Performance » 8
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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The 6-speed manual is superior to the automatic dynamically
Road & Track
The clutch pedal is as smooth and progressive as any car we’ve driven
Car and Driver
The only real demerit here concerns the car's sheer bulk, an inevitable encumbrance given those Accord roots...TL SH-AWD never feels smaller than the sizable car it is.
There's also hardly any steering feedback, which is problematic in a car with sporting intentions.
Powering heavy through corners, we watched the all-wheel drive siphoning power from the inside rear wheel and applying it to the outside, always keeping us well on track and stable.
For the most part, the 2012 Acura TL isn't as much of an overt sport sedan as those with dedicated rear-drive platforms, like the BMW 335i or Infiniti G37, but it is clearly a car meant to be driven, rather than ridden in.
The standard 280-horsepower 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 is essentially the same engine as used in the Honda Accord and powers front wheels with a five-speed automatic transmission.
That combination is responsive enough, but if performance at all matters, you'll want to step up to the TL SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive), and you'll get the 305-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 from the RL sedan juicing all four wheels through Acura's capable system that removes any threat of torque steer, displays how its distributing power in the instrument cluster, and almost gives the TL the feel of a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan-as long as you're heavy on the gas.
The availability of a six-speed manual with the SH-AWD also ups its sport-sedan credentials. Overall, the AWD system feels almost impossible to fluster, allocating torque not only front-to-back but left-to-right, to help with slick surfaces or quick emergency maneuvers.
There's a lot to like in the TL's electric power steering, too. At parking-lot and city speeds it feels light and responsive, returning to center promptly out of corners, with a nice natural feel on center. Up at highway speeds it gathers more heft, but whether slow or fast, the steering manages to transmit some information from the road surface.
The 2012 Acura TL is no purebred sport sedan, but in SH-AWD guise it's a well-rounded performer--and more edgy and athletic than you might suspect.