2012 Acura TL Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2011

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2012 Acura TL Buying Advice

The 2012 Acura TL is the best car for you if you want fine value in a sporty premium sedan but had been soured on this one’s styling. 

The 2012 Acura TL gets subtle but effective cosmetic tucks that tone down its chrome-fang grille from bizarre to, well, not quite so bizarre. Detail changes to the tail make for a more sophisticated rump, too. And the automatic transmission steps toward modernity with addition of a sixth gear ratio. The result is less off-putting styling, better performance and fuel economy, and fewer excuses to leave this solid sedan off your shopping list.

Should you buy a 2012 Acura TL or wait for the 2013 Acura TL? Buy a 2012 TL. Its updates will see the TL through to a model-year 2014 redesign. The 2013 TL won’t change in any way worth waiting for. Buying a 2012 TL lets you enjoy the styling and features for an additional year before they begin to stale in the shadow of the all-new 2014 TL. And you’ll avoid getting saddled with the inevitable year-over-year price increase for a 2013 model that’s essentially no different than a 2012.  

2012 Acura TL Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Acura TL styling changes aim to address the critically panned front-end this car acquired with its model-year 2009 redesign. The 2012 TL’s grille still looks like an inverted-V polished metal blade. But now it’s better integrated into a revised fascia that also reduces the car’s front overhang, chopping 1.5 inches from its overall length. The effect is a lighter, less garish frontal appearance echoed by revisions to trunk, taillamps, and bumper that help the 2012 TL look wider and less angular from the rear. 

Overall, the 2012 TL remains just long enough, at 194.0 inches, to compete with midsize premium sedans such as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But its pricing remains more in line with compact premium cars, such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series. Also in league with compacts is its 109.3-inch wheelbase. That’s 4-5 inches briefer than the midsize norm and keeps rear-seat legroom a bit tight for the TL’s overall size. Otherwise, the 2012 TL’s cabin remains a delightful exercise in contemporary shapes, attractive instruments and control, and top-quality materials. Acura in fact upgrades some finishes for 2012, and adds available cooled front seats. 

The 2012 Acura TL lineup returns two fairly distinct models, each with expanded content grouped into base trim, an extra-cost Technology Package, and a new-for-2012 Advance Package. The differences are detailed below in the Mechanical and Features sections, but in brief, the core TL models have front-wheel drive and 280 horsepower and the SH-AWD models have all-wheel drive and 305 horsepower. Both models share such exterior cues as front fog lamps and dual exhaust outlets, with the SH-AWD distinguished by a small rear lip spoiler and larger, fancier wheels. It also has more prominent seat bolstering and upgraded upholstery.

Mechanical: The 2012 Acura TL finally pulls abreast of its competitive set by dumping a five-speed automatic transmission for one with six speeds. The additional gear ratio allows more efficient conduction of engine power during acceleration and lower rpm running at speed for more relaxed cruising and lower fuel consumption. In keeping with the TL’s sporty bent, the automatic again includes steering-wheel paddle shifters to facilitate manual-type gear control.

Acura is Honda’s premium brand and the TL continues based on the same structure as the lower priced Accord midsize sedan. It’s a sound foundation and the cost amortization helps explain why the TL is priced against compact-sized rivals. But it also defaults this car to front-wheel drive in a category in which virtually every top entry is based on a platform with the better handling balance of rear-wheel drive.

Indeed, the 2012 TL’s volume models contend with another trait of powerful front-wheel drive cars: torque steer. That’s the annoying sensation of the front end pulling to the side or the steering wheel wriggling to maintain a heading during rapid acceleration from low speeds. Otherwise, performance from their smooth 3.5-liter V-6 is exemplary. It’s rated at 280 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque and provides swift pickup and, aided by the new transmission, prompt highway-speed merging and passing response.

The 2012 TL SH-AWD models eliminate torque steer with an all-wheel-drive system that distributes engine power front-to-rear during acceleration. It also enhances traction in snowy conditions, but the system’s bigger advantage may be its “Super Handling” technology. This is its ability to sense the TL SH-AWD’s entry and progress through a turn and automatically shuffle power between the rear wheels during cornering. The effect is reduced noseplow in fast turns and a more than decent imitation of the handling feel provided by a genuine rear-wheel sports sedan. Good thing, because the 2012 TL SH-AWD models continue with a 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 305 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. They, too, get the new six-speed automatic transmission, but are also again available with a six-speed manual transmission.

All 2012 TLs come with the expected roster of active safety features, including four-wheel disc brakes with antilock capability for better control in emergency stops, plus antiskid stability control to reduce chances of sideways slides. SH-AWD models have performance-calibrated suspension and steering, as well as upgraded brakes.

Alloy wheels are again standard on all TLs, though the wheel designs change slightly for model-year 2012, and Acura fits new center caps displaying its chromed-plated “A” logo. Wheel and tire sizes are unchanged. Core TLs get 17-inchers, SH-AWD models come with 18s and lower-profile tires. Ordering the Advance Package brings the 18-inch wheels and tires to core TLs and gives SH-AWD models 19-inch wheels with tires that for model-year 2012 have all-season tread. SH-AWD TLs with 19-inch wheels previously used handling-optimized summer-tread tires that lacked the grip in snow, cold, and rain furnished by all-season tires.

Features: The 2012 TL hews to Acura’s value-added policy that equips every model with a range of comfort and convenience features for which some rivals charge extra. The perks start with standard leather upholstery and power heated front seats with memory. SH-AWD models have front buckets shaped for support in turns and upholstery with French seams and contrasting-color stitching.

Xenon headlamps, power moonroof, and heated mirrors are among standard features common to all models. So is Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity. The standard audio system is a 276-watt 8-speaker setup with USB iPod interface and an auxiliary jack. The steering wheel includes controls for Bluetooth, audio, and cruise functions.

Both the core TL and SH-AWD models are available with a Technology Package that includes a navigation system programmed via voice commands or a high-resolution 8-inch dashboard touchscreen; it furnishes real-time traffic and weather data. The Technology Package upgrades the cabin with perforated premium Milano leather and adds remote keyless access with pushbutton start. It also bumps the audio system to a 410-watt,10-speaker surround-sound unit with 15 gigabytes of hard disk music storage.

New for model-year 2012, the Advance Package is available on all TLs and includes the aforementioned wheel and tire combinations, plus cooled front seats and blind-spot detection that warns of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes.

2012 Acura TL Prices back to top

The 2012 Acura TL has a base-price range of $36,465-$45,945. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Acura’s destination fee for the 2011 TL is $860.)

Model-year 2012 prices for all competitors were not available in time for this review, but in general, similarly priced versions of rivals such as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 have less power and fewer standard features than this Acura, while midsize alternatives such as the Infiniti M and Audi A6 have similar power and features, but generally start around $46,000.

The 2012 Acura TL lineup begins with an entry model priced at $36,465. The 2012 TL is priced at $40,195 with the Technology Package and at $42,395 with the Advance Package.

Presence of the all-wheel-drive SH-AWD model on the TL roster gives Acura a foil for AWD versions of competing BMWs, Audis, Infinitis, even Cadillacs. AWD in fact is ordered on about 35 percent of cars sold in the near-luxury category. However, most manufacturers make it available on both the lower and higher priced trim levels, while Acura essentially makes AWD part of encompassing upgrades that essentially create a second tier within the TL line, the SH-AWD.

Equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD models start at $40,015. That rises to $43,745 with the Technology Package and to $45,945 with the Advance Package. The 2012 TL SH-AWD with the six-speed manual transmission comes with the Technology Package and is priced at $43,745.

Part of the Acura TL value story includes residual values and reliability ratings that are among the highest in the competitive set.

2012 Acura TL Fuel Economy back to top

Addition of the six-speed automatic transmission, along with some efficiency-enhancing internal engine tweaks, pays off in improved EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Acura TL.

With the 3.5-liter engine, 2012 TL rates 20/29 mpg city/highway. By comparison, 2011 models with the same engine but the five-speed automatic rated 18/26 mpg.

The gains are more modest for 2012 TL SH-AWD models and their 3.7-liter V-6. With the six-speed automatic, they’re rated at 18/26 mpg city/highway compared to 17/25 mpg for their five-speed-automatic 2011 counterparts.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD with the six-speed manual transmission are unchanged at 17/25 mpg.

2012 Acura TL Release Date back to top

The 2012 Acura TL went on sale in March 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Acura TL back to top

Being siblings under the skin has created similar timetables for redesigns of the Acura TL and Honda Accord. The Accord was last all-new for model year 2008, the TL for model-year 2009. A similar cadence seems in place now, with a redesigned Accord due for model-year 2013, followed by the all-new fifth-generation TL in model-year 2014.

With each redesign, the TL has diverged a little further from the Accord. The latest version targeted a sporty-luxury camp the Honda can’t reach and brought features such as AWD and the 3.7-liter engine that the Accord doesn’t offer.  

Industry scuttle has the redesigned 2013 Accord shrinking in size compared to its 2008-2012 generation. Whether the 2014 TL would follow suit is an open question. The current version’s wheelbase is already about an inch shorter than that of the concurrent Accord sedan, and Acura can’t afford to cede much more rear legroom to the midsize competition. Besides, it fields the smaller TSX as its entry in the compact-premium-car class.

But lighter weight for better fuel economy is probably one of Acura’s design mandates. The TL is not a notably heavy car for its size and specification, but less mass would allow Acura to fit smaller more fuel-efficient engines without sacrificing performance. A four-cylinder may not be in keeping with Acura’s upmarket brand image, but a turbocharged V-6 with less displacement than today’s 3.5- and 3.7-liter engines could well be. And Honda is hard at work on a gas-electric hybrid powertrain for cars of the TL’s size; the first to get it in fact will likely be the 2013 Accord. Employing lithium-ion batteries and possible plug-in technology, that sort of advanced green powertrain might be good for the image Acura wants for its next TL.

2012 Acura TL Competition back to top

Audi A4: A harbinger of the less-is-more trend, the A4’s model-year 2009 redesign brought an emphasis on small engines carefully matched to weight-conscious bodies. Indeed, the A4 is smaller outside than the TL, but has as much interior space and similarly lively performance via a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and, in its high-performance S4 versions, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. Front-drive is available on the base model, but the vast majority of A4s are sold with Audi’s fine quattro AWD. Understated sophistication is the byword for exterior styling and interior design, and driving manners are first-rate. Audi reliability ratings still trail those of Acura, though. Expect 2012 A4s sedans to start around $34,000 with the four-cylinder and around $48,500 for the S4. Wagon versions also are available with standard quattro and should start around $38,000.

BMW 3-Series: Expect BMW’s re-introduce four-cylinder engines to the 3-Series for the first time since the 1990s when redesigns its best-selling line for model-year 2013. Meantime, this family of sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons remains a benchmark for driver satisfaction. They’re smaller inside and out than the TL, but they define balanced rear-wheel-drive handling while also offering AWD as a snowy-road traction enhancer. Expect model-year 2012 powertrains to again span a 230-horsepower six to a 414-horse V-8, with a torque turbodiesel six thrown in for high-mileage grins. Pricing should start around $35,600 for base sedans that’ll seem Spartan against like-priced TLs. With power and equipment comparable to TL and TL SH-AWD models, 2012 3-Series prices should continue to track along about $5,000 higher per model. 

Infiniti G: Nissan’s premium division offers the M sedan as its midsize entry, but it’s priced from around $48,000. That leaves the smaller G lineup as the TL’s closest match. Sedans, coupes, and convertibles are on tap. All are based on a rear-wheel-drive platform designed to emphasize sporty handling; the sedan and coupe also are available with AWD. Expect the 2012 sedans to return as the G25 with a 218-horsepower 2.5-liter V-6 or as the G37 with a 328-horse 3.5-liter V-6. Both will again have a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the rear-drive G37 also should be available with a six-speed manual. The G sedans are as style-conscious in their own way as the TLs, with some attention-seeking curves and a cozy cabin. Handling is entertaining, power well matched, quality very good. Estimated base price for the 2012 G25 is $33,700 with rear drive, $36,700 with AWD. Figure the 2012 G37 sedans to start at $37,700 and $39,300, respectively.

2012 Acura TL Next Steps