2012 Acura TL AdvancePosted on September 28th, 2011
New model gets a refreshed exterior and fuel economy enhancements
By Nina Russin
The TL is one of three sedans Acura builds, positioned between the high luxury RL and smaller TSX sport sedan. The 2012 TL, revealed at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show is the third iteration of the model, which originally debuted in 2004. Designers refreshed the exterior with a new grille, front fascia and headlamps, a new rear bumper and revised tail lamps.
A new six-speed automatic transmission provides better fuel economy but adds some appealing performance characteristics as well. A double click downshift feature can drop up to two gears during aggressive driving. The feature formerly available only on the all-wheel drive model is now standard on the front-wheel drive TL as well.
This year, Acura offers two platforms: a 280-horsepower front-wheel drive sedan and the 305-horsepower all-wheel drive model. The test car is the front-wheel drive advance grade. The advance option package upgrades the standard 17-inch wheels to 18-inch rims, adds blind spot monitoring and ventilated front seats. A technology option includes hard-drive navigation with voice activated controls and a premium audio system. Navigation includes real time weather and traffic updates and rerouting.
MSRP is $41,535. An $885 delivery charge brings the price as tested to $42,420.
Test drive in Phoenix
My 100-mile test drive included a rural loop through the Indian reservation south of town, downtown Phoenix, area freeways and some suburban surface streets. Average fuel economy on the drive was 26.5 miles-per-gallon: three miles-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate. Since one day of driving involved about an hour of crawling through rush-hour traffic, I found this impressive.
The engine is surprisingly responsive. I say this because the engine doesn’t produce much noise, or much of an exhaust note unless the driver accelerates extremely hard.
Engineers achieved crisp throttle response through a combination of a high-revving, high compression block, electronic throttle controls (drive by wire), and the transmission’s ability to downshift two gears. This makes it easier for the driver to keep the engine in its sweet spot, for maximum torque and horsepower.
Formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable the drive to choose gears manually, which is an appealing feature on winding two-lane roads.
During normal driving, the new transmission is extremely fluid. The fuel economy gains are the result of engaging the torque converter clutch at lower engine speeds. The torque converter clutch changes the automatic transmission from a fluid to a friction coupling, reducing parasitic power loss.
The fully-independent suspension is on the firm side, but not annoyingly so. Some of the springiness comes from twin-tube, gas charged suspension dampers. Engineers utilized a compact double wishbone setup in front and multi-links in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
An electric power steering system saves room and weight under the hood. This variable assist system is well tuned to the car, with the equivalent performance to a traditional hydraulic setup. A 38.4-foot turning radius is pretty good, considering the TL’s 109.3-inch wheelbase.
Large ventilated disc brakes in front and solid rotors in the rear stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. The rearview camera which comes with the navigation package projects a wide angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs. Over-the-shoulder visibility is good to both right and left. In combination with blind sport monitoring, it is easy and safe to weave through dense freeway traffic.
Ergonomic safety and convenience features
The blind spot detection system illuminates symbols in the A pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The advantage of having the lights in the pillars versus side mirrors which other automakers use is twofold: first, the lights are equally visible on foggy and clear days and second, they are within the driver’s peripheral limits when his eyes are focused forward.
Not only does blind spot detection help drivers change lanes more safely; the technology in combination with the rearview camera makes maneuvering through parking lots less risky.
The hard-drive navigation system works quickly, with intuitive controls. Rerouting is extremely fast. The graphics on the center stack screen are easy to read. A large hood over the screen prevents images from getting washed out in bright sunlight.
A stylish interior with seating for up to five passengers includes the amenities luxury buyers demand, such as keyless entry and start, satellite radio, steering wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth interface and a premium audio system with MP3 and iPod compatibility.
Acura has a talent for ergonomics. The steering wheel is the right size, and the controls on it are intuitive to use. The mouse device which controls the optional navigation system works the same as a personal computer. If the driver prefers, he can use voice prompts.
White-on-black gauges are easy to read in bright sunlight or after dark. A digital display in the gauge cluster shows tire pressure readings, average fuel economy, ambient temperature, trip meter and odometer readings and range.
Controls on the center stack, which include the dual-zone climate settings, navigation, information screens and audio system are easy to reach from either front seating position.
Access and egress to the back seats is good despite the car’s large wheel wells. The TL has a tall floor tunnel, so two adults will be more comfortable than three in back on longer trips. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin. A fold-down armrest contains two large cupholders.
Storage areas throughout the cabin include map pockets in all four doors, a locking glovebox with a separate shelf for the owner’s manual, a covered center console bin, small covered bin at the base of the center stack, and numerous open bins. An overhead console with the moonroof controls has room for a garage door opener and sunglasses.
The moonroof brings an abundance of ambient light into the interior during the day. LED lamps over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night.
The spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, groceries and some small camping equipment. A small pass-through accommodates skis.
The Acura TL comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, daytime running lamps, four-channel antilock braking, traction and stability control, active front headrests and tire pressure monitoring.
Acura builds the TL in its Marysville, Ohio assembly plant.
Likes: A luxury sedan which appeals to driving enthusiasts with its responsive, fuel efficient engine and new six-speed transmission.
Dislike: The trunk pass-through is very small, limiting the TL’s cargo flexibility.
Model: TL Advance
Base price: $41,535
As tested: $42,420
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 254 lbs.-ft. @ 5000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway
One response to “2012 Acura TL Advance”
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