So what possessed us to test a luxury sedan when the snow was up to the trick knee?

Actually, not a bad time to find out if the luxury sedan is only a seasonal machine or a year-round hauler.

With ABS and traction control standard, the 2001 Acura 3.2 TL we tested did more than an admirable job on the roads. It does have one Snow Belt drawback--it sits so low to the ground that at intersections with snow piled deep at the corners, you need to edge out into the roadway to see what, if anything, is coming.

If you have to edge into traffic, best to edge in a brute like a full-size SUV rather than a bantam weight like the 3.2 TL, don't you think?

The Acura 3.2 TL is a very fine machine with a spirited 3.2-liter, 225-h.p., 24-valve V-6 that delivers 19 m.p.g. city/29 m.p.g. highway. And it runs so quietly you're tempted to turn the key again to ensure all 24 valves are pumping.

And, as is typical with any vehicle from Honda, the Acura sedan features one of the industry's most responsive steering systems. Touch and go without lingering. The suspension is tuned to eliminate road harshness and allow for long-distance, relaxing travel.

As noted above, however, the 3.2 TL that's built off the Honda Accord platform seems to sit at ground level. You feel as if you are looking up whenever checking out the other vehicles around you at a light. And while the trunk is huge, it would have been nice if Acura reclaimed some of that space for the rear-seat passengers and made the luggage squeeze together to fit.

Base price: $30,550 and it comes so fully equipped you need only add freight at $480.

Pluses include four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, dual front and side air bags, climate control, Bose AM/FM with cassette and CD, power seats/locks/mirrors/windows/moonroof and a DVD navigation system for technoids. We still prefer instructions via paper.

The 2002 upgrade of the 3.2 TL coming out this spring will be at the auto show, sporting major front-end and minor rear-end redesign, and an all-new, high-performance Type S with a 260-h.p. version of the 3.2-liter V-6, along with bigger wheels/tires and a sports-tuned suspension.

Acura also will show the 2002 3.5 RL with beefed-up engine also coming out this spring, along with the Acura RSX concept, a thinly disguised look at the new Integra coming this fall.

Change of plans

Volvo called to say it will have both its concept Adventure sport-utility vehicle as well as its SCC safety concept car on display at the Chicago Auto Show Feb. 9 through 18 in McCormick Place South. As first planned, the SCC was going to be shipped to the Geneva Auto Show instead.

Desk-cleaning giveaway

Not sure what is living under the stuff lining desk, floor and walls, but last week, it started getting mail. So it's time for a desk-cleaning giveaway. Send post cards only to Jim Mateja, 700 N. Mil waukee Ave., Vernon Hills, Ill. 60061. Entry deadline is Feb. 12. And, be advised if you win (?) and the package moves or makes noise when it arrives, that's your problem. Oh, and we won't forward any of the varmints' mail.

Strictly personal

For years Jim Mancuso, the Skokie Chevy dealer and most cantankerous Italian we ever met, called each week to complain about our columns, especially those needling dealers. He'd rant, rave, scream and holler and then ask: "And how's the wife and kids? Please give them my best."

Eventually the calls got shorter, punctuated with less Italian, and Mancuso retired. He'd still phone on occasion to ream us out, perhaps to lift his spirits as his health began to fail. It was with deep regret that we got the call a week ago, from his son Rob, to say Jim had passed away at 84.