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Acura TL: A Good Grille and a Better Car Behind It

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With the 2012 edition of the TL, Acura designers have performed another rhinoplasty. The grille is smaller and more proportional now—the shiny part doesn't extend into the hood surfacing—and the front bumper clip is smaller and better detailed, with a crisp horizontal light line where once an acre of resin bulged at the corners. The headlights are narrower, as well, and the lower bumper-clip openings (for fog lights, signals and air intakes) more finely executed.

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Acura TL: A Good Grille and a Better Car Behind It

  1. 1.    Acura  TL:  A  Good  Grille  and  a  Better  Car  Behind  It    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204612504576611033555412382.htmlBy Dan NeilNot since Saint Lawrence has anybody suffered over a grille like Acura. The stylistic ditheringover those few inches of molded plastic on the nose of the cars—the grilles too big, its tooshiny, it looks too much like the buck teeth of a Pleistocene tree sloth—just never seems toend. In 2009, the company unveiled yet another redesign of the corporate face on the entry-luxury four-door TL sedan and, well, it was not warmly received.I imagine the stylists at Honda/Acura studios in Southern California sauntering from those earlyclinics—not wanting to be seen running—toward their easels to fix the TLs grille, which rapidlybecame the car guys Rorschach: Its a robot chastity belt, a can opener for an oil drum, Ollie insearch of his Fran.  
  2. 2. With the 2012 edition of the TL, Acura designers have performed another rhinoplasty. The grilleis smaller and more proportional now—the shiny part doesnt extend into the hood surfacing—and the front bumper clip is smaller and better detailed, with a crisp horizontal light line whereonce an acre of resin bulged at the corners. The headlights are narrower, as well, and the lower bumper-clip openings (for fog lights, signals and air intakes) more finely executed. The stylistic screws have been tightened at the back as well. The holistic result is a nicely technical, sophisticated look without the discordances of shiny stuff that made the previous design hard to take seriously. As a technical aside: The TLs hood is a "trapped design," Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal meaning it is surrounded by sheet metal on all four sides, rather than closing like a clam shell over a lip.Achieving close and even tolerances at the hoods shut lines is hugely challenging in a high-volume car, so well done to the kids in Maryville, Ohio, where the TL is built.Designers, rest. Put down the hemlock and pick up the Chardonnay. Take the weekend. Andcome back on Monday, because theres still the small matter of the Acura RLs grille, whichlooks like its receiving short-wave broadcasts from Moldavia.Can we all now agree that styling was never the TLs problem in the first place?This car is a victim of C.I., that is, "corporate image." As a brand, Acura is so lacking in emotionits practically Vulcan. Yes, Acura went racing in the American Le Mans Series. Yes, Acura has amotorsports program in the World Challenge series. Whats World Challenge? Exactly. And thats why the best possible news for Acura this year comes out of Hollywood. Acura has bought some spectacular product placement in next years comic-book flick "The Avengers," with "Iron Man" Tony Stark ditching his Audi R8 Spyder for an Acura supercar concept. Acura also had a big buy-in with this years movie "Thor," positioning itself as the official vehicle of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course its silly. Its marketing. Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal I dont want to presume too much here, but Ihave a passing acquaintance with Honda/Acuras executive leadership. Acura is a relativelysmall, frugal division of a very big and frugal company; for these folks to ink a mega-deal likethis signals something very big has happened behind closed doors. Good.It all comes back to design. The TLs formerly radical styling, to say nothing of the wild ZDXcrossover-sedan design, had to walk out on the thin ice of Acuras own brand perceptions;consumers and critics found it implausible that Acura would offer expressive, design-forwardcars, since nothing about the brand seemed cool or avant-garde. Tony Stark can fix that.A hard go at a country road in the new TL reveals what an injustice has been done. This is a finepiece of driving machinery. Our test car was the TL with SH-AWD ("super-handling all-wheeldrive," one of my favorite overblown Japanese brand phrases) equipped with the 3.7-liter V6   Acura  
  3. 3. and new-for-2012 six-speed automatic (previously a five-speed). Taut and composed, withnicely weighted and direct steering feel (electric power assist), the TL absolutely hustlesthrough the corners with very little body lean. Hit a bump midcorner and the suspension(wishbones up front and multilink in back) dissipates it nicely, and the TL regains its corneringposture with little oscillation.The new automatic gearbox will also blip the throttle on downshifts (in manual mode), reducingshift shock that can unsettle the car in hard cornering.The signature piece in this car is the all-wheel-drive system, which can shunt most of theengine torque to the rear wheels as necessary and will direct more torque to the outside rear wheel in a corner to help null out understeer. Considering 2012 Acura TL With SH-AWD this is essentially a front-wheel-drive car, with most of the weight on the front wheels, the TL has superb cornering • Base price: $40,015 balance, particularly as you lay on more throttle. • Price as tested: $45,790 • Powertrain: Naturally Incidentally, Acuras SH-AWD also makes the RDX the aspirated 3.7-liter DOHC V6 best-handling compact crossover out there, at least until with variable valve timing the Porsche Cajun is ready. and lift; six-speed automatic transmission with manual- The TLs powerplant options are unchanged from 2011. shift mode; full-time all- The base model (front-drive only) gets a 3.5-liter V6 rated wheel drive at 280 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque; the • Horsepower/torque: 305 hp 3.7-liter engine puts out a lusty, high-revving 305 hp at at 6,300 rpm/273 pound-feet 6,300 rpm and 273 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm (both get at 5,000 rpm slightly better fuel economy for 2012). The big six sounds • Length/weight: 194.0 great and has an ornery vitality that makes the car really inches/3,858 pounds fun to drive. • Wheelbase: 109.3 inches • 0-60 mph: <6.3 seconds In most other respects, the TL is a carry-over. The interior • EPA fuel economy: 18/26 is nearly the same as before, with a conventional, though mpg, city/highway nicely detailed, twin-scallop dash design meeting in a • Cargo capacity: 12.5 cubic center stack loaded with buttons. I appreciate that Acura feet retained the manual handbrake lever and the companys smallish, sporty steering wheel. I also like the red Start  button and the ease of keyless-go. Additionally, Honda/Acuras Bluetooth interface—thesynching up of devices—is probably the most intuitive out there. This year theres a nice big"Phone" button.And, as always, Acura packages a lot of gear into its cars for the money. Our test car, withtechnology package including the superb audio system, printed out at $45,790.Can "Iron Man" save Acura? Its a crowded marketplace, and the companys messaging has along way to go. Still, as the TL proves, Acura is worth saving.    

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