Acura Breathes New Life into the TL Sedan

Physician's Money Digest, May 15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 9

Large traditional family cars used to be over200 inches long. Today, SUVs, minivans,and family sedans are typically 175 to 190inches. If you're considering a BMW 330,Volvo S60, Audi A4 or A6, or even an Infiniti G35,test-drive an Acura TL.

Distinctive Styling

The Acura TL is 186 inches and has a roomywheelbase of 108 inches. The exterior width is a comfortable72.2 inches. A number of distinct styling featuresincorporate the best of Cadillac and Audi. Whilethe TL looks European, it's clearly Asian in orientation.The exterior has a monochromatic look, with adistinctive crease along the side.

The TL is a sports sedan that offers front-wheeldrive for around $33,000. Interestingly, the 6-speedmanual transmission and 5-speed automatic are identicallypriced. Also noteworthy: The buyer has only twooptions besides color; these include the navigation systemand high-performance tires. Although there's nothingelse to acquire from the factory, a tremendousamount of customizing can be done after purchase.

Powerful Capability

The 3.2-liter V6 is naturally aspirated and putsout 270 horsepower and 238 foot-pounds of torque.The slightly smaller BMW 330 only puts out 225horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque. Thisamount of power is unusual in a car this size, andmakes driving the automatic around town fun. Bothtransmissions shift fast, and the engine's range allowsdrivers to stay in gear longer. The responsive drivelinealso makes driving fun.

Next to all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive offers thenext best traction. In fact, we like front-wheel drive forall weather conditions. You can steer the power in thedirection you want it to go. Even rear-wheel drive withtraction control doesn't give you the handling in snowthat front-wheel drive does. Antilock brakes with tractioncontrol and 17-inch, all-weather, speed rated tiresare standard on the TL. Also standard is stability control,which helps keep you on the road during an evasivemaneuver or fast turn.

Fascinating Features

Standard features make the TL a great value.Standard features include an alarm system, fog lights,leather interior, keyless entry, power everything, driverseat memory, moonroof, speed control, and aluminumalloy wheels. Leather door trim panels, Xenon headlampsand a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel are alsostandard. In addition, the TL comes with two featureswe've never seen standard on a car before: XM SatelliteRadio, which requires a paid subscription, andBluetooth mobile telephone capability.

Technology note:

A small satellite dish on the TL's roof provides driverswith XM Satellite Radio, which has over 100channels of substantially commercial-free, CD-claritymusic and news. Too busy driving to dig for yourmobile phone in your pocketbook or pocket? Noproblem. The Bluetooth system allows you to useyour mobile phone through the TL's audio system. Ifyour phone has Bluetooth software, and most newphones do, then it will easily communicate with theTL verbally or to a cordless headset you wear overyour ear. The TL may soon seamlesslycommunicate with your laptop.

The audio system is really something special.Grammy-winning sound engineer Elliott Scheinerdesigned the system, giving it cleaner separate powerto each surround sound speaker than other audiodesigners usually give. You can play audio DVDs,which pack a lot more information than audio CDs.The sound system has a center speaker and subwoofer,and is powered exclusively by Acura. A sixdiscchanger is standard.

The TL is not just a car you drive; it's the ultimatemachine/human interface for personal transportation.So, call your local Acura dealer and make an appointmentto test-drive the redesigned TL. You'll enjoysampling all the special features.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research reportersand the founders of