What's New for 2003
For 2003, all TL models equipped with the navigation system receive OnStar as standard equipment.
Introduction: Acura's torchbearer into the burgeoning near-luxury sedan market is the 3.2TL. Last redesigned in 1999 and updated rather frequently, the TL competes against a wide variety of vehicles, including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus ES 300 and IS 300, Infiniti I35 and G35, Mercedes C-Class, and Volvo S60. Acura hopes to exceed what those cars have to offer while simultaneously keeping price in check.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: There are two trim levels to pick from: the base TL and the high-performance TL Type-S. Both TLs offer near-luxury equipment without a hefty price, and you get more than just air conditioning and a smattering of leather on the seats. You snag lots of standard equipment, including a power sunroof, a 180-watt sound system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, heated front seats, two-position memory system for driver seat and mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, rear heat/air vents, a micron air-filtration system and high-intensity discharge lights. A super-simple DVD-based navigation system with a smudge-free touchscreen is the only option, and this year it also comes with OnStar, the vehicle communications service. In addition to these items, the TL Type-S comes with a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and minor cabin trim upgrades.
Powertrains and Performance: The front-drive TL features a peppy 3.2-liter V6 that utilizes VTEC technology to produce 225 horsepower and 216 pound-feet of torque, while still getting 19/29 mpg in city/highway driving. The V6 remains strong in every gear, and it can scoot from 0 to 60 in under 8 seconds. The standard five-speed automatic transmission is quite user-friendly, thanks to a shift gate located close to the driver and an intuitive shift pattern for the SportShift sequential-shift manual function. Most people should be satisfied with this configuration, but for those who aren't, there's the Type-S. Thanks to special engine modifications, such as a dual-stage induction system, increased compression and performance-oriented camshafts and valves, the 3.2-liter V6 in the Type-S makes 260 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. The five-speed automatic is still the only choice for this car.
Safety: The TL is equipped with side airbags; the front passenger seat has a system to prevent the side airbag from deploying if a small child or adult leans into the deployment path. Other safety items include traction control, antilock brakes and, on Type-S models, a stability control system. NHTSA has given the TL a four-star rating for front-seat side-impact safety and five stars for rear-seat side-impact safety.
Interior Design and Special Features: Inside, standard leather covers the comfortable front seats. Type-S cars also have deeply bolstered, perforated leather seats; a Type-S shift knob; and a metallic face instrument cluster. Though certainly functional, the TL's interior isn't as opulent as those of other cars in this class.
Driving Impressions: Both the TL and TL Type-S are satisfying to drive. The Type-S, in particular, is entertaining thanks to its prodigious horsepower. However, being a front-drive car has its disadvantages; the TL's handling isn't as dynamic as that of other rear-drive cars in this class.