Revisions are modest for the latest version of Acuras luxury performance sedan, which went on sale on Feb. 5, 2002, as an early 2003 model. Two versions remain available: the standard 3.2 TL and the high-performance TL Type-S. For 2003, sedans equipped with Acuras DVD-based navigation system also include General Motors OnStar communication system, which has become available as a result of an agreement between GM and Acura.
Hondas luxury division first launched the TL as a 1996 model, redesigning it three seasons later. Styling revisions for 2002 gave the front-wheel-drive TL a more aggressive look, and the Type-S joined the lineup. Acura claims that the TL has been the top-selling luxury performance sedan in its class.
The TL sedan is produced in Marysville, Ohio, alongside the CL coupe. According to Automotive News, 69,484 TLs were sold in the United States during 2001 a slight increase over the 2000 total. Acuras TL duo competes against sedans such as the BMW 3 Series and Lexus ES 300.
The TLs styling resembles that of Acuras full-size RL sedan. The TL displays a pronounced wedge-shaped, cabin-forward profile, a raked belt line, and what Acura calls an aggressive shield-shaped grille that incorporates a large logo and standard integrated fog lamps. The TL measures 192.5 inches long overall, rides a 108.1-inch wheelbase and stands 53.7 inches tall.
A double-wishbone suspension is used at both the front and rear. For increased cornering ability, the TL Type-S has a sport-tuned suspension with firmer springs, increased damping rates and a larger rear stabilizer bar. Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is used on the 3.2 TL, while the Type-S uses torque-sensing, variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering for a sportier feel.
Aluminum-alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the 3.2 TL sedan, while the Type-S wears 17-inch high-performance Michelin tires. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and a power moonroof are standard. Two new colors Desert Mist and Royal Ruby will become available in the fall of 2002.
Space is provided for five occupants on leather seating surfaces. An eight-way power drivers seat is equipped with a memory feature. All models include automatic climate control with a micron air filter, keyless entry, an auto-up drivers window, heated power front seats, wood-patterned trim and an Acura/Bose sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer. A lockable trunk pass-thru door is provided, and the passenger-side mirror tilts down automatically. The Type-S features deep-sculpted, perforated-leather bucket seats; a matching steering wheel; metallic-faced gauges; and a perforated-leather shift knob with a Type-S emblem. Trunk capacity is 14.3 cubic feet.
Acuras navigation system, which now includes the OnStar communication system, is the sole factory-installed option. Pressing the OnStar button on the mirror provides quick access to an OnStar advisor 24 hours a day for emergency assistance, automatic door unlocking, accident notification and other services. An optional Personal Calling Package that includes a wireless phone and Virtual Advisor Internet services is also available.
Under the Hood
Operating with Acuras Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control (VTEC) system, the 3.2-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine develops 225 horsepower and 216 pounds-feet of torque. With a dual-stage induction system, low-restriction dual-outlet exhaust and increased compression ratio, the V-6 in the Type-S trim generates 260 hp and 232 pounds-feet of torque. Both versions are classified as Low Emissions Vehicles (LEV).
Both engines team with a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission, which permits semi-manual gear changes by moving the gear lever fore or aft. When the vehicle is set for automatic mode, Grade Logic Control reduces gear hunting when driving in hilly terrain. Traction control is standard, and a Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system is included with the Type-S. Responding to eight sensors, the VSA system applies brake force to either front wheel as necessary while managing the throttle and ignition systems. If vehicle response is outside the predicted range, VSA intervenes with the appropriate corrective action to keep it stable.
Three-channel all-disc antilock brakes come standard in the 3.2 TL, while four-channel ABS help halt the Type-S. Side-impact airbags and dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags are installed for front-seat passengers. LATCH child-safety seat anchors and tethers are installed for the rear seat.
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