The Acura TL is an excellent car, and duly impressed my family when I chauffeured them to a Father’s Day dinner. The TL manages to blend impeccable comfort with enthusiastic performance. One moment, the TL is a subdued large sedan with a comfy ride, gentle transmission shifts, and slick styling. The next it’s a snarling sports sedan, with prodigious acceleration from its V-6, tight steering, and a transmission that’s eager to jump between ratios.
TLs equipped with the Technology Package have an ELS/Panasonic 440-watt, ten-speaker surround-sound system. It was developed with input from sound engineer Elliot Scheiner, who’s won six Grammy awards. I have won zero Grammys, but I think the ELS system is one of the best car-audio setups I’ve ever heard. From the deep bass of Tiesto, to the crisp vocals of Lauryn Hill, to string arrangements by Mark Ronson, every track I played from my iPod sounded fantastic.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Wow, what a difference a transmission can make. I feel that the six-speed automatic better suits the TL than does the six-speed manual we tested a few weeks ago. The TL is not as athletic as some of its competition (the Volvo S60 and the BMW 3 Series immediately come to mind), so the automatic seems more appropriate. This is really a car for those looking for a sporty sedan, not a true sports sedan.
Compared to the old five-speed automatic, the new six-speed makes the most of the TL’s great 3.7-liter V-6. It provides smoother shifts, slightly better fuel economy, and a better arrangement of ratios that help keep the engine within its power band. Along with the more-refined schnoz, it competes the package to make the TL the luxury sedan Acura has wanted it to be. In many ways, it is a more sporting alternative to the Lexus ES350, which is one of that brand’s top sellers.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The automatic transmission really changes the character of the Acura TL. It’s still a fine-driving, comfortable, feature-filled luxury sedan, but the automatic TL SH-AWD to me seems average, whereas the six-speed-manual car that we had a few weeks ago felt inspiring, invigorating, and special. The Advance package (as tested here), though, isn’t available with a stick shift and brings neat features like nineteen-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, and cooled seats, which were fantastic in the 95-degree weather.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
This is the third Acura TL that’s come through our office in the past couple of months. This particular model has Acura’s new 6-speed automatic and although it isn’t as entertaining as the 6-speed manual we had in the last TL, it’s super smooth and is quick to downshift when the throttle is mashed making highway passing effortless. Unfortunately, the new gearbox doesn’t exactly catapult the TL past its competition. When looked at side-by-side with the BMW 3-series, the Volvo S60, or the Cadillac CTS, the TL strikes me as mid-pack at best in terms of performance, refinement, and status and brings up the rear in the looks and sex appeal departments. Although this is a very good car, it lacks emotion and that intangible something that makes it more desirable that its competitors.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The six-speed manual transmission paired with SH-AWD makes the best TL for an enthusiast, but the six-speed automatic in this particular test car is much more important to the TL’s success in the marketplace. The six-speed auto finally replaces the five-speed that has been used in Acura and Honda cars for the past few years. Even though the five-speed automatic was a pretty good gearbox, today the market demands a minimum of six forward gears in automatic transmission — and there are even a surprising number of eight-speed automatics being offered this class already.
I appreciate Acura’s offering a manual transmission in the TL, but I was not nearly as enamored of it as my colleagues seem to be. Perhaps it felt a little out of place to me because I don’t really see Acura as a brand for enthusiasts. Keep making your cars heavier, cancel the development of your V-8 engine, unleash the ZDX on the world, and it’s no wonder enthusiasts are more interested in BMW, Audi, and Cadillac these days. Yes, BMW gets a pass for the X6 and the 5-series GT, because it also has the M division. But that brand is starting to tread on thin ice, too.
A traditional automatic (no fancy DSG or annoying CVT here) feels perfect in the TL. This is a car that doesn’t inspire owners to dream of track days or F1 heritage so much as it encourages comfortable freeway cruising and an occasional bout of spirited driving if the roads are empty and the owner’s mood is right. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As much as we enthusiasts all love manual transmissions, high-revving engines, and nailing an apex, there are a lot more people who just want a comfortable, reliable car with enough luxury amenities to feel special. That’s where Acura is these days.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Advance
Base price (with destination): $45,970
Price as tested: $45,970
3.7-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Vehicle stability assist
Tire pressure monitoring system
XM satellite radio
MP3/auxiliary audio input jack
USB audio interface
Heated front seats
Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
Auto-dimming reaview mirror
Power moonroof with tilt
Acura navigation system with voice recognition
Acura/ELS surround sound system with 10 speakers and AM/FM/DVD-A, CD, DTS Dolby Digital Pro Logic II
Hard disk drive
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Blind spot information system
Ventilated front seats
19-inch alloy wheels
Options on this vehicle:
— None —
Key options not on vehicle:
— None —
17 / 25 / 20 mpg
3.7L SOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Curb weight: 3962 lb
Wheels/tires:19 x 8.0-inch alloy wheels
P245/40R19 all-season tires