High Tech Machine
Steve Schaefer, Fri, 29 Jun 2007 08:00:00 PDT
Acura's near luxury TL got a thorough redesign last year when the third generation car debuted, so 2005 marks a year of little change. The features that make this high-tech vehicle so desirable have also made the new TL the brand's biggest seller since its debut.
On the road, the TL stands out. The sharply drawn, angular lines are a big change from the softer, prettier shapes of previous Acura vehicles. The designers have given the car a macho stance, with a chiseled face, high tail with spoiler, and character lines so deep along the side that the door handles can be buried in them. Today's trendy high beltline means the windows are higher relative to your shoulder, giving the TL a feeling of vault like protection and strength. The use of satin finish trim in place of common chrome, including on the grille, separates this car from the pack.
The interior continues the strong lines of the body. My tester offered handsome burl wood and metallic trim for a more upscale look than previous TLs. Supportive leather seats and handsome trim are standard. All the upscale accessories are included, including dual zone, dual-temperature automatic climate control, keyless entry, heated front seats, automatic day/night rearview mirror, and more.
The Acura/ELS Premium 8-speaker Surround Sound System with DVD-A sound delivers better-than-CD quality audio performance. Because the car is so quiet on the road, I was able to enjoy the system immensely. XM Radio, with its satellite system and more than 100 CD-quality channels, comes standard in every TL. Acura gives you the first three months of service at $9.95 a month, after which you can pick up the tab and keep it if you get hooked, which you probably will. There's something for everybody on XM, and most of it is commercial free. I got hooked on the Sixties station, but you might want to listen to opera, bluegrass, raw hip hop or even baseball games.
Integrated with the audio system is a standard Bluetooth wireless interface. This technology lets you use a steering wheel mounted button to do hands free calling. You can even transfer a call to the car's system if you want to step into the TL and drive while continuing a call. You can use up to six different phones and store up to 50 numbers in the system's phone book.
The TL's 3.2-liter V6 engine puts out a prodigious 270 horsepower and 238 lb.-ft of torque, thanks to features like a two-stage intake manifold, a cold air intake, and a high flow exhaust system. Fuel ratings are a decent 20 city, 29 highway. I averaged 21 miles per gallon. Despite its potent performance, the TL meets LEV-2 ULEV (ultra low emission vehicle) standards.
My Abyss Blue Pearl tester, like every TL, came pretty much fully equipped. You can add things like the five-speed Sequential Sportshift in place of the standard six-speed manual transmission. My tester had this automatic and it worked perfectly. You can also include a voice-activated GPS navigation system or special summer performance tires. Prices range from $33,670 for the five speed automatic model to $35,870 for the car with the works.
The TL is loaded with safety equipment, from airbags (front, side, and curtain) to side impact door beams and height adjustable seat belts. Active safety comes from four-wheel antilock brakes and the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. VSA works with the car's computer and its drive-by-wire throttle system to control the vehicle's position during acceleration, braking and cornering. Cars with the six-speed manual transmission come with a limited slip differential, which distributes torque between the driving wheels to help maintain traction and improve handling. Electronic Brake Force Distribution adjusts the brake pressure front and rear automatically and continuously for the best stopping ability.
New for 2005, a weight sensor is installed in the front passenger seat. If the weight on the seat is less than 65 pounds, the front airbag won't go off in a crash. This protects children who may be riding there (but who should really be in back, in a car seat). The driver's seat now has a position sensor that varies the airbag response depending on how far forward the seat is placed.
Certainly the TL has to be good, because it competes in a field that includes midsize performance sedans from BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac, Infiniti, and others. The new TL blends a wealth of sophisticated electronics, carefully rendered design, and top-quality materials and assembly to give those brands a serious run for the target customer.