Staying a step or two ahead of the competition can be a risky move, especially if you manufacture cars for a living.

Sign off on a decidedly different design and the distance between success and failure can be just a nip, tuck, or crease away.

Take the TL, for example. Acura’s sporty sedan has always ranked high with buyers for its combination of spaciousness, styling and performance, all at an attractive price point.

However, the car’s 2009-model-year makeover for the upscale-Honda-division’s top-selling sedan garnered less-than-favourable reviews, particularly for the oddly-shaped, shield-like grille and a bumper that resembled a ship’s prow.

So, for the 2012 model year, the stylists have taken a scalpel to that bit of frontal daring-do and also completed numerous other modifications throughout the vehicle.

On the road, the TL, which starts at about $41,400 including destination charges, rides and drives pretty much like the previous edition and exhibits the same excellent road manners and interior refinement that has made it such a popular choice over the years.

Now with a host of subtle, but significant, improvements in design and content, the TL will no doubt have broader appeal.

Here are some other changes/upgrades to the new TL.

Bumper

On the TL’s behind, there’s a new bumper with built-in reflectors along with fresh taillights, trunk-lid trim and exhaust outlets. Besides the front, the rest of the TL’s physical presence remains pretty much static, save for a new selection of standard and optional multi-spoke wheels.

Interior

Further refinements can be found inside the passenger area with upgraded trim, available ventilated front seats and an optional voice-recognition sound system that can store up to 3,500 songs on a 15-gigabyte hard drive.

As usual, the TL, even in base form, arrives as a well-turned-out vehicle, but there are a number of significant extra-cost features on the menu. The Technology Package includes a navigation system with traffic and weather updates, 440-watt ELS-brand sound system, premium leather-covered seats and keyless push-button start.

Engine

Continuing on is the base 280-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 (which sports new friction-reducing pistons for 2012) and the optional 305-horsepower 3.7-litre V6.

However, Acura has swapped out the previous standard five-speed automatic transmission for a six-speed. The name of the game here is fuel economy and Acura reports that the 3.5 is now rated at 10.4 l/100 km in the city and 6.8 on the highway.