Updated significantly for 2007, Acura's best-selling sports sedan changes little in 2008. The base TL comes with a 258-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 engine, and the performance-oriented Type-S edition has a 286-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The TL retains its front-wheel-drive status, even as more than half of Acura's models now feature Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
The 2008 model's changes include new paint colors and interior/exterior color combinations and an updated immobilizer security system. Acura also offers its navigation system in Hawaii and notes that the real-time traffic feature has spread to almost twice as many metropolitan areas for 2008, making a total of 76.
The TL sedan exhibits a wide, aggressive stance. The body has a pronounced wedge-shaped cabin-forward profile, led by a shield-shaped grille that incorporates a large logo. High-intensity-discharge headlights are bi-xenon, meaning they operate with both low and high beams. The TL Type-S adds front ground effects and black chrome trim on the grille and bumper in place of the bright chrome elements. Its taillights are all-red, delineated by a smoked-chrome bezel, where the regular model's have large white segments. The trunklid has a small, tasteful spoiler, and the quad exhaust has protruding tubular pipes in place of the regular model's flush-mounted trapezoidal pair.
The standard alloy wheels are 17 inches. The Type-S has charcoal-colored rims with matrix-style spokes. High-performance summer tires are optional on the TL Type-S.
The TL seats five. Leather-trimmed seats are standard, and the 10-way power driver's seat includes power lumbar support. Each TL includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an Acura/ELS eight-speaker surround-sound stereo 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, real-time traffic monitoring and an 8-inch display; it's optional on the base TL and standard on the Type-S. The TL includes wood trim and blue cockpit lighting, while the Type-S has red lighting, embossed headrests and carbon fiber trim.
Rear visibility is aided by a backup camera, which in cars equipped with the navigation system (standard on the Type-S) shows the area behind the car on the dashboard screen.
Under the Hood
Acura's 3.2-liter V-6 produces 258 hp at 6,200 rpm and 233 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. In the TL Type-S, the 3.5-liter V-6 from Acura's larger RL sedan makes 286 hp at 6,200 rpm and 256 pounds-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. The TL's five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission permits manual gear changes. A six-speed manual, which works with a limited-slip differential, is available in the TL Type-S but not the base TL.
Other Type-S enhancements include a stiffer suspension with thicker stabilizer bars, and stronger brakes with Brembo four-piston front calipers.
Antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist functions. Side-impact airbags, dual-stage front airbags and side curtain airbags are standard. A passenger-side position sensor controls airbag deployment. An electronic stability system is standard.
The regular TL is a quick car to begin with, and the Type-S is noticeably quicker, but mainly under heavy acceleration and high engine revs. Both versions exhibit some torque steer — where the steering wheel jerks left and/or right under heavy acceleration and/or when traction is lost. Though standard traction control keeps it from getting out of hand, torque steer is one of the reasons more powerful engines are often teamed with rear- or all-wheel drive.
The TL has a pleasant ride. In the Type-S, a combination of firmer springs, shock absorbers and stabilizer bars keeps the car from heaving its weight left and right, and improves roadholding. The standard tires are all-season. Forget about the summer performance tires if you'll be driving in snow and ice.
One shortcoming is the TL's wide turning circle of 39.7 feet. The Audi A6 is only slightly better at 39.0 feet, but the Lexus ES 350 turns a 36.7-foot circle. Rear-wheel-drive competitors tend to require still less space. The TL's trunk offers decent space and accessibility, but its total volume is only 12.5 cubic feet, compared with the Lexus ES 350's 14.5 cubic feet and the Audi A6's 15.9 cubic feet. Another disappointment is the exclusion of a folding backseat to extend the cargo area into the cabin. There's only a narrow pass-thru behind the center armrest.