First Look: 2012 Acura TL

First Look

Every now and then, a new car is launched that reminds me of another object. This is mainly due to the car being kind of ugly, or simply because the designers took a styling chance. In the case of the fourth generation Acura TL, that reminiscent object is a Schick Quattro razor. Since its major redesign in 2009, the TL has featured Acura's latest design language, called "Keen Edge Dynamic."

Say what you want about it, but Acura has my respect for at least trying something different, although it's nowhere near as close to being on par with the better-looking sport sedans currently on the market. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to like about the refreshed 2012 Acura TL. For this facelift, Acura has wisely chosen to tone down the much criticized front and rear end styling. The result is a smaller grille with more space between it and the headlights, adding some much-needed proportion to the front end.

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Designers also toned down the front air inlets and added some chrome trim. The rear end has been revised as well, specifically by smoothing out the trunk's lines. So yes, the exterior revisions are a good improvement, but it's what underneath the polarized sheetmetal that has always thrilled us. The 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque from the previous model returns, but engineers have managed to improve fuel economy through various aerodynamic changes, resulting in an additional two mpg city and three mpg highway.

They've also added a new intake system that brings in cold air from outside of the engine bay, enabling cooler temperatures to help the ECU improve engine timing that increases torque and efficiency. The result of these changes means the TL now makes 20/29 mpg city/highway. Another major change is the transmission. Acura has replaced the old five-speed auto with a brand-new six-speed automatic. Not only is there a solid improvement in shifting times, performance and the aforementioned fuel mileage, but Acura states that using something such as an eight-speed automatic wouldn't have been necessary.

The reason is that the new six-speed delivered the fuel numbers and performance they wanted and an eight-speed unit would have added considerable cost to buyers. For those looking to have Acura's "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" (SH-AWD) system, they will need to upgrade to the 3.7-liter V6. This engine also remains the same as before and it adds an additional 25 hp and roughly 242 pounds to the overall curb weight. While the SH-AWD system is a gem, we actually prefer the 3.5-liter because acceleration remains brisk, smooth, and powerful enough to satisfy most, with the new six-speed auto contributing significantly.

Another reason is pricing. Acura states the 2012 TL 3.5-liter starts at $35,605 and if you want the 3.7-liter, you'll have to throw down $39,155. We commend Acura for sticking with the six-speed manual option from before, however, it's only available with the 3.7-liter SH-AWD model with the Technology Pack. That combination costs - get ready for it - $42,885. Think about it, that's more than a $7,000 price increase (over the base trim) to have a manual. Remember the days when they came standard?

Inside, the TL retains the sweeping and sporty styling as before. Designers have done a few minor changes by swapping out the chrome accents on the dash and door panels and replaced them with soft plastics that look like carbon fiber. Standard features include a large center multifunction display/infotainment unit, an eight-speaker 276-watt audio system, XM Satellite Radio, and a USB port. The optional Technology Package adds premium leather seats, keyless starter, an 8-inch navigation system display, and an upgraded 10-speaker audio system.

Although the exterior styling is still not for everyone, the engines and interior easily make up for that, as Acura has done a commendable job softening the 2012 TL's lines. It now looks like an electric razor.

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