Commuting in style and safety
By Lou Ann Hammond, Tue, 3 Jan 2006 08:00:00 PDT
Driving home over San Franciscos' Bay Bridge on Friday night is more stop and go than driving. That's when you realize that horsepower is not the most important part of commuting. Torque and a luxurious interior come first.
The Acura TL has 258 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 233 lbs-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. Torque is important and so is control of my car when some jerk makes a stupid move and I've got to pass them quickly. There just always seems to be one person that is jutting in and out and causing everyone to drive defensively. Acura has a torque-sensing, variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering with a 4-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension and 4-piston Brembo front brakes.
This car is made for commuting in stop and go traffic; Acura has complimented the car with traction and stability control. I've got the 5-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control, but the TL comes as a 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission. More importantly, Acura has priced them the same, so you can pick the transmission you really want without regard for price. The Acura TL employs Honda's VTEC variable valve technology coupled with drive-by-wire throttle, resulting in fast acceleration and decent fuel economy (20 mpg city/29 mpg highway), though with all this stopping and starting those are probably not my true numbers.
But they move on and I'm back to listening to Bruce Springsteen. The TL is so well equipped that when you're in the drivers seat you could be driving a Mercedes or BMW. The only options include a voice-activated navigation system ($2,000) and high-performance tires. Some of the standards in this car are; Power operated, heated side mirrors with memory and rear window defroster. The European feel comes in the leather-trimmed seats and door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, wood-patterned trim, 10-way power adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support and memory. The small touches come in dual-zone, dual-mode Automatic Climate Control with micron air-filtration system and rear compartment heat/air conditioning vents.
To ensure proper maintenance intervals and reduce the number of service visits, the TL features an innovative Maintenance Minder system that automatically monitors the vehicle's unique operating profile and alerts the driver when certain types of routine service, including oil and filter replacement and tire rotation are needed. When the TL is started, Maintenance Minder information is displayed on the multi-information display located on the instrument panel beneath the fuel gauge.
I really appreciated the Maintenance Minder system. In my old cars I either had to make a note to myself when maintenance needed to be done, or be reminded by the sticker in the top left hand corner of my window by the last mechanic.
Steering wheel-mounted audio, voice recognition, navigation system, cruise control and HandsFreeLink controls are up to-date safety necessities, and the fact that they are mounted in the steering wheel means you don't have to take your eyes off the road. The TL comes equipped with a Bluetooth-based hands-free phone system as standard equipment.
I arrive at home, safely, knowing that defensive driving and the mechanics of this car were working to get me there. My dog barks and all is right with the world.