2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: Introduction
When the third-generation Acura TL was initially unveiled to the press and buying public, much ado was made about the bold new styling direction emphasized by the tall, oversized front grille that many soon started to call its “beak.” Sadly, few people noticed the incredible improvement in driving dynamics found mainly in the all-new version with the SH-AWD system which transformed the TL into a true sports sedan.
Well, if the only reason you were avoiding the purchase of a TL was the old styling, now you are out of excuses because with the redesign of the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD will not only become one of the most fun-to-drive V-6 luxury sedans on the market but it will also be one of the best looking. The look has gone from somewhat startling to sexy.
The “beak” is gone and in its place is a demure and classy chrome shield and in conjunction with a reshaping of the trunk angle resulting in subtly refined styling that is still sufficiently bold looking to stand out from other luxury sedans. For 2012, the TL also boasts other refinements like an all-new six-speed automatic, upgraded interior chrome door handles and still more splashes of chrome in the interior.
Also, the 2012 Acura TL remains one of the few foreign brand luxury cars actually designed and built mainly in the U.S.A—namely at Acura’s plant in Marysville, Ohio. We can even name a few “domestic” luxury cars that come mainly from Canada and Mexico but we don’t want to be responsible for anyone with a “Buy American” bumper sticker on their car to have an accident after their head explodes.
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: Exterior
For the 2012 model year, Acura decided to make changes to aspects of the exterior that were the most controversial like the very noticeable new front grille and in doing so lowered the height of the frontal area of the vehicle by a couple inches. The grille also doesn’t extend as far over the hood of the car and in conjunction with aerodynamic tweaks underneath the car, the TL now moves even more smoothly through the air at less-than-legal speeds. Not that the TL SH-AWD would encourage such behavior. Oh wait, it does so far too easily but you can read more about that later.
For the trivia buffs, the headlamp lenses are also now smoked in order to give an angrier and more menacing overall look to the TL’s “eyes.” Hey, someone at Acura said that at the press launch so don’t get mad at us for saying the 2012 Acura TL looks like it may erupt into road rage at the slightest provocation.
Out at the back of the car, 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 large chrome “V” that was also rather controversial on the 2009 version is smaller. The overall effect is a much classier looking and less “in your face” caboose for the 2012 Acura TL. Kim Kardashian could learn a thing or two from the new 2012 TL as sometimes less truly is more.
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 carryover. But the 19-inch alloy wheel found on our SH-AWD tester needed no help in the “coolness” department so it was a wise move there for Acura. Lastly, there is now a new all-season Goodyear tire as standard on the 19-inch wheel that greatly improves traction in winter weather. So while the 2012 Acura TL may not be “all-new,” the changes went a whole lot further than just a smaller grille.
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: Interior
If it wasn’t broke then don’t fix it was obviously the thinking at Acura when it came to the interior of the 2012 TL. This midsize luxury sedan has one of the most stylish, well-built and ergonomically pleasing interiors in its class and the quality of leather and plastics is top notch. We love the dash center mounted knob that allows drivers to make inputs to the navigation, audio and other electronic systems without ever having to take their eyes off of the road.
Rear seat legroom may not set the industry standard for stretching out but isn’t that what duffers like the Hyundai Equus are for?
Still, there is plenty of space for two full size adults to ride comfortably for long distances in back. But the primo perches are definitely up front in the SH-AWD’s supportive and gorgeously stylish sport seats. We have driven our fair share of TL models in our day over many, many miles and never have we ever developed a backache. Cargo volume in the trunk is 12.5 cubic feet which is impressive given the radical design of the TL’s backside.
To get into the changes, the carpets and floormats on all TL’s are now all black and there is now a unique “phone” button to the center stack so drivers can more easily 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 more of your Glee and Lady GaGa collection and the screen now features a more high tech LED backlit display.
Also, on Advance Package models like the model we tested, owners can enjoy the all-season benefits of heated/cooled front seats for the first time. Having tested many a “cooled” leather seating systems in our day, we think Acura has one of the best as the cooling function never makes you feel like you drank too much Diet Coke and had an accident. (Note: That last statement was directed at Ford whose ventilated seats can make you think you wet your pants.) The top of the line 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Advance Package also comes with a very handy blind-spot warning system and is priced at $45,970 (including destination).
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: Driving Impressions and Safety
The biggest mechanical change to the 2012 Acura TL is the addition of a six-speed automatic (replacing last year’s five-speed unit) and thanks to paddle mounted shifters and near instantaneous shift times, the TL really is cut out to be any driving enthusiast’s back road corner carving toy. The harmonious interplay of the engine and transmission positively cry out to the driver to push the car harder and faster.
With the extra gear, those aerodynamic tweaks and other top secret Acura engineering tricks, the TL saw its EPA fuel economy improve 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 rose to 18 city/26 highway.
Over the course of a week we averaged 23.2 miles per gallon on premium unleaded which is rather healthy considering the manner in which we drove the car. Which is to say not very slowly. Thankfully the 2012 Acura TL comes with a nicely sized 18.5 gallon fuel tank so cruising distances conveniently are long no matter how you drive. Just be careful, with its meaty and precise steering feel and the throaty roar of its 3.7 liter naturally aspirated VTEC engine as it approaches redline, sticking to the speed limit in the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD is a tricky endeavor.
Making things worse is the SH-AWD system itself which not only affords the driver tremendous traction in wet and icy weather but thanks to an ability to transfer any amount of power across the rear axle it also helps the 2012 TL handle corners like no front drive luxury sedan before it. Or any all-wheel drive Audi for that matter. Simply put, the SH-AWD system is like having a thousand tiny little geckos attached to each tire, so secure will you feel at cornering speeds you ordinarily would dare not try under sane or sober conditions.
Although the 2012 Acura TL hasn’t yet been named an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) “Top Safety Pick” for 2012 yet, this is not because of any failing with the vehicle’s design. Quite the contrary, as Acura products routinely score perfectly (or as perfect as you can do in any crash) in these sorts of tests. Apparently the IIHS just still hadn’t tested the roof strength of the TL at the time of this publication but if you want to check again the results should be available by now at iihs.org.
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD: Conclusion
As of late, some have claimed that Acura has lost its sporting heritage in the quest for greater sales of SUVs and high profit luxury models, but the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD will prove with one test drive that this just isn’t the case. Not only is it still available with an excellent six-speed manual transmission, but it manages to be relentlessly lithe on its feet and entertaining even with the new six-speed automatic. It truly handles and drives better than any Acura sedan that has come before it.
Add in the fact that the TL SH-AWD starts at just under $40,000 and you have the makings of one of the performance luxury bargains of the year. The new styling revisions just uncovered the glimmering jewel that lie beneath the controversial styling elements from the first iteration of the latest generation. The 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD is the type of luxury sport sedan that you could drive for years and never long for anything more. It is that complete of a car. We were truly sad to see it go. And boy did it go fast.