The 2012 Acura TL has swapped its giant, much-maligned grille for a smaller, more tasteful nose. It also gets a new six-speed automatic transmission.
The good news about the new Acura TL is that it's a nicer version of the Honda Accord.
The bad news? It's a nicer version of the Honda Accord.
That's the contradiction of the TL, which has been refreshed - and made a lot prettier - for the 2012 model year. It takes a fantastic, fun, ultra-reliable Accord and spiffs it up for the luxury market, packing it full of cool gadgets and adding sound-deadening materials to make it quiet on the highway.
It's also a relative bargain at $35,605, offering more horsepower and a sportier driving experience than the Lexus ES for less money.
Then again, if I'm looking for a sporty luxury sedan, I'm not looking for a front-wheel-drive, Accord-based car. I'm just not.
There's that contradiction again.
One of the most noticeable changes about the 2012 TL is that Acura finally gave it a rhinoplasty, replacing the controversial, shiny "shield" grille of the past with a much smaller, less noticeable version.
The new schnoz does it a lot of good. It's a more elegant looking car, more refined, and more of a timeless car now that it's lost last year's over-the-top grille.
There are also changes to the rear styling - including new taillights, smaller reflectors and a moved license plate - but it's the removal of the giant grille up front that really makes the biggest difference.
While the TL retains its engine lineup - two V6 engines that make either 280 or 305 horsepower - it gets a new standard automatic transmission, and it's a great one.
The six-speed automatic is designed to make the TL feel like more of a driver's car with a double-kick downshift, such as from fifth to third gear, along with new mapping that creates a throttle "blip" when downshifting. And it works. It gives that feeling of mechanical precision that separates the great sports sedans from the mediocre ones.
Materials in the Acura TL's cabin have been tweaked for 2012. Overall, the cabin feels like a cool, high-tech place.
Inside, the TL is all about technology. There are some new surface treatments that make it feel cool and sophisticated, and it's refined to make the tech features better and easier to use.
A new Bluetooth audio system, for example, now shows the artist's name and song title, and it's easier to pair your Bluetooth device with the car.
Acura's Technology Package is also available on the TL, adding a way-cool navigation system that can get traffic and weather information, along with a 440-watt premium stereo system.
The Advance Package adds bigger wheels, new ventilated seats - they were a lifesaver in the recent Texas heatwave - and a new blind-spot warning system that detects when cars are in the lane next to you.
Pricing starts at $35,605 for the base model or $39,155 for the all-wheel-drive version with the bigger engine. A top-of-the-line model including the Advance Package costs slightly more than $45,000.RATINGS Style: 8