Acura dramatically redesigned its midsize luxury performance sedan for 2004 and promised greater performance and sportier handling. A more powerful 3.2-liter V-6 worked with either a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission or a close-ratio six-speed-manual gearbox.
Among other improvements, the 2004 TL offered the first application of DVD Audio 5.1 surround sound, as well as HandsFreeLink wireless phone capability and XM Satellite Radio.
Except for two new body colors and a newly standard tire-pressure-monitoring system, little has changed for the 2006 model year. A revised engine management system and steering-angle sensor logic are intended to reduce torque steer. The TL has been Acura's top-selling model.
Honda's luxury division first launched the front-wheel-drive TL as a 1996 model. Produced in Marysville, Ohio, the TL competes with such sedans as the BMW 3 Series and Lexus ES 330. Current sedans come only in one trim level, but an A-Spec sport suspension is available.
Compared with earlier models, the current TL sedan exhibits a wider, more aggressive stance. The body displays a pronounced wedge-shaped cabin-forward profile, led by a shield-shaped grille that incorporates a large logo. Acoustic windshield glass is installed. High-intensity-discharge headlights operate with both low and high beams. A power moonroof is standard. Alloy wheels hold 17-inch tires; high-performance tires are optional.
Five people fit inside the TL. Leather-trimmed seats are standard, and a 10-way power driver's seat is equipped with power lumbar-support adjustment. Each TL includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a tilt/telescoping steering column, and an Acura/ELS eight-speaker surround-sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and DVD audio. Steering-wheel buttons operate audio, cruise-control and voice-recognition functions.
Brushed-aluminum trim accents the dashboard. Acura's optional navigation system features voice recognition and an 8-inch display screen.
Under the Hood
Operating with a drive-by-wire throttle, Acura's 3.2-liter V-6 produces 258 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 233 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. Those numbers are down slightly from 2005 ratings because of new testing standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Actual performance is the same. The five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission permits manual gear changes. A six-speed manual, which works with a limited-slip differential, is also available.
Antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist functions. Side-impact airbags, dual-stage front airbags and side curtain-type airbags are installed. A passenger-side position sensor controls airbag deployment. An electronic stability system is standard.
Overall excellence best describes the latest TL, which surpasses its predecessor's already-fine qualities to become a superior, refined touring machine. Except for the automatic transmission, which occasionally delivers a harsh shift on downgrades or when pushed especially hard, this sedan ranks close to flawless. Acura's manual gearbox is eminently capable.
On good roads, the TL's ride is practically dreamy; the suspension absorbs most of the commotion. Handling is confident and sure, and steering feel is good. The TL comes surprisingly close to sports-car behavior in demanding driving.
Acceleration is vigorous but not overpowering. Subtle exhaust sounds are heard only while accelerating. Firm but appealing seats offer excellent support. DVD Audio sound quality is simply stunning. Acura's navigation system is one of the better units available today.