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By Tom Strongman
July 11, 1997
Acura's TL (Touring Luxury) sedans are almost like twins. With the same basic body and 111.8-inch wheelbase, their looks are nearly identical, but they have different engines and different characters. Which you choose is a matter of preference and
pocketbook. The 2.5TL, with an in-line, 5-cylinder engine and 176 horsepower, has a firmer ride and a sportier feel. Its price starts at $28,450. The 3.2TL, with a 3.2-liter V6 and 200 horsepower, feels more lavish, and luxurious. It begins
at $32,950. Both models come fully equipped at this price. Premium packages are also offered with even more features, such as heated seats, heated mirrors and traction control for the 3.2 and leather seats and power moonroof for the 2.5. I
haven't driven the 3.2TL in quite some time, so it seemed time to take a closer look at this mid-luxury four-door. Most Acuras are plush and quiet, but the 3.2TL seems to be even quieter and smoother than the 2.5. An acquaintance who has a CL coupe says
he likes his car because it is so easy to drive. While that is certainly true of the V6-powered CL, it is even more apropos of the 3.2TL. Its steering is finger-tip light, its engine butter smooth and it glides down the road like it is rolling on ball
bearings. In a word, it is effortless. The feel of smooth precision carries over to the switches, which glide into place. Most all Japanese makers have done an excellent job in this area. The car interfaces with the driver, felt through the
controls, in a way that creates a feeling of confidence and quality. That is typical of the cars in the segment, and the 3.2TL carries it off well. The styling lacks the kind of dynamic vigor found in some competitors, but it fits in with Acura's
low-key and understated design philosophy. It's better to woo suitors with function and performance. The all-aluminum, 3.2-liter V6 that drives the front wheels has four valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft. Rather than mounting it
transversely, which is fairly common, Acura chose a front-rear, or longitudinal, position for better weight distribution and less nose-heavy handling. That is one reason the hood is long. While Acura markets the 3.2 as the less sporty of the two
TLs, the 200 horsepower from the V6 gives it brisk acceleration. Shifts are seamless, thanks to electronic controls that coordinate the engine and transmission. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the 2.5TL has a European character, because
Audi and Volvo also have 5-cylinder engines. Because this car is so quiet and smooth it is deceptively quick. Unless you are paying close attention, its natural highway gait will put you well over the speed limit. Inside, there is ample room
for five, and the trunk is spacious as well. The front seats are comfortable, but the bottom cushions are fairly flat. I would prefer larger side bolsters to give better support in turns. View out the front is pan
oramic because the cowl is low and the windows are tall. The instrument panel is a model of clarity, with one exception. The automatic climate control is difficult to decipher unless you leave it on full automatic setting. Labels are cryptic and you have
to play around with it to figure out what each button does. After you solve the puzzle it is easy to control. Better labeling and straight-forward controls would be better. After a few days with the 3.2, on the basis of performance and power, I
would choose it over the 2.5TL. Some, however, will choose the 2.5 on the basis of price (justifiably), and its European feel. I can't fault that. Price The base price of our test car was $32,950. Standard equipment included power windows,
power mirrors, power locks with keyless remote, power sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, leather upholstery, power mirrors and AM/FM stereo with cassette and compact d
c player. The sticker price was $33,385. Warranty The standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles. Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers. Point: The 3.2TL offers
lots of luxury and comfort in a mid-size package. The aluminum V6 seems even quieter this year, and it goes about its business so discreetly you can hardly tell it is running. Counterpoint: The climate control needs clearer markings, and the
styling is not as dynamic as the car underneath. SPECIFICATIONS: ENGINE: 3.2-liter, V6 TRANSMISSION: automatic WHEELBASE: 111.8 inches CURB WEIGHT: 3,461 lbs, BASE PRICE: $32,950 PRICE AS DRIVEN: $33,385 MPG RATING:
19 city, 24 hwy.