2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Advance HD Video Review


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Over the years, Acura’s TL has often been praised for many things.  I’ve enjoyed driving this car on winding backcountry roads and have found it’s a great way to meet interesting people.  That said, thanks for understanding my enthusiasm officer.  I appreciate getting off with just a warning.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

Generation Four, debuted as a 2009 model and its controversial silver shield grille quickly gathered nicknames such as plow, cowcatcher, beak, bionic beaver, and Jay Leno’s chin (if he were playing the Tin Man I imagine).  An equally angular backside gave TL a severe robotic look.  This car must have been gunning for a staring role in a Transformers movie.

Acura Listened

The 21012 model looks pretty much the same in profile but the front and rear ends are more subdued and integrated now. It’s not simply a new grill up front, the fascias are redesigned with better aerodynamics.  Headlamps and turn signals are updated, even the fog light design is new.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

The revised rear bumper design relocates the license plate, updates the taillights and slims down the frowning trim on the trunk edge. Body colored door handles, rear window trim and new wheels round out the exterior changes.  TL is now over an inch shorter because of the changes.

More Than Just Skin Deep

The other major change can’t be seen but it is appreciated. TL’s automatic transmission is a six-speed now.  To get a six-speed manual gearbox, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (which overspins the rear outside wheel during cornering) is mandatory.  Acura says the manual transmission package gets handling and steering improvements.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

Choose Your Engine

Order the SH-AWD and the more powerful of two powerplants will be found under the hood- a 3.7 liter V6 that pumps out 305 horsepower and 273 ft-lb of torque at 5,000 RPMs.  Its refined snarl is perfect for this class.  Order up the front-wheel drive TL and the engine is a 3.5-liter unit that makes 280 horsepower.

It may look a little different for 2012 but TLs performance mission remains the same.  Powerful off the line, 0-60 briskly spools up in around 6 seconds.  With SH-AWD there’s no hint of torque steer and the solid chassis feels like it’s carved from a huge ingot of steel.

The term “handles like it’s on rails” is over used.  Still, it applies to the TL.  Maybe it’s the AWD, maybe it’s the firm performance tuned suspension.  Whatever.  TL is great fun to carve up corners with. The front suspension is a double-wishbone independent setup, the rear is multi-link independent.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

Happy with your Lexus ES?  TL may not be for you since the ride quality is stiff in comparison.  I like to know what’s happening on the road and find it appropriately athletic. Acura engineers worked to keep road noise down, that’s appreciated.  Braking distances are a bit longer than expected for a sport sedan, I have to believe performance tires would help out considerably.

Fuel economy with SH-AWD and automatic tranny is EPA rated at 18 city, 26 highway.  Front-drive models are rated 20/29 MPG, which is 3 mpg better in highway driving over the 2011 model.  That’s decent for a performance sedan.  Let’s hear it for better aerodynamics and an extra gear in the box.

Advance Advantage

At $45,085 this fully loaded car with the new Advance package is a good value. Shop for an Audi A6 or Mercedes E-Class and you’ll find a similarly equipped vehicle easily costs $9,000 more.   2012 Acura TL SH-AWD  There are supportive heated and ventilated seats, phone and iPod integration, a new hard disc-based navigation system with 15 gigs devoted to music storage, backup camera and blind spot warning system in the side view mirrors.  As always, the 440-watt Acura/ELS Surround Premium Audio System rocks.  It continues to be one of my favorites.

The cabin itself gets some slight trim tweaks.  The very black cockpit is on the dark side, a sweeping ribbon of faux mesh trim divides and defines it.  As expected there’s the Honda knob interface and lots of buttons to learn.

LCD screens found inside Audi, BMW or Mercedes vehicles have rich graphics, and even though the main screen is improved, TL uses a plain font and boxy design that is more Honda in appearance than Acura.  The small monochrome display in the gauge cluster for the SH-AWD activity is practically first generation Atari.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

Overall though cabin materials look great.  The thick leather wrapped steering wheel feels terrific in hand and interior door releases no longer have a brittle plastic feel, something I’ve complained about with past Acuras.

Moving To The Back

In the backseat the outboard positions are quite comfortable.  There’s certainly enough room for my size 11s, 32 inch inseam and 5’9” frame.  You now have measurements for my Christmas gift.  I prefer Banana Republic.  There’s a center drive shaft to deal with, shorter passengers should sit in the middle due to its raised seat.

Both seatbacks get pockets, there’s storage in the door panels too.  No power port to charge the kids iPods though.  Also, seats don’t fold to expand the trunk, there’s only a ski pass through.  Hey, it’s all-wheel drive, it could actually be used.

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Putting The Fun In Functional

Every so often I like to remind people why I do the Costco TP Trunk Test (which is a registered trademark.  OK, not really).  Do you put cubic feet in your trunk?  Probably not.  Trunks are for grocery bags and rollaway suitcases.  A bundle of Kirkland Bath Tissue is about the same size as standard luggage but inherently funnier.  Most importantly it’s a constant metric.

In TLs case it underscores that lots of undulations and goose-neck hinge arms effectively make the space less useful for medium size parcels. In the end (pun fully intended) TL scores a snug six in the TP trunk test.  For comparison, a Honda Accord holds eight packs.  Also, TL rides the trend of no spare tire.

One more thing, I don’t buy all this TP, I borrow it from the fine folks at Warehouse #1 in the SODO district of Seattle.  I’ve had a number of people ask what I do with it when I’m done.  I don’t care what your diet is, you’re not going to go through this much bath tissue.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD

Summing up, the refreshed 2012 TL is immensely fun to pilot, less intense to look at.  Always a good combination.  The difference between the new nose and outgoing design may not look dramatic in photos but in person it’s definitely noticeable.  A 2010 model owner parked next to me at the grocery store and she could definitely tell. Looking the 2012 car over she was ambivalent to the redesign but then again she had the front end of hers modified with a little body color paint to soften the big silver schnoz.

While I personally prefer the sleeker lines of Generation Three, the new face and tail are welcomed.  Those who like to drive should nose around an Acura store for a test drive.

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7 Comments

  1. luvincarsindaburgh says:

    That is one sweet ride. I was really turned off by the “Bionic Beak” of last years overhaul. I really loved the clean lines the previous models had. This years is much nicer looking. Thank you Acura!

  2. SB9T says:

    come to NY and i’ll be part of your staff! lol

  3. maximus says:

    Loved the drumroll before the front-end reveal. I am a bit confused on the manual transmission availability, most brands make it part of their base cars, yet Acura makes you shell out top dollar n trim just to have a manual….don’t get the logic there…

  4. GusGT says:

    I like everything but…(bongo drum roll please) the beak. The bionic portion may be gone but the nose still looks odd. What’s with the engine compartment? Are other car makers doing this? The framing of this area sure offers a clean look, like a piece of art. Am I suppose to feel like the engine sculpture is something to behold? TV, your Kirkland TP test can’t be beat to show trunk usability!

  5. spidey1968 says:

    Another great review Tom. The changes Acura has made to the 2012 TL should be more welcoming to most Americans. Is it possible for you to do a head to head comparison with one of its American competitors (Lincoln MKZ or Cadillac CTS)? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

    • TV says:

      I don’t do head to head comparisons since I don’t have enough writers on staff to do that kind of thing the right way. Oh wait, i don’t have a staff of any kind. While I’m OK with the MKZ it doesn’t really compete with the TL. CTS on the other hand does. Personally, I’d have a tough time choosing, the Caddy is a clear winner in design for me though.