All-wheel-drive Acura TL impresses
BY JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media February 1, 2012 3:28PM
2012 Acura TL SH-AWD
2012 ACURA TL SH-AWD
ENGINE: 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic with paddle shifters
FUEL ECONOMY: 18 city/26 highway
BASE PRICE: $45,085
AS TESTED: $45,970
The 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD is the automaker’s entry in the performance luxury sedan segment. That description of the segment is where the TL gets a bit foggy.
In some purist’s eyes, a true performance sedan has to be rear-wheel drive. Jaguar tried a front-wheel-drive-based all-wheel-drive X-Type sedan and failed. Chevrolet and Ford keep trying to push front-wheel-drive sedans as equal performance offerings. Even fiscally restrained police departments resist.
So who is Acura to claim that it can take Honda’s bread-and-butter Accord sedan platform and massage it into a performance sedan? Well, Acura did a pretty good job with what was available to make the TL SH-AWD a notable luxury sedan entry.
A standard Acura TL is a little lacking when pitted against the alpha wolves in the segment. The difference is the SH-AWD system. When you think of AWD systems, most people think of them as a way to battle rough Chicago winters. Acura’s engineers tuned the TL to mute front-wheel-drive torque steer via directing more torque to rear wheels at lower speeds and blasts from standing starts.
During testing, I detected only a brief instant of torque steer before the system kicked in. On my favorite on-ramp sweeper I could tell the system was compensating and providing some assistance to the rear wheels compared to non-AWD, front-wheel-drive cars I’ve tested. The power allowed me to increase speed while keeping the car composed and get into and ahead of traffic faster.
On typical commutes or around town jaunts, the ride is sufficiently dampened but not mushy. The brakes are stout and the p245/40R19 tires provided good grip. The TL is urban nimble in tight parking lots and can zip in and out of traffic effortlessly.
Acceleration in the SH-AWD version is provided via a 305-horsepower 3.7-liter SOHC 24-valve VTEC V-6 engine that has enough power to meet the segment’s demands. Lesser TLs get the standard Accord V-6; the bigger engine is the dealmaker. I liked the 3.7-liter torque and running it in the upper rpm range.
It was not super powered but it did come with a six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters. I used these to my enjoyment to manage the engine’s power. The shifts are quick and precise, and if you don’t flick the gears yourself the automatic still manages tight shifts to help wring out performance. If you really like shifting for yourself, Acura offers a six-speed manual.
Acura took some hits on the exterior nose styling and has addressed it for 2012. Overall the TL looks a bit subdued compared to some of the high-flying competitors from Cadillac or BMW.
My test car had a plush interior and the center stack was nicely designed, but the rest of the interior did not stand out or command with its design. Rear seat legroom was a little tight.
The TL was packed with technology in addition to the typical comfort and luxury features you would expect. Highlights of the TL included Acura’s excellent navigation system with rear camera, supportive sport seats, push-button start, GPS-linked dual-zone auto climate, security system, blind spot info system, ventilated seats and alloy wheels.
While rear-wheel drive is not the only way to go for a luxury performance sedan, it’s still the best. However, with the 2012 TL SH-AWD Acura makes the strongest argument for a front-drive-based luxury performance sedan.
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