2012 Acura TL: Touring Luxury in a performance package
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
A quarter century ago, when cars were given alpha-numeric names that meant something rather than just being cool numbers and resonant letters, Acura launched the 1996 TL, which was short for “Touring Luxury.” Its 2.5 TL came with a 2.5-liter engine and replaced the Vigor in Acura’s line-up. The TL was also re-badged in Japan as the Honda Inspire until 2000, and as the Honda Saber until 2004.
Now in its fourth generation, the Acura TL has added new styling up front and in the rear, has revised the interior, improved performance, upgraded technology and has added a new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission for better fuel economy.
The new look for 2012 includes a refined appearance beginning with a redesigned front bumper that provides improved aerodynamics, a revised grille, updated headlights and turn signals, a new fog light design and a shorter front overhang. The TL's new lower front fascia openings are similar in design direction as those seen on the manufacturer’s popular SUV models and represent the current face of Acura.
At the rear, a new rear bumper incorporates a significantly repositioned license plate opening and much smaller rear reflectors, while updated taillights and a thinner rear trunk edge trim add to a sophisticated new look. Also adding to the exterior demeanor are new 17- and 18-inch aluminum wheels fitted with a revised center cap featuring a raised-style, chrome-plated Acura "A" mark.
Built on the same platform as the best-selling Honda Accord sedan, my test TL looked luxurious in Crystal Black Pearl mated to an Ebony Leather interior and weighed in at 3726 pounds. The mid-size TL measures 194 inches in length, 74 inches in width and 57.2 inches in height on a 109.3-inch wheelbase, with minimum ground clearance of 6.1 inches.
Exterior features include a power moonroof with tilt feature and auto-open/close with auto reverse and key-off operation, heated side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down and integrated directional signals, speed-sensing, variable intermittent windshield wipers, integrated dual-outlet exhaust, xenon high-intensity discharge (hid) headlights, fog lights, body-colored handles, driver’s and passenger's illuminated door handle recesses, rear window defroster with timer, acoustic glass front windshield, LED mirror-integrated directional signals, taillights, brake lights and center high-mount stop light and automatic dimming rearview mirror.
Under the hood, TL offers two powertrains. The TL gets the base 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 280 hp and 254 lbs-ft or torque, while the upper-line SH-AWD (SH is for Super handling) powers up with a 3.7-liter V-6 that thunders out 305 hp and 273 lbs-ft of torque.
The front engine, front-wheel-drive TL utilizes Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control for intake valves, a lightweight magnesium-alloy intake manifold with dual-stage induction system, updated cold-air intake system, high-flow sport-tuned exhaust system with dual outlets, drive-by-wire™ throttle system, computer-controlled Programmed Fuel Injection, direct ignition system and detonation/knock control system.
The system provides a smooth ride that handles quick turns well if you are a bit patient with the steering, and expresses itself well in passing. Speed tests showed a 6.6-second zero-to-60mph sprint and a quarter-mile of 15.1 seconds.
Fuel economy has improved from EPA ratings of 18/26 last year to 20/29 for 2012. A week of testing finished with a real average of 19.6mpg in mixed-use driving,
Inside, TL has upgraded with quality materials and state-of-the-art tech. The spacious cabin provides head room of 38.4 inches in front and 36.7 inches in row two, leg room of 42.5 and 36.2 and shoulder room of 58.2 and 56.2.
The cabin is outfitted with a plethora of features including dual-zone, dual-mode adaptive climate control system with humidity control and air filtration, rear-passenger ventilation controls, Acura 276-watt Premium Sound System with AM/FM tuner, 6-disc in-dash changer (CD, MP3, and WMA6 compatible), Dolby®5 Pro Logic® II and 8 speakers, including 8-inch subwoofer, XM® Radio4, USB7 Audio Interface with iPod®8 integration, Bluetooth®11 Audio and wireless hands-free telephone interface, Radio Data System, Speed-Sensitive Volume Control, sport seats with leather-trimmed interior, driver's 10-way power seat, including 2-way power lumbar support, front passenger's 8-way power seat, dual-level heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, LED backlit gauges with progressive illumination, Multi-Information Display, remote entry system with folding key and Acura personalized settings for driver's seat, side mirrors and select audio settings, steering wheel-mounted controls and cruise control.
Safety and security features include Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ body structure, Vehicle Stability Assist™ 12 with traction control, 4-wheel anti-lock braking system with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System, side curtain airbags with front and outboard rear seat coverage, front and rear impact-absorbing crumple zones, theft-deterrent system with electronic immobilizer and side-impact door beams.
The base TL, which I tested, starts at $35,605. The TL SH-AWD starts at $39,155 and moves in several packages to a base of $45,085 with an advance package. A rear decklid spoiler added $425; back-up sensors were $262 and the back-up sensors attachment was also $262; destination charges added $885 and my price as tested was $37,439, but tech packages, underbody spoilers and upgraded wheel could easily put the vehicle at $45,000.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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