What's New for 2006
Other than a new tire-pressure monitor and altered engine management (for reduced torque steer), the Acura TL is mechanically unchanged for 2006. As with all 2006 Acura cars, there is a longer powertrain warranty for the TL. It now provides six years/70,000 miles of protection. New SAE testing procedures have dropped the TL's horsepower rating from 270 to 258.
The 1999-2003 Acura TL was never the premier car in the entry-level luxury sedan segment, but we always counted this midsize sedan among our favorites. Particularly in Type-S form, it offered consumers an appealing blend of performance, luxury content and value. Sure, it wasn't as fun to drive or as opulently outfitted as its luxury competitors, but with a fully loaded price under $30,000 for the regular TL and right around $34K for the Type-S, it didn't need to be.
Still, Acura knew that it was missing out on customers who really did want a bona fide sport sedan and/or a true luxury experience. With the introduction of a redesigned Acura TL in 2004, the company made a serious bid for these customers. Inside the cabin, just about every feature anyone would want in an entry-luxury sedan comes standard, while the overall design and the materials used give up nothing to the Europeans. Peer inside and you'll find a shapely dash generously trimmed in real aluminum. Bright blue electroluminescent gauges recessed in three pods and blue backlighting throughout the cabin heighten the cool metal motif.
Unlike the previous version, the 2006 Acura TL leaves no doubt about its luxury sedan status: Most surfaces are soft to the touch and finished with upscale grain patterns that would be just as acceptable in an Audi or BMW. Meanwhile, firmer suspension tuning makes these Acura cars quite entertaining out on the road without compromising the nameplate's reputation for a smooth and accommodating ride. The 258-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 offers plenty of power at any engine speed, and when paired with the excellent six-speed manual transmission, this midsize sedan is a blast to drive on curvy roads. If you plan to spend $30,000 to $40,000 on your next sedan, we'd suggest a visit to your local Acura dealership.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Standard equipment on the Acura TL includes 17-inch wheels and all-season tires, HID headlights, leather upholstery, aluminum trim, a 10-way power driver seat, a four-way power front-passenger seat, heated seats and a telescoping steering wheel. A 225-watt 5.1 surround-sound audio system that can play both CDs and DVD-Audio discs is also included, along with satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility, steering wheel audio controls and a power sunroof. In addition, manual-shift TLs have front Brembo brakes and larger stabilizer bars. Among the few options are high-performance tires on manual-shift TLs and a DVD-based navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen, voice recognition technology and solar-sensing technology that enhances the performance of the climate control system. Also worth consideration is the dealer-installed A-SPEC kit, which adds performance springs and shocks that lower the car about an inch, 18-inch wheels, an aero body kit, a rear spoiler, a sport steering wheel and special exterior badging. Automatic-equipped TLs also pick up the Brembo brakes when equipped with this package.
Powertrains and Performance
All TLs come with a smooth 3.2-liter V6 engine. Horsepower measures 258, while torque comes in at 233 lb-ft. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic. Fuel economy rates 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway with either transmission.
Standard safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and BrakeAssist, as well as stability control, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants and side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants. In front-offset crash tests conducted by the IIHS, the Acura TL earned a top rating of "Good" and a "Best Pick" designation. In government crash tests, the TL received a perfect five stars for everything but front-seat side impacts, where it earned a four-star rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Acura TL feels as luxurious as an Audi or Lexus. The cockpit has a stylish two-tone color scheme, aluminum inlays and an attractive set of bright blue electroluminescent gauges. Build and materials quality is excellent. Most surfaces are soft-touch, and the standard leather upholstery is quite supple. Bolstered front seats offer excellent comfort, and there's plenty of room for a pair of adults to ride in back. The sophisticated Panasonic audio system plays music through six channels when you load up DVD-Audio discs.
The 2006 Acura TL is entertaining to drive, thanks to its prodigious horsepower, but models equipped with the slick-shifting six-speed manual are the most rewarding on back roads. In city driving situations, however, the TL would benefit from a tad more low-end torque. The suspension manages to deliver both a comfortable ride and tight handling around corners. Enthusiasts will prefer the sharper reflexes and rear-drive layout of cars like the 3 Series, but in stock form Acura's driving dynamics are well balanced.