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2012 Acura TL SH-AWD - First Drive

A surprisingly sporty package in an awkwardly styled exterior.

Peter Tarach
Jun 28, 2011
Modp 1107 01+2012 acura tl sh awd+cover Photo 1/5   |   2012 Acura TL SH-AWD - First Drive

Los Angeles to San Francisco, then back to LA. Then LA to Vegas and back again, all in the span of three days with four people and our luggage. We logged a grand total of 1,338 miles in a ’12 Acura TL.

My friends from eastern Canada decided they were going to come visit me, but instead of just flying into LA, they thought they could see a good chunk of California if their trip started out in San Francisco. So the plan was made for me to meet them in SF and drive along the infamous Pacific Coast Highway coastline back to LA. Then for good measure, we tacked on a trip to Las Vegas because there’s no better place to get into trouble without really getting into trouble than Las Vegas.

I needed a car that would be comfortable for long highway drives but provide enough thrilling performance to carve corners on the twisty roads of PCH. However, it would need to be big enough to fit four people and a good amount of luggage. Normally, I would’ve looked past a car like the Acura TL, but after a lunch meeting with the PR folks at Acura, I was convinced it was perfect for the job (and even optimistic about the TL’s inherently sporty qualities).

Modp 1107 02+2012 acura tl sh awd+interior Photo 2/5   |   2012 Acura TL SH-AWD - First Drive

Upon arrival, the TL didn’t make a good first impression. That front nose, or should I call it a beak, stands out so profusely that it’s hard to look past and notice the rest of the silhouette, which is fairly good-looking. I personally liked the styling of past generations of TLs and I can’t help but think Acura is headed in the wrong direction with its current styling cues.

It’s really a shame because beneath the exterior is a great package. The interior layout, feel and quality are all top-notch. The center instrument cluster, including the SAT-NAV system, doesn’t take long to get familiar with and the buttons are all placed in the right spots. Riding in the back seat of the car proved quite comfortable as well. I rarely have the chance to test out rear seat space and comfort since I’m usually driving solo, but with four of us in the car almost all the time, I had some good back seat time and never felt cramped or uncomfortable.

Modp 1107 03+2012 acura tl sh awd+engine Photo 3/5   |   2012 Acura TL SH-AWD - First Drive

Power is delivered from a 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 hp on tap, paired to a 6-speed manual transmission with Acura’s exclusive Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. The SH-AWD was thoroughly tested during the many miles of our drive down PCH, and I couldn’t believe how aggressive the TL was at tackling the turns. Credit has to be given to a superb AWD system that you can feel working in tight corners as power is transferred to the outside wheels, effectively rotating the car and sucking it through the turns. None of us were expecting such a well-balanced and sporty ride from this luxury sedan, especially in the tight corners. We actually had to stop several times because the back seat passengers were getting dizzy from the constant lateral forces exhibited by the TL.

The V-6 is well matched to the chassis and weight of the car, providing plenty of grunt, even with a trunk full of gear and four bodies in it — the engine was always eager to go. The 6-speed manual transmission was one of my favorite traits in this car. It felt smooth and crisp with a perfectly matched gear ratio. An optional sequential sport shift 6-speed automatic transmission is available on the TL and promises to provide a sporty experience with rpm rev-matching and double-gear downshifts, but I still say you can’t beat a manual, especially such a good one as found in this car.

Modp 1107 04+2012 acura tl sh awd+dash Photo 4/5   |   The center instrument cluster, including the NAV system, doesn’t take long to get familiar with.

As my four-day road trip wrapped up, I couldn’t help but take a better liking to the TL than I first did. Its big schnauzer wasn’t bugging me as much and I began to think that some people would actually like the unique and defined styling. Exterior design cues aside, the TL has very few faults for a midsize performance luxury sedan. As my friend put it, “I could see myself parking this car in my driveway in a few years.” He’s a die-hard Honda fan, so he may be a bit biased, but I agree with him. As most of us start entering our middle-aged years, we want to hold onto the performance that we’ve grown up with (but not look the part), and the ’12 TL offers just that.

Modp 1107 05+2012 acura tl sh awd+rear view Photo 5/5   |   2012 Acura TL SH-AWD - First Drive

Specs & Details

'12 Acura TL SH-AWD
Engine 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6
Horsepower 305 at 6300 rpm
Torque 273 ft-lbs at 5000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual (6-speed automatic available)
MSRP $38,855 base

By Peter Tarach
352 Articles

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