Pros: Optional all-wheel drive; impressive acceleration and performance; proven reliability

Cons: Uninspired styling;

Originally debuted in 1996, the Acura TL has been given a slight facelift for the 2012 model year. The TL is a heavy-hitting competitor in the mid-size luxury sedan segment. Built in Marysville, Ohio, but based upon the Honda Accord, the TL is a meld of Japanese and American styling and power.

Available in seven trim levels, the front-wheel drive TL starts at $35,705 and the SH-AWD all-wheel drive equipped TL starts at $39,255. Add Acura's Technology or Advanced packages and the sticker price will quickly climb from there.

Comfort and Utility

Determined to be a driver's car, the TL interior features, what Acura calls, a "dual personal" design that gives both the driver and front passenger the feeling of having his or her own personal space.

New for 2012 is an available Advance Package that incorporates all new ventilated front seats, larger wheels and a new blind spot information (BSI) system that alerts the driver when another vehicle is detected behind the driver in an adjacent lane.

Technology

There's something about Acura interiors that is not quite like any other interior in the automotive industry. Some might find the TL interior and its many dash-mounted buttons overwhelming. Customers not turned off by the clutter will find the technology laden TL exemplary.

Both the TL and TL SH-AWD models can be fitted with an optional Technology Package, which includes a satnav with voice recognition, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting, AcuraLink Real-Time Weather and a 440-watt Premium Audio System.

For 2012, the TL satnav system has been increased to 60 gigabytes, map coverage has been expanded, and the screen has been brightened. With the revised satnav system, there is a 15 GB space for music-up to 3,500 songs. Also new is the "Song By Voice" system that allows the driver to choose music by artist, album, song title, genre, play list, and even composer.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2012 TL is available in two variations. The first: a front-wheel-drive, 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission. The second: an all-wheel-drive, SH-AWD, 305-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The EPA has rated the front-wheel drive 2012 TL at 20 MPG in the city and 29 on the highway. The SH-AWD model is rated at 18 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.

Both engines choices benefit from improved mile-per-gallon ratings over the 2011 model year. The slight fuel economy improvements are thanks to new friction-reducing technologies applied to the cylinders of the 3.5-liter, paired with revised air intake manifolds on both the 3.5 and the 3.7-liter V6s.

Safety

For 2012, the TL features six airbags and active head restraints for both the driver and front passenger. And like most of the Acura lineup, the TL has been built with Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure technology.

ACE is an Acura-exclusive body design that enhances occupant protection especially in frontal crashes. ACE utilizes a network of connected, high-strength structures to more evenly distribute crash energy throughout the front of the vehicle. This enhanced frontal crash energy management reduces the forces transferred to the passenger compartment and can help to more evenly disperse the forces transferred to other vehicles in a crash. This means the TL is not only safe for its passengers but for the passengers in other vehicles as well.

Driving Impressions

The TL isn't quite as composed as the BMW 3 Series but perhaps more exhilarating. The Power output in the TL feels more raw and unrefined compared with its competitors. It is especially the case in the 305 horsepower 3.7-liter SH-AWD model with the six-speed automatic transmission. The TL is as at home quietly cruising down the highway as it is roaring around a track or on some back roads-even if few of its owners will ever use it that way.

For customers who aren't performance obsessed, the TL is still sure to please. The automatic transmission is taut and forgiving, the V6 engines are both smooth, the SH-AWD system rarely encounters a road surface it can't master, and the cabin is quiet and comfortable.

Aside from its sporty and luxurious amenities, one of the TL's best features is its heritage. Some sports sedans have racing pedigree or have long been the vehicle of choice for the world's elites. The TL has something better, more tangible: reliability.

Underneath, as we said above, the TL is a Honda Accord. Hondas are world-renown for their impeccable reliability and longevity. The TL might have a hefty asking price but unlike many of its competitors, the TL is actually a car you could own and enjoy for ten years with little hassle. Acuras, from the factory, are firm and fun. And unlike other cars, they remain that way.

Other Cars to Consider

Cadillac CTS: Starting at $36,810, the CTS is America's answer to the BMW 3 Series. Cadillac's base 3-liter V6 makes 270 horsepower but only achieves 18 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway.

BMW 3 Series: As the gold standard of the mid-size luxury sedan, the 3 Series is a force to be reckoned with. Starting at $35,795 with a 240 horsepower 2-liter inline four cylinder, the basic 3 Series is easily overshadowed by the base-level TL.

Audi A4: Staring at $32,500, the base model A4 is a fun vehicle but in no way can match the TL's performance. Also, customers might be disappointed with the A4's continuously variable transmission (CVT) which isn't as smooth as one might hope.

AutoTrader Recommendations

We're not convinced the standard 3.5-liter, front-wheel drive TL is worth the sticker price, as it's simply a dressed up Honda Accord. For customers interested in the TL, we recommend going full-boar and buying the SH-AWD equipped TL. It's an extra $4,000 but well worth the money considering improved performance and handling.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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