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2012 Acura TL - First Drive Review

By KBB.com Editors on April 5, 2011 5:24 PM
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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.

What's New this Year?

The 2012 Acura TL upgrade is a little show, a little go. Underneath the exterior changes the TL sports a new six-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.

You Might Like this Vehicle 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 Might Not Like this Vehicle 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.

Exterior
At first 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 foglight 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.

Interior
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.

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 Options 
The Acura TL is available with two 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 the keyless access system. The Advance Package comes with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) system, ventilated (cooling) front seats and plus-one wheel sizes (equals 18-inch wheels for the base, 19-inch wheels for the SH-AWD trim).

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 adds 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. 

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.

Our Favorite Features

Six-speed automatic transmission

The new six-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.

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 six-speed automatic is available on both trims, but the six-speed manual transmission is exclusive to the SH-AWD trim level. The six-speed automatic features a "double-kick-down" feature that lets the driver down shift twice (from fifth to third gear, for example) to aid performance in spirited driving situations. The six-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 @ 6,200 rpm
254 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29

3.7-liter V6
305 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (manual), 18/26 (automatic)

 

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