2006 Acura TL

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2004 Acura TL

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Nicely redesigned TL should keep this car very popular.
Pros:
  • Nicely redesigned
  • Sleek new styling
  • More power
Cons:
  • Not a true sports sedan
  • Notchy automatic transmission shifter
  • More costly

Honda's upscale Acura division was the first Japanese automaker to enter the now-crowded "near-luxury" auto market in the mid-1990s and its aggressively styled new TL sedan should remain a hot contender.

The first TL was introduced in 1995. The new model is the third-generation TL. The car didn't really take off until the second-generation, equipment-loaded model arrived for 1999, when it became known as an outright bargain with its fairly low price and high quality.

The 1999 model was larger and based on the less-luxurious Honda Accord. The new model is based on Honda's latest Accord, which has stiffer construction for sharper responses and a better overall feel.

Racier Styling
The new TL actually is smaller on the outside than its predecessor, although it doesn't look smaller and it has much racier styling than its rather bland-looking predecessor. Passenger room doesn't suffer, but trunk volume is down a bit.

The new model has nearly the same wheelbase as its predecessor at 107.9 inches, but is 6.3 inches shorter overall. However, it stands 3 inches taller, 1.5 inches wider and has a wider track. It looks fast and lean, as if doing 75 mph just sitting there.

The $32,650-$34,850 TL also is more expensive, but its price is in line with most similarly equipped rivals.

The philosophy behind the TL has been to offer a fast, roomy, high-quality sedan that is reasonably priced for a near-luxury auto and so well equipped that no factory options are needed.

Equipment Tradition Continued
The 2004 TL continues the tradition, with many comfort, convenience and safety items. As usual, there are no factory options.

Want leather upholstery with heated power front seats and air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls? You've got them. Desire a power sunroof and power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry? You've also got them—along with lots of other stuff.

Safety Features
Safety items include an anti-skid system, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution for surer emergency stops, front side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.

An assortment of class-leading innovations and industry firsts include a DVD-Audio 8-speaker Surround Sound System with DVD-Audio, a DTS and CD 6-disc CD changer, an AM-FM tuner and a Dolby cassette. There's also a XM Satellite Radio and hands-free phone connectivity utilizing Bluetooth technology.

An OnStar assistance system no longer is offered.

More horsepower
Horsepower of the TL's smooth, responsive, low-emissions 3.2-liter V6 has been increased to 270 from the 225 generated by the standard 2003 TL—and from 260 in last year's high-performance Type-S version, which has been discontinued.

Acceleration of the 3,575-pound TL is lively, with a 0-60 mph time of 6.4 seconds. Fuel economy is OK for a fast, roomy sedan: an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 30 on highways with a 6-speed manual gearbox and 20 and 28 with a 5-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is responsive, with a manual-shift feature, but has an annoyingly notchy shift lever.

New Manual Transmission
The manual transmission is a first for the TL. It's a close-ratio unit and is accompanied by a firmer suspension, upgraded brakes, limited-slip differential and higher-performance tires.

However, the automatic transmission is more appropriate for the luxury oriented TL. This isn't a genuine sports sedan because its front-wheel-drive layout makes it nose-heavy, with 61.4 percent of its weight up front.

The TL thus lacks the more even weight distribution and balance of a genuine sports sedan such as a rear-wheel-drive BMW. The redesigned chassis and all-independent suspension can't overcome the excessive front weight, which causes front tires to cope with too much handling and braking chores.

New Sport Suspension
Nevertheless, the 2004 TL has a new sport suspension option known as the A-SPEC kit. It contains such items as 18-inch wheels with wider 40-series tires, lowered vehicle height, front-rear spoilers, special steering wheel, ground-effects rocker panels, performance brake pads for the automatic-transmission version and special badging.

But the option costs $5,200 not including dealer installation and doesn't add horsepower, so why bother with it?

Good Ride and Handling
The standard suspension of the TL is fine. It gives the car a firm-but-supple ride, and handling is good.

The newly refined, sharp steering is nicely weighted and the brakes are strong, although not the best in class. The (45-series) tires are wider and put on big 17-inch wheels.

Upscale Interior
The upscale interior with brushed aluminum accent trim is quiet and very roomy for four 6-footers, with easily read gauges, nicely located controls and good visibility from the driver's seat. Long visors can be moved to the side to very effectively block sunlight.

Front seats offer superb support, but rear seat cushions lack adequate thigh support, especially for those with long legs. Front doors have pockets that conveniently snap open. Dual cupholders on the console are located to help prevent spills and have a sliding cover. The large rear center armrest has sturdy pull-out dual cupholders.

The nicely shaped trunk is pretty roomy and fully lined. It has a low, wide opening and covered lid hinges to prevent cargo damage.

The TL isn't the outright bargain it once was because of its higher prices, but it remains one of the best buys in its class.

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BB04 - 9/19/2014 9:10:21 AM