Acura is currently in the midst of celebrating its 25thanniversary and what better way to do so then by refining their most fun to drive model, the TL sport sedan? They may no longer call their luxury sport sedan “Legend” but the TL is truly “Legend-ary” in regards to its driving dynamics most especially in SH-AWD trim.
When the 2009 Acura TL debuted, there was a tremendous amount of discussion about how it looked so “different.” It’s oddly shaped, elongated beak inspired derision on many an internet discussion board where uniqueness is considered a negative. As for me, I liked the looks of the TL even before its very successful 2012 reinvention that has seen a toning down of its signature “beak” and angular tail end that resulted in a car that is an inch and half shorter.
I had the good fortune of attending the press launch for the 2012 Acura TL in Austin, Texas and I have to say that the overall look now is more cohesive. It looks lower, sportier and a touch more aggressive. So to Acura’s designers I say kudos, for you have taken what was already an excellent car and made it all the better from a visual perspective. Acura’s dealer network should have no trouble shifting the planned 40,000 units a year.
So place your order now because this sexy yet still very unique looking sport sedan goes on sale March 18th. But if you want to know exactly what is newly “refined” for 2012, keep reading for more about what’s new and details about what exactly happened when I was attacked by a Texas sized pothole.
The Changes for 2012
Quite obviously, Acura focused the majority of their attention on styling changes like the very noticeable new front grille which lowered the height of the frontal area of the vehicle. The grille also doesn’t extend as far over the hood of the car and in conjunction with aerodynamic tweaks underneath the car, this all improves how easily the TL moves through the air at speed. The headlamp lenses are also now smoked for an angrier and menacing overall look to the TL’s “eyes.”
At the back, the license plate is mounted higher and the rear bumper is smaller to make room for a rear diffuser garnish. There is also a new tail-lamp color and the chrome “V” that was also rather controversial on the 2009 version is smaller. The overall effect is a much more cohesive looking caboose for the 2012 Acura TL.
Acura also took the opportunity of the 2012 model year to introduce new 17 and 18-inch wheel designs whereas the 19-inch wheel that comes with the SH-AWD is still the same. I am thankful on that last note as I think the SH-AWD’s 19-inch wheel is one of the best designs in Acura’s alloy wheel arsenal. But for those who live in snow-belt states, take heart, as there is now a new all-season Goodyear tire as standard on the 19-inch wheel that greatly improves traction in winter weather.
The inside of the TL wasn’t left alone for 2012 with a smattering of “platinum” plating adorning and dressing up various controls and interior fitments. The inner door handles also are all-new with a nice luxury look and heft to them. I am a sucker for nice door handles and these definitely fit the bill so much so that one might even call them Audi-like.
The carpets and floormats on all TL’s are now black and they added a “phone” button to the center stack so drivers can more quickly access their phonebook information from their cell phone via the center screen. The hard drive is now 60 GB so it should be able to store your entire music collection and it features an LED backlit display.
Also, on Advance Package models owners can enjoy the all-season benefits of heated/cooled front seats for the first time. Having tested many a “cooled” leather seat I have to say that the Acura TL’s is the best I have experienced with none of the “I just wet my pants” sensation you get from rival systems. Overall, the 2012 Acura TL is better than ever. And it was pretty great to begin with.
That Texas Pothole
The biggest mechanical change to the 2012 Acura TL is the addition of a six-speed automatic (replacing last year’s five-speed unit) that adds to the sporty flavor of this adept corner carving luxury machine. It also helps with those aerodynamic tweaks to improve fuel economy to 20 city/29 highway for front drive models with the 3.5 liter 280 horsepower/254 lb. feet of torque 6-cylinder engine. Fuel economy readings for SH-AWD automatic models with the 3.7 liter 305 horsepower/273 lb. feet of torque V6 rise to 18 city/26 highway.
In fact, during the test drive portion of the press launch I found myself so hypnotized by the quick shifting nature of the transmission that I missed a giant pothole looming right in front of me as I hit the apex of one of the twistier corners of an Austin, Texas hill country two lane road. Even the SH-AWD system couldn’t save me from this epically humongous Texas pothole that came out of nowhere to gobble up one of those new 19-inch Goodyear all-season tires. Oops.
My driving partner and I hit the pothole so hard in our SH-AWD tester that the right front tire unfortunately became the victim of this whole event by slowly losing air pressure as we continued driving. Let me say right now that Acura’s excellent tire pressure monitoring system kept me aware of what was going on the entire time and kept me from having a dangerous blowout. So I may have inadvertently tested Acura’s tire pressure warning system but let me tell you, it works. It really, really works.
After being rescued by Acura’s PR team, we set out again in a front wheel drive TL which proved to be plenty of fun to drive. I do have to say, however, that really aggressive drivers will always prefer the handling characteristics of the SH-AWD model. Its torque vectoring system not only improves handling in inclement weather but also helps the car hug the road as you accelerate out of a corner.
The 2012 Acura TL was designed, engineered and is built in Ohio so what better car, then, to help usher in the 25thanniversary celebration of this first ever Japanese luxury car brand in the United States? Acura remains unique in the luxury car market in 2011 as it offers more value for money than any of its direct competition from Lexus, Infiniti, BMW or Audi. Just check out the prices at the bottom of this article for the proof.
I also say that after this experience with a pothole as big as the entire state of Texas that it is a testament to Acura’s choice in tire that the rubber wasn’t immediately shredded from the impact. In fact, the 19-inch alloy wheel also came away from the experience miraculously unscathed. Not even a scratch. Seriously, you should have seen that pothole.
2012 Acura TL: $35,155
With Technology Package: $39,355
With Advance Package: $41,353
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: $39,155
With Technology Package: $42,855
With Advance Package: $45,085