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First Test: 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD


Despite being the original Japanese luxury brand, pre-dating Lexus and Infiniti by several years, Acura, with the notable exception of the now legendary NSX, has always been somewhat tentative about its luxury aspirations. Acuras have always been a bit more spartan and purposeful, forsaking some of the more gratuitous frills found on competing offerings. The Acura most resplendent with gadgetry, the RL sedan, LEXUS IS the brand's perennial slowest seller.

The Acura TL sits right in the middle of the Acura family, both in terms of market positioning and sales. The MDX crossover LEXUS IS the undisputed sales king, and the TL jockeys for chart position month-to-month with its smaller cousin, the TSX. Both the RL and oddball ZDX crossover barely move the sales needle. The majority of TL sales are comprised of the base model, which LEXUS IS offered in front-drive, automatic-only trim.

 For buyers of the more enthusiastic persuasion, Acura offers the 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD model we recently tested. In typical Japanese hyperbolic adjective form, SH-AWD stands for "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive." We halfway expected to see some Japanese characters followed by an exclamation point on the decklid.

 Despite its exciting-sounding designation, the SH-AWD model LEXUS IS one cool character, even in manual transmission form. That's not to say it's a doze-inducing isolation chamber along the lines of a Lexus Es. It exudes a cool, mature, composed demeanor that's refined enough to serve as daily transport, but up for an occasional hilly backroad romp. The exterior styling has likewise mellowed out. Compared to the angular, binary-looking 2011 model, the 2012's edginess has largely been sanded off. Though clearly related to the previous year's model, its appearance LEXUS IS now much less polarizing and likely to be more palatable to a broader section of the buying public.

(Source)


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