Let's just put this out there right away: The 2009-'11 Acura TL was ugly. From the side mirrors back, the TL was handsome, if a little reserved, but what chucked it square into the dark corner of any room was a glaring chrome beak and huge expanse of flat plastic on the butt.
Thank lackluster sales for the nose job and butt-lift you see here on the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD. When people don't buy your product (Acura sold only 34,000 in 2010 versus 71,000 in '06) dealers complain and when that happens, change happens fast -- nine months sooner than the planned refresh.
What has rarely been in question, though, is the handling of the TL SH-AWD. It's got 305 horsepower from a 3.7-liter V6, Acura's Super Handling all-wheel drive and the availability of a six-speed manual. By all accounts, that should be a combination that car guys can get behind. So now with styling by and for adults, we're revisiting the Acura TL SH-AWD's on-track performance to see if this is the TL we've been expecting for four years now.
Vehicle: 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD
Date Tested: 5-24-11
Driver: Mike Monticello
Drive Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed MANUAL
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 3,664/223
Redline (rpm): 6,700
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 305 @ 6,300
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 273 lb-ft @ 5,000
Steering System: Electric-assist speed-proportional rack-and-pinion power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent double wishbones, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 245/45R18 96V
Tire Size (rear): 245/45R18 96V
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Pilot MXMXM4
Tire Type: All-season
Wheel material (front/rear): Cast aluminum
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,842
0-30 (sec): 2.1 (2.4 with T/C on)
0-45 (sec): 3.7 (4.3 with T/C on)
0-60 (sec): 5.7 (6.3 with T/C on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 5.4 (6.0 with T/C on)
0-75 (sec): 8.3 (9.1 with T/C on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 14.0 @ 99.0 (14.5 @ 97.2 with T/C on)
30-0 (ft): 29
60-0 (ft): 120
Slalom (mph): 64.6 (63.8 with T/C ON)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.87 (0.79 with T/C on)
Db @ Idle: 41.3
Db @ Full Throttle: 77.6
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 62.4
RPM @ 70: 2,900
Acceleration: Tach bounces off an Acura-imposed launch rev limiter of 4,000 rpm with right foot to the floor. Drop-clutch launch produces some wheelspin (even with ESC on and all-wheel drive), more wheelspin coming again with the 1-2 shift. The manual gearbox has a light action for quick shifting, and the gates are easy to find. The clutch has a light effort, too, but isn't very positive.
Braking: Spongy pedal feel, and not very confidence-inspiring, but still stopped adequately; give some credit to the tires here. Significant nose drive, but the TL tracked straight and the distances stayed consistent.
Skid pad: With ESC off, I was busy with steering input, throttle input, etc to maintain a smooth arc and remain on the painted line -- all the while drifting in and out of understeer. Steering is light but precise. With ESC on, I simply locked my arms in place and it tracked the line as if it were tethered to a pole. Granted the throttle was partly closed.
Slalom: With ESC off, the TL turns in crisply, but takes quite a long time to transition back to the other side. To work around this, I'd lift/stab the throttle to promote rotation, but there's a limit to how much of this rally-style driving these all-season tires can handle -- and they grew progressively "greazy." Fun to keep trying, but I found diminishing returns. With ESC on, it kept the car more tidy, but slightly below true potential.