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3,436 Posts
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)​

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

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.


3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

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.

2,810 Posts
great. now even more people will mistake my car for a TL SMH

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #7

"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.

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #8

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.


8,573 Posts
I never really quite understood why they had the grille extend all the way to the hood. How would that in anyway look good? In any case, it looks a lot better but still far from good looking. Rear from the side kind of looks like the accord.

2,810 Posts
its better. much better. but idk if i can say its "good"

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
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.


211 Posts
Bravo. I don't know what they were thinking when they styled the 2009. It was almost as if they purposefully put out the ugliest car they could come up with. The little tweaks on the 2012 are a big improvement. Not perfect but much better looking.

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #16

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.

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
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.

3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #18

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.


3,436 Posts
Discussion Starter #20

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
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