding audio and navigation systems, including a sharp new display screen that highlights some of the industry’s most comprehensive map data.

A 6-speed automatic replaces the previous 5-speed, and it now allows 2-gear, throttle-blipping kickdowns when you mash the accelerator. Its efficient torque converter delivers a 3 m.p.g. gain in highway fuel economy for the 3.5-liter version and an extra 1 m.p.g. across the board for all-wheel-drive models.

Despite its fluid 6,700-r.p.m. V-6, the Acura won’t outrun bullies like the Infiniti G37. But what the TL lacks in muscle, it makes up in finesse. Just when you think you’ve reached the limits of tire adhesion, the Acura hunkers down and implores you to hammer the gas pedal.

Automobile magazine found that the all-wheel-drive TL, remarkably, lapped a road course just 0.4 second slower than a mighty Audi S4 — a specially tuned 333-horsepower sport sedan that plays in a class above the Acura. The Audi was markedly faster in a straight line, proving that the TL’s handling lets it make up time in the corners.

Considering the S4’s lofty price and reputation, that result is akin to the Pirates taking the Yankees to a Game 7 in a World Series.

Coincidentally, I drove that Audi S4 back-to-back with the Acura. And on a long cornering binge, the Acura did feel more tenacious than the Audi, if nowhere near as explosive. If you choose the TL with a 6-speed manual transmission, you get an even firmer suspension.

Yes, the TL’s old face was one to forget. The new one helps us remember how Acura, like its Honda parent, earned its reputation for smooth, sophisticated engines, chassis and suspensions.
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