What's New for 1996
Vigor replacement designed to do battle with new Infiniti I30 and the Lexus ES 300 in the near-luxury segment. Cleanly styled with room for four, the new TL comes with either a 2.5-liter, inline five-cylinder or a smooth 3.2-liter V6.
Acura's all-new TL replaces the defunct Vigor in the lineup, and heralds the debut of a new nomenclature scheme at Honda's upscale division. Seems consumers were getting too cozy with names like Legend, Vigor and Integra, and weren't paying much attention to the fact that these were Acuras. By switching to letters and numbers, Acura hopes to focus more attention on the Acura brand name. Within several years, all Acuras will be designated by alphanumeric names, except the NSX, which won't be changing.
The TL comes in two flavors: 2.5-liter five cylinder (2.5) and 3.2-liter V6 (3.2). Each model gets unique front styling, though at first glance you'll be hard-pressed to see the differences. The V6 is shod with larger tires as well, though the 2.5TL is marketed as the sportier version. Hmmm....
Inside, the TL is sumptuously comfortable, as long as you're riding in the front seat. While the TL is larger inside than the Vigor it replaces, the rear seat is still no picnic for big passengers, and the rear windows won't go all the way down. Smaller people will feel quite comfortable on the supportive rear bench. Classy gauge markings compliment tasteful wood appliqués on the dash, which is laid out in typical Acura fashion: perfectly. The quality of the interior materials and the feel of the switchgear approaches that of the vaunted Lexus ES 300, though some glossy plastic on the armrest door handles detract from the ambiance.
Exterior styling is attractive, but unadventurous. Still, we prefer the Acura to the Infiniti I30, which looks like a Maxima with lots of aftermarket garbage hung on it. The TL looks sleek, with a long, high hood, small greenhouse, and abbreviated rear deck. The tail treatment is too close to Toyota's Avalon, and the rear bumper fascia is too characterless for a near-luxury entry.
Overall, we like the conservative TL. It should compete fairly well in this crowded price segment, if it can manage to steal some attention from the I30 and Oldsmobile Aurora.