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2012 Acura TL
New nose is good news
By Malcolm Gunn
Staying a step or two ahead of the competition can be a risky move, especially if you manufacture cars for a living. Sign off on a decidedly different design and the distance between success and failure can be just a nip, tuck, or crease away.
Take the TL, for example. Acura's sporty sedan has always ranked high with buyers for its combination of spaciousness, styling and performance, all at an attractive price point. However, the car's 2009-model-year makeover for the upscale-Honda-division's top-selling sedan garnered less-than-favorable reviews, particularly for the oddly shaped shield-like grille and a bumper that resembled a ship's prow.
So, for the 2012 model year, the stylists have taken a scalpel to that bit of frontal daring-do and also completed numerous other modifications throughout the vehicle.
The new nose is a case of less is more. It's undeniably more attractive and aerodynamic (by 5.4 per cent, claims Acura) and seems more in sync with the rest of the sheetmetal. The graceful new grille has shed its tacked-on look and the twin chrome-ringed air intakes containing auxiliary fog and turn-signal lights are set beneath a more aerodynamic bumper. In total, the surgical procedure was subtle, but significant enough to bring the TL back into the mainstream.
In behind, there's a new bumper with built-in reflectors along with fresh taillights, trunk-lid trim and exhaust outlets.
The rest of the TL's physical presence remains pretty much static, save for a new selection of standard and optional multi-spoke wheels.
Further refinements can be found inside the passenger area with upgraded trim, available ventilated front seats and an optional voice-recognition sound system that can store up to 3,500 songs on a 15-gigabyte hard drive. As well, the cabin has been made quieter, thanks to improved door seals and added insulation.
Continuing on is the base 280-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 (which sports new friction-reducing pistons for 2012) and the optional 305-horsepower 3.7-litre V6.
However, Acura has swapped out the previous standard five-speed automatic transmission for a six-speed. The name of the game here is fuel economy and Acura reports that the 3.5 is now rated at 10.4 l/100 km in the city and 6.8 on the highway, which is an improvement from 11.6 and 7.5, respectively. Meanwhile, the 3.7-litre V6 that's mandatory with the all-wheel-drive models is rated at 11.4/7.6.
A six-speed manual gearbox-is offered exclusively with the 3.7, but it's actually the least fuel-efficient of the group, although by far the most fun to drive.
As usual, the TL, even in base form, arrives as a well-turned-out vehicle, but there are a number of significant extra-cost features on the menu. The Technology Package includes a navigation system with traffic and weather updates, 440-watt ELS-brand sound system, premium leather-covered seats and keyless push-button start. In addition, a new Elite Package adds ventilated front seats, upgraded wheels and a Blind Spot Information system that advises the driver when another vehicle is closing in on the TL from either side.
On the road, the TL, which starts at about $41,400 including destination charges, rides and drives pretty much like the previous edition and exhibits the same excellent road manners and interior refinement that has made it such a popular choice over the years. Now with a host of subtle, but significant, improvements in design and content, the TL will no doubt have broader appeal.
What you should know: 2012 Acura TL
Type: Four-door front- /all-wheel-drive entry-luxury sedan
Engines (hp): 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (280); 3.7-litre DOHC V6 (305)
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic; six-speed manual (opt. on 3.7)
Market position: Among the crop of luxury-oriented sedans, the TL's distinguished reputation for providing a wealth of standard equipment at a relatively down-to-earth price helps it attract a loyal and enthusiastic following.
Points: Improved appearance better reflects brand's sophisticated image; TL acts like a rear-wheel-drive car despite its standard front-wheel-drivetrain; AWD model loves the tight turns; High time to add a TL coupe to the fleet; Fuel-economy gains from the new six-speed automatic transmission most welcome; Attractive base price.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 10.4/6.8 (3.5)
Base price (incl. destination): $41,400
Cadillac CTS sedan
Base price: $38,600
Good-looking car has put Caddy back on the map. 556-hp CTS-V impresses.
Base price: $40,000
Ford Fusion-based model offers AWD plus very thrifty hybrid version.
Lexus ES 350
Base price: $43,000
Lots of standard content fitted on ES, along with an arms-length option list.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted May 25, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM