First Drive: 2012 Acura TL

Quick jaunts through curvaceous country roads, however, are best sampled behind the wheel of the TL SH-AWD. Acura's torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system continues to work wonders on the front-wheel-drive platform. In lieu of push, the car happily rotates into the sharpest of corners, all the while remaining planted. The 19-inch wheels incorporated into the Advance Package do provide extra grip, but slightly compromise ride quality over broken surfaces. The larger wheels also add some road noise, but thanks to extra insulation and improved body seals, the 2012 TL is notably quieter than the outgoing model.

Regardless of the driveline, we found Acura's new six-speed automatic a smooth, quick-shifting gearbox, which quickly responded to throttle inputs with an appropriate downshift without hunting for the proper gear. Over the extremely hilly terrain we sampled, we frequently opted for the automatic's sport-shift mode (which holds gears longer) or controlled shifts ourselves via the wheel-mounted paddles.

Response time when using the latter is decent, but for those looking for the ultimate in transmission control, there's no beating the slick shifting six-speed manual available on the SH-AWD. In true Honda fashion, its shift travel is smooth and short, although the clutch take-up remains somewhat numb.

The Price Just May Be Right
Will this spruced-up TL resonate with buyers? Acura's volume player might lack the sporting touch exhibited by some competitors -- namely the BMW 3-Series -- but considering the 2012 TL is still fun to drive, and is more refined and only $300 more expensive than the outgoing model, we expect it to be even more endearing to those seeking a luxurious sports sedan than ever before.

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