The Acura TL was introduced in 1996 as a mid-sized luxury car from Honda Motor Corporation’s luxury Acura brand name. A true sports luxury sedan, the Acura TL provides sharp looks, V6 power, cutting edge technology, and a great driving experience. It is no wonder the TL is Acura’s best selling car.
New for 2007, Acura brings even more performance to the TL with the return of the type-S trim. With an even more aggressive look, 286 3.5-liter V6 engine, sport tuned suspension, Bridgestone Potenza RE030 tires (235/45R17 93W), and subtle interior changes, the Acura type-S offers that extra performance edge to the sports car enthusiast.
See also the main fact sheets for the Acura TL.
- Good performance
- Powerful and responsive engine
- Voice activated navigation system (with Bluetooth) is easy to use and understand
- Voice recognition system often mis-interprets voice commands
- Steering wheel feel is stale--not up to the level of a true sports sedan
- The trunk trim is minimal inside
- Some interior parts appear too plain for a luxury car
Performance and Handling
The V6 engine delivers its abundant power smoothly, pulling strongly all the way to its 6800-rpm redline to the accompaniment of a deliciously tuned exhaust note. Even with traction control active, the front tires can be made to chirp while accelerating out of corners, or when mashing the gas pedal from a full stop. One of the few dynamic complaints we had with the TL torque steer, has been addressed in the 2006 model. Revised engine management system and steering angle sensors combine to help reduce this phenomenon, common among powerful front-wheel-drive cars.
TL is powered by a 3.2-liter, single overhead camshaft, 24-valve, 60-degree V6 with Honda's F1 racing-developed variable valve timing and lift system (VTEC). It's rated at 258 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 20/30 mpg City/Highway when fitted with the six-speed manual transmission. The engine meets California's LEV-2 ULEV standards, the second most stringent in the nation for gasoline-fueled cars and exceeded only by limited production, small-engine subcompacts and hybrids (some of them Hondas).
The automatic transmission works well. With the SportShift left in auto mode, gear changes are almost imperceptible, slicker and smoother than in some cars costing more than twice the TL's price of entry. After shifting the automatic into the manual mode, only the upshift from first is automatic, occurring just south of 5000 rpm. Higher gears are held right up to the rev limiter, which steps in around 7000 rpm.
The shift linkage on the manual gearbox is taut and precise, though clutch takeup requires a little getting used to.
The variable-assist steering reacts to road speed and driver input to make for effortless parking and sure tracking on the highway. Hours spent in the wind tunnel reduced to a whisper the inevitable whistles around the outside mirrors. Barely noticeable hissing around the side windows' trailing edges could well have been more reflective of the test car's early production status than of any design shortcoming.
The TL feels comfortable and relaxed at speed on the Interstates, although there is more road noise with the fatter, stickier tires on the six-speed model. On two-lanes, the standard setup was no slouch, feeling ill at ease only when taken where most drivers will never go, and by which time all the assorted active safety technologies will have been alerted. At these extremes, the sportier version delighted, its Brembo brakes confidently hauling it down from mildly irresponsible speeds before it tracked unerringly and with aplomb through tight corners over sometimes bumpy pavement. Perhaps, just maybe, Acura has unearthed the secret to BMW's vice-like grip on the top rung of the sports sedan ladder. Unlike BMWs, though, the TL is front-wheel drive, and the front washes out when accelerating hard around a bumpy corner, a point at which the TL does not feel like the ultimate driving machine.
On a track, the SportShift and the all-season tires prove to be a good match. Only carelessness or inattention could get somebody in trouble with this package. The six-speed manual works well, too. Its six, close-ratio gears allow the engine to work in its powerband's sweet spot. And the limited-slip front differential properly apportions the power between the front tires while negotiating fast, sweeping curves and tight, power-sapping, left-right-left esses. The brakes never evidence the slightest fade, despite the ever-present bouquet from super-heated pads at the end of an on-track session. But the suspension is lacking a bit in quick turn transitions on a track. The experience is no where near egregious or over-the-top, just enough to invite a little earlier brake application and a gentle feathering of the throttle the next time around. In the race to catch BMW, Acura is close, but no cigar. Not yet. Perhaps it's the difference between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive.
The Acura TL comes standard with the following features:
- Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
- Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD)
- Brake Assist
- Vehicle Stability Assist
- Traction Control System
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Rearview camera
- HID headlights
- Front and rear crumple zones
- Side-impact beams
- Energy-absorbing impact pads in frame
- Front air bags
- Front side air bags
- Side curtain airbags
- Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)
- Anti-Pinch feature on all windows and moonroof
- Remote keyless entry
Reliability and Maintenance
The Acura TL offers great reliability for a mid-sized luxury sedan. Autosite.com gave the TL a rating of 93 out of 100 for durability and 92 out of 100 for mechanical quality.
Interior and Comforts
The Acura TL features a comfortable cabin. Even the back seats are roomy and comfortable. Its interior space and dimensions are close enough to those of the BMW 5 Series and the Volvo S60, the two cars Acura expects most buyers to cross-shop.
Interior quality is up to Acura standards. Fit and finish is above average. A nice touch is the grained, matte-finish section on the top of the dash over the instrument cluster that reduces reflective glare off the inside of the windshield on bright, sunny days. A seamless dash masks the presence of the passenger-side front airbag, making for a more elegant and stylish look.
Comfortably bolstered seats brace thighs and shoulders against lateral forces during spirited cornering. The driving position is exemplary, which is no surprise given Honda's near obsession with ergonomics. Seat-bottom cushions could extend a bit more beneath the thighs, but overall the seats are quite supportive without being overly firm. The B-pillars are indented in their forward edges about mid-height to make a little more elbow room for front seat occupants. All necessary controls lie within sight and easy reach of the driver. Shift levers and patterns for both transmissions fall readily to hand.
Backlit LED gauges look out from inside three pods tucked under a hood shading them from the noon-time sun. They're easy on the eyes, with a blue-around-white motif. A large, round speedometer sits directly in front of the driver and is centered on the steering column, which is also properly centered on the driver's seat. To the left is a slightly smaller, but no less legible tachometer. The right-hand pod contains the fuel and water temperature gauges.
The melding of function with form works extremely well in the Acura TL. Topmost in the center stack is the LCD screen that displays the climate control and audio settings as well as the optional navigation system's visual aids. With the navigation system comes a line of PDA-like buttons and cursor controller arrayed beneath the screen. Bracketing the screen are perpendicular rows of large, finger-friendly buttons for setting driver and front passenger climate control preferences; a useful Off switch is provided that instantly shuts everything off. Separating the climate controls from the touch-screen this way makes changing fan speeds or adjusting the temperature easy in the TL. With the navigation system, buyers get what Acura calls 3D Solar Sensing Climate Control. Using time of day and direction of travel, this gadget calculates the sun's position relative to the car to adjust side-to-side interior temperatures to maintain desired settings.
Navigation systems are getting better each year and Acura's is one of the best if not the best. It's easy to program and gives clear and accurate descriptions visibly and audibly. The big display and combination of hard buttons and context-sensitive on-screen menus work very well. Still, you have to call up a menu to change radio stations. The navigation system can recognize nearly 300 verbal commands, including adjustments to the stereo and climate control and selection of more than 7 million points of interest (restaurants, lodging, airports, shopping malls, etc.).
Lower on the center stack are controls for the sound system. Large, round knobs adjust volume and other functions. Right-sized station preselect buttons easily pass the fingernail and winter glove tests. Still, to change CD tracks you have to press the Audio button and go to a menu. In terms of technology, the standard stereo redefines the overused term premium. Not content with a multi-speaker, externally power-amplified, DVD/CD/cassette/AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio system, Acura added a new technology known as DVD-Audio 5.1. DVDs recorded with this technology triple the channels in traditional stereo and virtual (electronically synthesized) surround sound systems, from two to six. The hope is to do for digital recordings what Dolby did for analog tapes. This more discrete surround sound is common in recording studio gear and has only recently begun appearing in home entertainment systems.
The moonroof switch is located on the overhead control pod, more intuitive than having it on the dash.
Storage places abound but lack flexibility. Seatback-mounted magazine racks are solid, hinged affairs, for example, as are the front door-mounted map pockets, meaning they'll hold only magazines and maps and maybe a slim, self-guide tour book. The center console is a deep, bi-level affair, with a power point in the lower level and a notch in the upper tray to accommodate a cell phone cord. The armrest on the front center console adjusts fore and aft.
Trunk space is just 12.5 cubic feet, and the opening is somewhat smaller, further limiting the size of parcels it will accept. Ordering the navigation system cuts trunk space to 12.3 cubic feet. The trunk is fully finished, however, with an inside pull down; and the goose-neck hinges are encased to avoid threatening fragile contents of grocery bags.
The Acura TL has a solid stance, tall and lean, with muscular lines. It looks compact and coiled, tensed, ready to move in any direction with quickness, certainty and precision. The designers say they kept the image of a soccer player in mind as they sketched the latest TL. To some the result looks a little forced, even melodramatic; but a close look at the car's proportions and styling cues gives the design credence. And it looks better in person than in photos.
The current TL is more than 3.5 inches shorter overall than the previous-generation (pre-2004) TL, yet the wheelbase is essentially the same. (The wheelbase in the distance between the front and rear wheels.) That made the front and rear overhangs shorter, an improvement in the design. The current model is 2 inches wider than the previous version, spreading the tires an inch farther apart in front and an inch and a half farther apart in the rear. This wider track improves handling and stability. The roof is a half-inch taller. And yet the TL claims one of the lowest coefficients of drag (0.29 Cd) in its class. In short, the current TL offers improved space efficiency and better packaging than the previous model.
The strong, chin-like front end is braced by two low-mounted openings feeding cooling air to the engine, the minimalist grille above serving primarily to frame the Acura badge and trademark polished horizontal bar. Squinting headlights wrap around the front fenders, drawing the eye to the character line that begins in the side-marker light just forward of the front door, integrating the perfectly aligned door handles and running the length of the car to terminate in the rear side-marker lights. Molded rocker panels beneath the doors (with a chip-resistant finish) visually widen the car's lower body. Fender flares stretch the body over and wrap snugly around the tires. The tallish greenhouse tapers gracefully inward as it rises from the beltline, giving geometric balance to the rake of the windshield and backlight. The C-pillar, or sail panel, flows smoothly down into the trunk lid, adding substance and solidity to the rear quarters and embellishing the TL's mild, wedge-like profile.
The rear of the TL looks like a Honda. The rear looks conservative when compared to the dramatic styling of the rest of the car. The trailing edge of the trunk lid is sharply crested, with a pleasing Kamm-like aero-overhang. Taillights are severely functional. The black surround setting off the rear license plate is a bit loud. But the body sculpturing produces surface planes that generate some exciting shadows, and dual exhausts with squarish tips in matching lower bumper cutouts boost the sporty image, as do pushing the wheels out toward the corners.
Styles and Options
The Acura TL is available in 2 trims: base and type-S.
The base model comes standard with:
- Aluminum-alloy SOHC VTEC 3.2L 258hp V6
- 4-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension
- 17" x 8" aluminum-alloy wheels
- MP3 player auxiliary input jack
- Power moonroof
- (HID) headlights
- Remote keyless entry
The type-S offers sportier looks and better performance including:
- Aluminum-alloy SOHC VTEC 3.5L 286hp V6
- Brembo 4-piston brakes
- Aluminum interior trim with cross-hatch finish
- Two-tone seats with sport side-bolsters
- Rear view camera
- Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters
- Quad exhaust outlets
- Rear lip spoiler and Lower body-side molding
Acura Manufacturer Sites
- Acura TL - Official US Site