Full 2012 Acura TL Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Acura TL gets revised front-end styling, a six-speed automatic transmission, improved fuel efficiency, an upgraded navigation system and a quieter freeway ride.
Like it or not, styling oftentimes plays a large role in people's decisions. Whether we're talking about clothing, an automobile or even a potential mate, looks count big. Eye-catching style can often sway purchasing decisions toward an otherwise average car. But as the current generation of the Acura TL has shown, the inverse can also be true. Three years ago, Acura's redesigned TL raised many an eyebrow and upturned nose with its grille that resembled a metallic beak. A shame, since the car underneath was a solid performer offering a spacious cabin, features galore and excellent build quality.
The 2012 Acura TL, however, benefits from a midcycle refresh that significantly tones down the proboscis, while other styling revisions like reshaped front and rear fascias contribute to this year's sleeker look. Inside, the TL features notable improvements to the navigation system (it now has a 60GB hard drive, more maps and crisper graphics), a more detailed Bluetooth audio display (e.g., song and artist), active pairing for Bluetooth phones and improved sound insulation for a quieter cabin. Lastly, the Advance package now includes ventilated seats and a blind spot warning system.
The automatic transmission also receives an update with a new six-speed unit that matches revs on downshifts, replacing the aged five-speed. The new gearbox also slightly improves fuel efficiency, as do friction-reducing measures for the base 3.5-liter V6 engine. The EPA puts the revised 3.5's highway estimate at 29 mpg -- an impressive 3 mpg improvement over last year's 3.5.
For 2012 the Acura TL is again available in two distinct flavors. The base model offers the refined ride, big cabin and a full helping of the latest bells and whistles that will satisfy most. You'll need to look to the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis and Lexus ES 350 for something comparable. Driving enthusiasts will likely find the more powerful and sharper-handling TL SH-AWD more appealing. Blessed with an athletic chassis and all-wheel drive, this roomy sport sedan can hang with smaller rivals such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS 350 on a challenging, curvy road.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Acura TL is a midsize luxury sedan available in TL and TL SH-AWD trim levels.
The standard TL comes with 17-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, foglamps, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment and memory functions), leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface are also standard. The TL SH-AWD adds a more powerful engine, all-wheel drive, more aggressive suspension and steering tuning, upgraded brakes, 18-inch wheels, deep bolstered front seats and contrasting leather stitching.
The Technology package available on both trims adds upgraded tires, a rear spoiler, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry, GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, upgraded interior metal trim, automatic phone book downloading, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, voice control and a 10-speaker Acura/ELS surround-sound audio system with digital music storage. Springing for the Advance package includes all that along with larger wheels (18-inch wheels on the base TL or 19-inch wheels on the SH-AWD), ventilated front seats and a blind spot warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
The base model 2012 Acura TL is front-wheel drive and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. We expect a 0-60-mph time of about 6.5 seconds given that the TL's five-speed predecessor made the same dash in 6.7 seconds during Edmunds testing. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
The TL SH-AWD model features Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, which transfers different levels of power to individual wheels to maximize traction and grip through turns and during inclement weather. It also gets a 3.7-liter V6 good for 305 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, while a six-speed manual is optional and includes hill start assist. A manual-equipped TL SH-AWD hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/26/21 with the automatic and 17/25/20 with the manual.
Every 2012 Acura TL comes with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, a base TL came to a stop from 60 mph in a distance of 122 feet, while the TL SH-AWD did a little better, at 120 feet. Both of these are average for the class.
In government crash tests, early-build TLs received three out of five stars for overall protection, a disappointing two stars for frontal protection and four stars for side protection. Acura later revised the 2012 TL, and models built after April 18, 2012, earned four stars for frontal impact protection and four stars overall. No matter the model, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the TL its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Acura TL's interior features a more contemporary design language than some of its competitors. Aluminum trim adorns the cabin instead of the glossy wood treatments found in the Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis or Lexus ES 350. The surroundings feel more austere, cold even, although materials quality is top-notch with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The available two-tone color scheme helps to dress things up.
The TL's modern cabin is also roomy and quiet, with more space than similarly priced European sedans. The driver seat offers multiple adjustments and side bolstering, while the rear seats easily accommodate taller passengers. Large flip-up headrests provide comfort and protection for rear-seat passengers, then slide down flush with the seatbacks for an unobstructed view when not in use. The 13.1 cubic feet of trunk capacity is a bit less than other cars in this class, but the wide opening makes loading a few golf bags and suitcases easy.
Given the divergent handling characteristics of the 2012 Acura TL models, they can almost be thought of as two distinctly different cars. The base TL should appeal to drivers with more comfort and luxury in mind. Ride quality is excellent. Bumps, potholes and expansion joints are dismissed with a reassuring, almost Germanic thump that befits a luxury car with the TL's price tag. The 280-hp V6 is more than adequate for daily drives, and the steering, while lacking feel, offers plenty of assist to make parking easy.
Those with more sporting intentions should opt for the SH-AWD model, as it lives up to its "Super Handling" label with considerably more grip and control than the base car. The complex all-wheel-drive system directs more power to the outside wheels when cornering, while communicative and well-weighted steering delivers more confidence behind the wheel.