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2012 Acura TL SH-AWD Review

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The Acura TL is one of those modest and rational sport sedans that are secretly a blast to drive the pants off of when nobody’s looking.

Problem is, the latest iteration of this upscale Japanese four-door is a little weird-looking. Okay, a lot weird-looking. And you couldn’t get the AWD model with a manual gearbox. And there’s still no V8-powered, extreme performance model available. Just sayin’.

For 2012, designers re-penned the front and rear fascias, repositioned the rear license plate, yanked the aluminum-beaked grille and shortened the front overhang. (Photo: Justin Pritchard/Auto123.com)

New looks—now with less beak!
The cabin and handling more than made up for the TL’s controversial face, but shoppers after a premium sedan with more digestible looks, all-wheel drive and a six-speed stick had some alternatives. Now, thanks to a mid-cycle 2012 do-over, the TL is one of them.

It’s finally got what it’s needed since the latest version launched: a less Pokemon-esque mug, and a proper six-speed manual transmission. You know, the kind with a clutch pedal, a shift lever and all the rest.

For 2012, designers re-penned the front and rear fascias, repositioned the rear license plate, yanked the aluminum-beaked grille and shortened the front overhang. It’s still instantly a TL, but one that’s sleeker, more alert, and less uncomfortable to look at.

The new stick
So—how’s about that six-speed? The shifter is great. It’s short and feels light, well-lubricated and very precise. One-finger or flick-of-the-wrist shifting is the name of the game, and the mechanism blows those found in comparable BMW, Cadillac and Subaru products out of the water.

Clutch? Not so much. Enthusiasts will likely wish for more weight and effort from the leftmost pedal, which feels more like stepping on a glob of mayonnaise than the business end of a heavy, mechanical device like a gearbox. It holds adequate levels of power to launch the TL quickly where needed, but the responsiveness and feedback found in other major controls is lacking here. TL’s light, linear clutch makes for easy driving in stop-and-go traffic, but will leave some wishing for more bite.

So—how’s about that six-speed? The shifter is great. It’s short and feels light, well-lubricated and very precise. (Photo: Justin Pritchard/Auto123.com)