Let's back up a bit before we talk about the Acura TL. Back up to last year's model, a design that began in 2009 and whose menacing grille inspired more pejoratives than praise from the automotive press. Acura, apparently, was listening: For 2012, the tech-laden TL sports a toned-down grille and less-distracting look. Good call.
Appearance: The new front end is accentuated by the hood creases. The grille's "shield" design is mimicked in the rear with an integrated V-shaped spoiler; dual chrome-exhaust tips and 19-inch alloy wheels finish the look. In profile, the car's graceful lines are interrupted only by fender flares that now seem slightly less pronounced.
Performance: The 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 is the bigger of the two available for the TL with 305 horsepower. The new 6-speed automatic shifts flawlessly. We liked it even more in sport mode, using the paddle shifters to manually change gears. In this mode, the car is programmed for quicker acceleration. The SH-AWD stands for Super Handing All Wheel Drive, and that's not just hyperbole. The road feel is solid and the ride smooth. The electric power steering is precise; some may find it offers a bit too much help. For example, there is torque-sensing power assist that gives you more assistance at lower speeds, and firms it up at higher speeds. Cool. Among the other techie highlights: Grade Logic Control, which keeps the transmission in lower gears to compensate for uphill or downhill grades.
Interior: The fit and finish are tight, as we've come to expect from Acura. The cabin is quiet (as is the engine) and comfortable. The premium-leather sport seats are well-bolstered, with the driver getting a 10-way adjustment and the front passenger eight. For utility, there are 15 nooks, which include a slide-out tray for cell phone or MP3 player. In the armrest bin are ports for USB, auxiliary and power. The console is at a user-friendly angle. The 8-inch navigation screen sits high on the dash, so you don't have to take your eyes too far from the road. Our tester had the Technology Package, which includes solar-sensing climate control that adjusts the temperatures on the hotter side of the cabin. The surround-sound system — again something we've come to expect from Acura — has great reproduction. And there is Song by Voice, where you can find music from the hard drive or USB device using voice recognition. With the navigation system is the rearview camera, which is worth having. With the Advance Package, you get a blind-spot warning system on the door pillars — which we prefer — instead of the side mirrors.
Our 3 favorites
Now button: The push-start button is bright red. You can't miss it.
Cabin: It's roomy and quiet.
AWD: Especially in rainy Florida, it's always a plus.
Sport seats: Plush, comfortable, well-bolstered with perforated leather.
Climate control: GPS and dash sensor detect location of sun, and adjust for heat differences in cabin.
Interior: Elegant curves on dash and console.
The bottom line: If your taste runs more to gadgets than to flashy statements, then the TL is the luxury midsize worth considering. Now, an understated look complements the TL's solid build and bevy of tech features.