Acura's best-selling car, the TL, has endured its share of scorn since the latest generation model arrived in the 2009 model year. The 2012 Acura TL sedan fixes the TL's major issues with a new design and a six-speed automatic.
The mid-size Acura four-door debuts at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show and goes on sale later this year. The five-speed automatic transmission on the TL is gone; for 2012, all automatic-transmission TLs get a six-speed. In front-wheel-drive form, fuel economy is expected to improve from 18/26 mpg city/highway to 20/29 mpg, a noticeable boost.
Acura's 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 remain, but the automaker says that optimized gear ratios will make the cars slightly quicker. The new six-speed automatic will also allow double-kickdowns, for example, from fifth to third gear. The six-speed manual transmission is still an option for those who start with the 3.7-liter V-6 and Acura's "super-handling" all-wheel drive.
NVH levels have been improved on the 2012 TL but, for many, dynamics and luxury were never the glaring faults of the car. That dubious distinction goes to the awkward grille. The 2012 TL's stylistic enhancements go much farther than simply giving the car a new grille like the one you'll find on the refreshed TSX. There are plenty of new design details that may, finally, help Acura convince luxury car buyers that the TL is again worth consideration.
The 2009-2011 TL's aggressive styling may have been a little too bold for the market, suggests Jeff Conrad, Acura's vice president of sales, though we'd probably use a different word to describe it. Besides the new grille that's positioned lower on the body, the TL has revised fog light surrounds on the lower front fascia, which now has a character line connecting them.
The headlights have been updated, as well, and Acura says that the front overhang is now shorter. The 2012 model year also marks the introduction of new wheel styles for the 17- and 18-inch sizes while the SH-AWD's optional 19-inchers come with new P245/40R19 all-season tires.
From behind, the 2012 TL benefits from a number of small changes, starting with a new diffuser at the bottom of the rear bumper. The license plate area has moved upward a bit, and two new character lines break up the huge mass of bumper. Up close, owners of the 2009-2011 TL may notice that the taillights use red chrome instead of silver trim.
Better technology heads to the TL for the 2012 model year. The navigation system is now 60 gigabytes and map coverage is more expansive. The monitor is brighter and has richer colors than before, Acura says. The USB connection speed is faster, and new ventilated front seats are an option as part of the Advance Package. A new blind spot information system completes the interior changes on the TL, which is 3 decibels quieter at highway speeds.
Prices and release dates haven't been announced yet, but on paper, it appears Acura has addressed most of the major concerns we had about the 2011 TL. With the U.S. new car market slowly growing and the TL refreshed, Acura should have little problem increasing the sedan's sales in 2011.