SEABECK, Wash. -- So we're scooting down the Seabeck Highway, a narrow strip of blacktop that bounds over humpback foothills of the Olympic Mountains lapping Puget Sound near Seabeck in the state of Washington.
This twisty two-lane road seems like it was designed expressly to show off the four-wheel agility of the redesigned 2012 Acura TL sports sedan equipped with Acura's SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive) equipment.
The computer-managed SH-AWD system can disburse the powertrain's considerable torque not only to wheels fore and aft but the left or right ones too. It's always engaged and enables the vehicle to maneuver on wet or dry pavement with the uncanny agility of a wily sports car.
The device goes further than AWD controls employed by other vehicles because it can automatically increase the rotation speed of an outboard rear wheel during quick and hard cornering maneuvers.
Boosting the rear wheel's rotation speed ends up decreasing the cornering load on the car's front wheels, which thwarts the tendency of an AWD system to understeer and ultimately enhances total tire grip through a turn.
It allows the TL to carve precise turns on a curlicue route like the Seabeck Highway and run circles around some size-wise competitors.
And there's plenty of power at play with the new TL, due to a forceful V6 engine aboard the SH-AWD version.
The aluminum V6 displaces 3.7 liters with SOHC (single overhead camshaft), four valves for every cylinder and a drive-by-wire throttle plus VTEC (variable valve timing and lift electronic control) technology which continually adjusts phasing of the intake camshaft with changes in valve lift, timing and duration.
The plant produces 305 hp at 6300 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.
Standard transmission is an electronically controlled automatic six-speed outfitted with Acura's sequential SportShift override for manual shifts via hand paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
The new auto shifter has a sporty double-kick-down mode which allows the driver to work a double downshift -- such as dropping from fifth straight down to third gear.
Optional is a shift-it-yourself manual transmission rigged with sport shifter and HSA (hill start assist) mode.
Acura also constructs the 2012 TL in FWD (front-wheel-drive) format with a different V6 engine and a six-speed automatic SportShift with different gear ratios.
The TL FWD stocks a SOHC 3.5-liter VTEC V6 which nets 280 hp at 6200 rpm and 254 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.
Both models -- TL FWD and TL SH-AWD -- carry an electric power steering (EPS) system which employs a quick-ratio rack and pinion setup with speed-sensing variable assistance.
Both also use an independent suspension system.
The front suspension consists of a double-wishbone design that precisely controls wheel motion.
The rear suspension, in multi-link layout, settles the rear and delivers an exceptionally smooth ride quality.
A big disc brake applies at every wheel, with ABS (anti-lock brake system) plus EBD (electronic brake distribution) and BA (brake assist) units, a TCS (traction control system) and VSA (vehicle stability assist) mechanism to correct lateral car skidding.
Wheels and tires differ with models and packages.
The TL FWD rolls on 17-inch cast aluminum wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza EL400 245/50R17 tires, or with the optional Technology Package adding Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 rubber.
The TL SH-AWD stocks 18-inch aluminum wheels bound by Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 P245/45R18 98V M+S tires, or with the optional Advance Package adding 19-inch aluminum wheels and Goodyear Eagle RS-A 245/40R19 tires.
Both the TL FWD and TL SH-AWD for 2012 represent a re-working of the fourth generation for Acura's mid-size luxury sports sedan that debuted in 2009.
Noteworthy changes include revising the front-end design (Acura modified the 2009 TL's beak-like pointed prow), adding the six-speed automatic transmission, boosting fuel efficiency for both V6 engines, and employing new body sealing techniques and improved weatherstripping to deliver a quieter ride.
Both models may be upgraded with a Technology Package of electronic gear like the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition and rearview camera, AcuraLink real-time traffic and weather radar mapping, and a 440-watt Acura/ELS Surround audio system with 60-gb hard-disk drive.
New for the 2012 models is an optional Advance Package which installs ventilated front seats, larger wheels/tires and a BSI (blind spot information) system that signals when another vehicle is behind the driver in an adjacent lane.
Acura establishes MSRP figures for the 2012 TL series beginning at $35,605 for the TL FWD, or $39,335 with the Technology Package aboard and $41,535 when equipped with the Advance Package.
The 2012 TL SH-AWD tallies to $39,155, or $42,885 with the Technology Package and $45,085 with the Advance Package.