The aggressive, blunt styling of the Acura TL has given way for 2012 to a smoother, more mainstream look.
The nicely built car’s controversial front “beak” is gone, replaced by a reshaped fascia with a smaller grille. The rear also has been revised, with new bumpers, reshaped taillights and a thinner trunk edge. The car’s front overhang has been reduced, which helps give the car a lower, wider appearance.
The TL is a sleek four-door sedan offered with front-wheel drive or Acura’s advanced “Super Handling” all-wheel drive (SH-AWD) system. That system prevents torque steer and helps stability. It comes only with the larger 3.7-liter, 305-horsepower V-6. A 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is offered with front-drive.
The mildly revised interior has instrument cluster changes and new surface finishes. There’s plenty of room up front. The rear seat is roomy for two tall adults, but its center area is too hard for comfort and best left to the fold-down armrest, which contains cupholders. Nicely shaped front seats are supportive. My test TL had optional front sport seats, which provide added support. Available ventilated front seats are new.
The quiet interior looks decidedly upscale, although some may feel there are too many control buttons. The backlit gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight, and audio and climate controls and other major controls are easy to use. There are nicely located cupholders and a good number of interior storage areas, including door pockets.
All TL models are well equipped with comfort, convenience and safety features, including a stability assist system.
The TL’s prices range from $35,605 for the front-drive model. Prices for the TL SH-AWD are $42,885 when equipped with the Technology Package, which contains such items as push-button ignition and a navigation system — or $45,085 when equipped with the Technology Package and new Advance Package, which features ventilated front seats, larger wheels and a blind-spot information system. The TL SH-AWD with the manual transmission and Technology Package is $42,885.
I tested the $45,085 TL with those packages, all-wheel drive and the TL’s new six-speed automatic transmission. It replaces a dated five-speed automatic and has a responsive manual shift feature controlled by steering-wheel paddles. It allows double downshifts, as from fifth to third gears.
Acura should be congratulated for offering the TL with a precise light-throw six-speed manual transmission. It knows most buyers will opt for the six-speed automatic, but the manual makes the new TL one of the sportiest cars in the midsize luxury sedan market.
Carried over from the 2011 TL are the 3.5-liter V-6 and 3.7-liter V-6, which was in my test car.
The 3.5 is strong, but the more-potent 3.7 provides really quick off-the–line acceleration, fast 65-75 mph passing and relaxed cruising. A different rear-axle ratio allows the 3.7 engine to turn over at only 1,800 rpm at 65 mph.
Fuel economy has been improved. The TL with front-drive and the 3.5 and automatic is the most economical combo, providing an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 29 on highways. Figures with the 3.7, automatic and all-wheel drive are 18 and 26. That engine with all-wheel-drive and the manual delivers 17 and 25.
The firm steering could use a little more road feedback, but is quick and precise. The ride is supple, and my test car’s handling (helped by the all-wheel drive) was quite good. The brake pedal has a firm, positive feel, and the anti-lock brakes are made more effective by electronic brake distribution and brake assist features.
The trunk has a high opening, but is spacious, and its lid has a pull-down handle to assist closing it.
The outside hood opener was difficult to find, but the trunk lid swings up on hydraulic struts to reveal a neatly designed engine compartment.
Acura feels that the TL’s revised styling will help boost sales. The car already has proven reliability, first-rate quality and strong resale value.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.