2004 Acura TL
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.