Launch Gallery
Recent car sales figures suggest consumers are finally coming out of their shells and getting back into showrooms. Still, anyone with an ounce of financial sense won’t run out and start spending like a Kardashian wedding planner. For luxury-minded consumers looking to make a smart buy, the Acura lineup delivers plenty of sophistication, performance and style while not quite taxing the wallet like its high-end competitors. It’s been a while, however, since Acura’s sedans have done much to quicken the pulse like an Audi A4, Mercedes C-Series or BMW 3-Series. The refreshed 2012 Acura TL, on the other hand, brings eye-catching curb appeal that deserves a second, third and fourth look.

As luck would have it, Acura delivered a six-speed manual with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) for weekend cruising in and around Seattle. The stick shift made darting along the winding Pacific Northwest mountain roads a driver’s dream. Of course, stopping on hilly roads can be an unpleasant adventure in a manual car, but Acura’s “hill assist” (which applies the brakes to prevent roll-back), should earn some engineer a big raise or promotion. The optional 305-horsepower 3.7 liter fuel-injected power mill offered visceral thrills when the right foot hit the floor, while the sporty suspension kept the TL planted on twisty roads without sacrificing ride comfort. In addition, the SH-AWD lived up to its lofty alphabet soup claims as we drove through a torrential downpour at highway speeds and navigated ice and snow with feline agility.

Comfortable and spacious, the TL’s cabin came with many standout appointments: sport seats in premium leather that support the driver in more aggressive driving, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a moonroof, along with textured metal trim accents which give a modern twist to the luxurious interior. Decked out with the “technology package,” the TL has a premium sound system, intuitive navigation with voice commands, a rear-view camera and other cool and practical electronic trickery. Basically, all the touches you’d expect from a $43K-plus vehicle.

Best of all, this is the hottest-looking TL Acura has ever rolled off the line. Both the front and rear of the car received a makeover, with a toned-down grille for a more integrated, elegant look from the front, and more aggressive styling overall, including the rear spoiler and 18" alloy wheels that come as part of the SH-AWD and tech package. With its sleek style, great handling and mixture of power and luxury, the TL SH-AWD definitely punches in the same weight class as the European competition.

The Lowdown:

Style Factor: Sporty and refined, the TL has 360-degree good looks.

Cost Factor: Acura is the fiscally minded luxury autobuyer’s best friend, and the TL delivers performance and style to rival the competition at a mid-40s price point.

Fun Factor: Pumped up with the optional 305-horsepower V6 (the standard V6 generates 280 ponies), the TL delivers adrenaline-fueled fun on the rolling roads of the Pacific Northwest.