2012 Acura TL
Base price: $42,420
As tested: $44,195
MPG: 20 city/29 highway (Premium fuel)
- Improved looks, but still won't win a beauty contest
- New transmission, improved fuel economy
- Superb build quality, fit, finish, and materials
- Not as handsome as others in this class of vehicle
- No V-8 or hybrid option
- Expensive compared to the larger Acura RL
By Jim Prueter
When Acura debuted the Acura TL’s current design for the 2009 model year, my first impression was that the designers over did it. While its profile is handsome from both the front and rear, you immediately you know what you’re looking at. The TL looks like no other car on the road.
For 2012, Acura did a mid-cycle refresh, tweaking the exterior, and updating the engine. The front-end styling mimics what you’ll see on other Acura vehicles, though smaller in size and less angular. The front fascia also was redesigned, creating an overall look that’s much more pleasing than the previous model.
The TL’s bold look isn’t for everyone, which is why smart salespeople will do well to get customers behind the wheel, where the TL is very comfortable. The new TL really scores big with its interior and driving dynamics. We’ve never considered Acura to be Honda’s luxury brand in the same way Lexus is to Toyota and Infiniti is to Nissan, yet the TL’s interior gets very close.
The dual cockpit design features front bucket seats that are exceptionally comfortable, and provide enough adjustment options to accommodate drivers of all sizes. However, we found the memory seat adjustment to be one of the most annoying features in any vehicle we’ve tested, as the driver’s seat automatically slid forward and rose to an unwanted setting. Several trips to the owner’s manual and following step-by-step directions could not fix this.
Overall, though, the front seats are roomy and comfortable. Rear seat head and legroom is ample, but the middle seat slot is narrow and raised, making it nearly impossible for a third adult to ride comfortably. There’s also very little trunk space compared to competitors.
The dual-hooded dash is well designed, with deep-set gauges and a shaded navigation screen. The sun’s glare is kept away, making it easy to read. We’ve always appreciated the simplicity of Honda’s navigation systems, but we would much prefer a touch screen to the TL’s rotary knob control. The TL’s materials and finish are superb, but we didn’t like that the dash shows off its high-tech gadgetry so boldly that there’s a cluttered look.
Our 2012 TL Advance test model was loaded with technology including Bluetooth, a voice-activated navigation system, a rearview backup camera, a 10 speaker surround sound audio system, an auxiliary input jack, USB, XM Satellite radio, a communication system with real-time traffic and weather, and a keyless entry system with smart entry and push-button ignition.
The TL Advance package we tested includes a blind spot warning system, heated and cooled front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires.
The TL is a mid-sized sedan offered in TL and TL SH-AWD (super handling, all-wheel drive). The base price is $35,605 while the SH-AWD is $39,155. A Technology package or Advance package can be added to either model.
The base model’s EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 city/29 highway or 23 mpg combined. The TL SH-AWD has a larger 3.7-liter 305 horsepower V-6 engine. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 city/26 highway/21 combined, with an automatic transmission or 17 city/25 highway/20 combined with a manual transmission.
Both versions of the TL use a new six-speed automatic transmission with an optional manual mode. A six-speed manual transmission is available on the SH-AWD with Technology package. Pricing is the same for either the automatic or manual transmission.
The standard TL comes well equipped with a power moonroof, 276-watt audio system with Bluetooth and USB, leather interior, and 10-way power driver’s seat.
The SH-AWD drive system is unlike any other all-wheel drive system used on vehicles. When cornering or going too fast into a tight curve the vehicle’s system
takes over, putting more power into the outside rear wheel while cutting power to the inside rear wheel. This additional torque helps keep the rear of the car from pushing too far forward. Of course it can’t prevent stupidity behind the wheel, but it does entice you to test its capabilities, especially on twisting roads. The AWD isn’t meant for off-road use but instead intended to improve handling and traction on slippery snow-covered or wet roads.
The TL’s ride is more performance-oriented and might be too firm for those expecting luxury. The handling is taut and poised. There’s a fair amount of road noise in an otherwise quiet cabin.
Standard safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags, driver’s and front passenger’s side airbags, side curtain airbags, vehicle stability control, antilock brakes, active front head restraints, and a LATCH system for child seats.
The TL earned the highest possible “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for frontal offset and side impact crash test results. It has not been crash tested by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration as of this writing.
Overall, the TL is enjoyable to drive, and refined and improved thanks to a mid-cycle styling update and an improved engine and transmission that offer slightly better gas mileage.