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July 27, 2011

News & Features

Auto Review: Acura's top car gets better

The Associated Press

072811Behind-The-Wheel-2012_Kenn_604x372.jpg

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Acura's best-selling car, the mid-size TL sedan, is revised for 2012 with a new, modern transmission, interior upgrades and a toned-down grille design and rear end that give a more attractive look.

Added to a lengthy list of standard features that include a power moonroof, 10-way power adjustable driver seat and eight-way power adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone, automatic climate control and eight-speaker stereo with XM satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity, the changes make the TL more competitive than before.

And the TL already was a "recommended buy" of Consumer Reports magazine.
Just remember that while the TL is described as a five-passenger sedan, the middle person in the back seat has to sit way up on a raised cushion, so even someone 5 feet 4 gets her head pushed up into the ceiling. Four people in this car do much better than five.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2012 TL sedan is $36,490 with automatic transmission, 280-horsepower V-6 and all those standard features.

This compares with the $36,775 starting retail price for a 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 sedan with automatic transmission, 228-horsepower V-6, but no moon- or sunroof. The 2011 Hyundai Genesis sedan with automatic transmission, 290-horsepower V-6 and no sunroof has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $33,800.

The uplevel TL comes with all-wheel drive and gets Acura's largest, most powerful V-6 offering 305 horses, too. Starting sticker price for this 2012 TL is $40,040. In comparison, all-wheel drive can be added to the base Mercedes C300 with 228 horsepower for an additional $2,000. Hyundai's Genesis does not offer all-wheel drive.

The TL has Acura's own Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive that not only shifts power to both front and rear axles when slippery road conditions require. The system can apportion power to the left- and right-side wheels, thus ensuring precise, stable cornering.

Slotted between the entry Acura TSX sedan and the full-size Acura RL sedan, the mid-size TL posted sales of 15,414 in the first six months of this year. The only Acura with more sales is the MDX sport utility vehicle with sales of 22,195.

2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Advance
  • BASE PRICE: $35,605 for base model; $39,155 for TL with SH-AWD; $39,335 for TL with Technology Package; $41,535 for TL with Advance Package; $42,885 for TL SH-AWD with Technology Package; $45,085 for SH-AWD with Advance Package.
  • AS TESTED: $45,970.
  • TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, mid-size sedan.
  • ENGINE: 3.7-liter, single overhead cam, V-6 with VTEC.
  • MILEAGE: 18 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway).
  • TOP SPEED: NA.
  • LENGTH: 194 inches.
  • WHEELBASE: 109.3 inches.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,889 pounds.
  • BUILT AT: Marysville, Ohio.
  • OPTIONS: None.
  • DESTINATION CHARGE: $885.

The TL is an interesting alternative to European-branded luxury sedans because it mixes technology features in the interior with surprising ease.

While some drivers of a BMW 3-Series blanche at having to figure out the car's complicated iDrive menu to check car settings or find fuel mileage statistics, the information is much more readily available in the TL.

In fact, even the presets for the radio were easy to figure out in the TL, since real buttons labeled 1 through 6 are there below the radio screen, while in some other cars, these presets have to be located via a digital screen.

I liked that I could easily find the day's weather on a screen in the TL, and it didn't take me five steps to pull it up. And, via the optional navigation system database, I could access a restaurant via its Zagat listing in the TL.

In this summer's blistering heat, I appreciated the TL's fast-working air conditioning. The tester's Advance Package added fans below the front seat cushions that moved air in that area to keep me cool and refreshed.

Attractive, saddle-colored leather on the test car seats was pliable and believably leather, not something that could be confused with high-grade vinyl. Seats had both support and a bit of cushion for comfortable use. But I wish I sat up higher in the TL. My passengers and I looked up at people in a Toyota Corolla in the lane next to us.

The test TL rode quietly much of the time, with only road noise from the 18-inch tires coming in.

But the 3.7-liter, single overhead cam V-6 came on strongly in power and in confident, almost growling sounds when the accelerator went firmly down. Torque peaks at 273 foot-pounds at 5,000 rpm, providing ample power for my needs in city and highway traffic.

In fact, a passenger asked if the car was turbocharged, because the "oomph" came on with force when I had the TL in "sport" mode. There were paddle shifters, too, on the steering wheel for added sporty feel.

In comparison, the 2011 Genesis sedan with V-6 generates 264 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm, while the base C300 tops out at 221 foot-pounds.

Fuel mileage in the TL wasn't great. I averaged 20.1 miles a gallon in 50-50 city/highway travel. The federal government fuel mileage rating for this version of TL is 18/26 mpg. And, the TL requires premium gasoline, so a fillup of the car's 18.5-gallon tank can cost upwards of $72 these days.

Passengers in the tester felt road bumps nearly all the time. Even patched road pavement was enough to jiggle bodies in this sporty-luxury sedan.

There are places where the TL seems a bit cheap. There is no power up or power down for the rear windows and no power-closing trunk lid. The material that covers the inside of the trunk looks like it could have come from a much lower-priced car.

And I was surprised at how high I had to lift items to get them over the test car's rear bumper and body to get them into the 12.5-cubic-foot trunk.

Still, I liked the attention to detail. The textured ceiling material looked good, with no puckers. Every body gap was well aligned. The two-shelf glovebox was nicely finished inside with sound-deadening material.

All safety features, including curtain air bags, stability control and traction control are standard.

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