First Look: 2012 Acura TL

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.

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I like it a lot. I never disliked the first "beak" but the front on this new one looks great. And the rear looks much more unobtrusive than before.

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