When Acura said it had "freshened" its Acura TL for 2007, I didn't greet the news with excitement.
After all, freshened can be auto-speak for adding a new cupholder to a long-standing model.
Now that I've had a week in the performance-oriented 2007 TL Type-S midsize luxury sedan, color me excited. Turns out this is a genuine upgrade.
The most heart-pumping enhancement comes in the power department, via a superlative 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 286 horsepower.
What that power plant gives you is instant response at low and high revs. On surface streets, you can glide out of harm's way. On the highways, a quick blip on the accelerator jets you a safe distance away from that no-look lane changer determined to scrape off your front bumper.
The sporty feel of the tested TL Type-S with a five-speed automatic was dramatically enhanced by the presence of Formula One racing-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel. I could go full automatic or operate in semi-manual mode with my hands doing the shifting chores ... no clutch necessary.
The tester performed so well in so many conditions that I quickly became spoiled.
Rolling down the on-ramp with that 18-wheeler approaching fast in the right lane might have prompted me to pause in other models. With the Type-S, it was easy to zip onto the highway with plenty of space to spare for me and the quick-moving truck.
Uphill runs were a snap. Slalom maneuvers were ridiculously effortless, although the suspension seemed a tad stiff. No big deal there; that's a price to be paid for performance handling.
The four-piston, ventilated Brembo brakes on the front end qualify as fabulous.
Technically, the Type-S designation represents a resurrection, not an upgrade. The Type-S has been out of the TL lineup for three years, and for 2007, it has been lumped into an overall TL package being marketed as better than ever.
Who am I to argue with marketing semantics? All I know is that the Type-S tag has always represented high performance. And on the tested car, performance came in big doses. The Type-S label is entirely appropriate.
Other perks are more subtle. The TL Type-S has been restyled inside and out compared with the 2006 TL package.
The exterior is sporty enough, but it's decidedly understated. Basically, you get an appealing, rounded shape that cuts through the air nicely, but there are no over-the-top pieces of hardware stuck on, trying to shout out a phony sports car profile. Kudos to Acura for holding the line on that.
Inside, leather seating surfaces are comfortable, and the dual-zone climate control does a good job of matching up with the desired temperature -- unlike other systems that always seem to be about 10 degrees higher/lower than what you actually dial up. Interior quietness is exceptional, even when the Acura's V-6 is asked to excel.
The center stack of controls is nicely laid out and easy to understand. State-of-the-art technology perks include a plug-in for your iPod, a satellite-linked navigation system, Acura's so-called HandsFreeLink system (a driver can dial a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone by voice) and the AcuraLink satellite communication system that offers real-time traffic conditions.
The tester's surround-sound audio system -- with eight speakers linked to the usual tune-playing devices, and surprise, even an audio cassette option -- was a quality blast.
Did I mention that all these goodies are part of the starting price of $38,125? The only extra on the tested TL Type-S was a $670 destination charge.
That's impressive for a car that some critics believe falls short of the BMW 3 Series. And for those paying nearly $50,000 for midsize luxury cars with scoot, the Type-S shapes up as a genuine bargain.
What's not a bargain is Acura's recommendation of using only premium gas in the 17.1-gallon fuel tank. Ugh!
The federal fuel economy ratings of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway -- not bad for a performance sedan -- make the premium factor a little easier to take. However, my readings during testing were about 2 mpg short of what the feds estimated.
Interior space is fine in the front, but three adults are going to feel squished in the back, especially if you're unwinding the Type-S for aggressive road maneuvers.
All in all, this TL Type-S is quite a freshening ... and worthy of excitement.
Make/model: 2007 Acura TL Type-S
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door, front-drive, luxury sports sedan
Base price: $38,125 (as tested, $38,795)
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 with 286 horsepower at 6,200 revolutions per minute and 256 foot-pounds of torque at 5,000 rpm
EPA fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon city; 28 mpg highway (premium unleaded recommended)
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with overdrive and special features
Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (ventilated on front) with anti-lock, electronic brake force distribution and other braking-enhancement features
Suspension: Independent, double-wishbone on front; independent, multi-link on rear
Fuel tank: 17.1 gallons
Passenger volume: 97.9 cubic feet
Trunk volume: 12.5 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,674 pounds
Height: 56.7 inches
Length: 189.8 inches
Wheelbase: 107.9 inches
Width: 72.2 inches
Track: 62.1 inches on front; 62 inches on rear
Ground clearance: 5.8 inches
Tires: P235/45R17 93W all-season radials
Final assembly point: Marysville, OhioL