2000 Acura TL

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2002 Acura TL

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2003.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Very attractive upscale sedan is made even better and remains a bargain.
Pros:
  • Bargain price
  • Hot new version
  • Revised styling
  • Fast
  • Good handling
Cons:
  • High trunk opening
  • No manual transmission
  • Tiny glove box
  • Still no head-turner

Acura finally is putting more points on the scoreboard—although it lacks a V8 engine offered by archrivals Lexus and Infiniti because parent company Honda firmly believes in efficient 4-cylinder and V6 engines.

Acura invented the Japanese luxury car market in America in 1986 with attractive, sporty, upscale models. But then it spent too many years in the 1990s building competent but dull larger models—with no V8. And nobody really considered its small, sporty Integra models as upscale cars.

Turnaround
Things began turning around for Acura when it introduced its 3.2 TL for 1999. That sedan was a throw-down bargain, being roomy, fast, solid, extremely well equipped—and a stunning $5,200 cheaper than its predecessor. At $27,950, the 3.2 TL quickly was snapped up here.

Hot New Model
The top-dog Acura auto is the RL, which really could use a nice V8. But a sophisticated 225-horsepower V6 is just fine for the 2001 3.2 TL, especially considering that there is a new high-performance version of the engine that generates 260 horsepower and more torque, thanks partly to Honda race car technology.

The higher-horsepower version of the 3.2 TL's 3.2-liter, single-overhead-camshaft V6 comes from the hot rod version of the Acura CL coupe and propels the new 3.2 TL Type-S trim.

The $31,320 Type-S costs a little more than the base $28,880 trim but has that trim's long list of comfort and convenience equipment and items such as a sport suspension and racier-looking interior.

Standard in the regular 3.2 TL are items including leather upholstery, powered heated front seats and a powered glass sunroof. Safety items include front and side airbag systems.

New Features
Both 2002 3.2 TL trims have a new in-dash 6-disc CD changer. Noise and vibration have been reduced with added insulation materials in doors and other areas. Fog lights also have been added.

Revised Styling
The 3.2 TL has always had tasteful but rather bland styling. So the 2002 model gets sportier front stylng for a more aggressive look and redesigned taillights.

Unique Type-S features include special perforated-leather seats and steering wheel cover, ebony wood-patterned trim, metallic-face gauges and a few subtle touches such as a Type-S emblem on the gear selector knob.

Type-S Mechanical Items
More importantly, the Type-S features revised steering with improved road feel, a firmer sport suspension, larger 50-series (versus 60-series) higher-performance tires on slightly larger 17-inch wheels and a stability control system.

The only factory option for both 3.2 TL trims is a $2,000 DVD-based navigation system. It's among the best such systems, although it absorbs some climate control functions and makes temperature adjustments more complicated than they should be.

The base price of the standard 3.2 TL isn't much higher than that of the 1999 model. And the 2000 model got a 5-speed automatic transmission for more responsive acceleration, higher fuel economy and less engine wear—although both versions of the 2001 V6 call for 91-octane premium gasoline.

The 1999 3.2 TL delivered an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway, whereas both versions of the 2002 engine provide an estimated 19 and 29. Moreover, the 260-horsepower V6 loafs at 1900 rpm at 65 mph while the 1999 model's lower-horsepower V6 was turning over at 2300 rpm at that speed essentially because it had one less gear in the transmission.

No Manual Gearbox
The transmission has a manual shift feature, but it's too bad that Acura doesn't offer the Type-S with a genuine 5-speed manual. After all, it competes with the BMW 3-Series, which can be had with a conventional manual gearbox

Both 3.2 TL trims have front-wheel drive, but feel much like good rear-drive European sports-luxury sedans partly because they have a race-car-style, fully independent double-wishbone suspension.

Fun to Drive
Both 3.2 TL trims are fun to drive. The Type-S naturally handles a little better than the base trim with such things as its firmer suspension and larger tires. Its steering is rather heavy, but quick. And its Vehicle Stability Assist system makes for more confident driving. Both trims have a supple ride.

Anti-lock brakes are standard and stopping distances are short, although the brake pedal still feels too soft.

Roomy Interior
Four 6-footers easily fit in the 3.2 TL's quiet interior, partly because it has a long 108.1-inch inch wheelbase. Front seats offer good support and the center of the rear seat is soft enough to handle a fifth occupant in reasonable comfort, at least for short trips. That can't be said for many cars.

The steering wheel rim blocks some secondary controls, but major controls are large and easily reached. Separate covers flip up to reveal nicely sized dual cupholders in the front console, and the substantial rear armrest contains two fairly deep cupholders. The glove box is tiny, but there are storage pockets in the front doors and the console has a deep, covered bin.

Large Trunk
The trunk is large but has a rather high opening and manual hinges that eat into cargo space. But the hood is held up by smooth hydraulic struts and allows swift access to fluid-filler areas.

The 3.2 TL remains a throw-down bargain. The same can be said for the new Type-S trim, which further enhances the value of the Acura nameplate.

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BB06 - 8/23/2014 8:44:55 AM