2012 Acura TL. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Chris Chase
2012 Acura TL
It’s the automotive equivalent of an episode of What Not to Wear: Acura’s designers decided it was time to do something for its TL sedan, a competent car, and the brand’s volume seller behind the MDX crossover, but one that was dressed up all wrong and failing to earn the respect of luxury car buyers.
This car’s last full redesign, in 2009, gave it a face only a mother could love. The result was a resounding lack of love from premium car shoppers, who didn’t dig the slab-sided looks and silver beak of a grille. Sales bottomed out in 2010, so Acura decided that, for 2012, it would address the main reasons the TL was being passed over. The makeover, known as a mid-model change in the auto industry, does more for the car’s looks than the short list of alterations alone would suggest.
The most important change, of course, is the new grille, which is smaller and better integrated into the front fascia. While it’s less prominent, it retains a good measure of the distinctiveness the design team was going for in 2009.
2012 Acura TL (top) and 2011 model, for comparison. Click image to enlarge
Also new are the “waterlines,” or creases, in the front and rear bumper covers, and a black valance piece to the rear, all of which help reduce the visual height of the car when viewed straight on, front and rear. The overall result is a car that trades incongruousness for a big dollop of the classiness that many buyers in the luxury segment expect.
So confident was Acura in the TL’s mechanical make-up that they changed little about the car’s chassis and drive-train. In a segment where numbers (horsepower, gear ratios, and driven wheels) are also important, the old TL’s five-speed automatic transmission gave up at least one, if not two or three, gears to its competitors, so Acura has addressed this with a new, six-speed automatic shared with the MDX and ZDX crossovers.
Engine choices for 2012 remain the same as last year: base TLs use a 3.5-litre, 280-horsepower V6 that drives the car through the front wheels via that six-speed auto. The option is a 3.7-litre with 305 hp that is matched with Acura’s SH-AWD (all-wheel drive) system and can be ordered with the automatic or a six-speed manual carried over from 2011.
The old automatic was no slouch in its performance, (in spite of reliability troubles early on), so the main benefit of the extra gear comes in its positive effect on another increasingly important number in luxury cars, fuel economy. That, by the way, was another reason that TL rejectors went to other brands, so engineers found a few other ways to chip away at the car’s L/100 km figures.