2012 Acura TL
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Power280 hp / 254 lb-ft
MPG20 City / 29 Hwy
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“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 percent 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 one 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 three-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 six-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 percent on front-wheel-drive models, 59/41 percent on all-wheel-drive automatic models, and 58/42 percent 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 six-speed manual transmission in mid-level trim for the 5 percent of buyers who want that added element of control. As before, the SH-AWD system can route 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels and 100 percent 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 four-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 one 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 eight-way power on the front seats (plus two-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.
|2012 ACURA TL|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINES||3.5L/280-hp/254-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.7L/305-hp/273 lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed automatic, 6-speed manual|
|CURB WEIGHT||3750-4000 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||194.0 x 74.0 x 57.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.0-6.4 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17-20/25-29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||169-198/116-135 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.83-0.98 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||March 18|
By Zach Gale