Full 2008 Acura TL Review
What's New for 2008
After big changes last year, including the return of the Type-S model, the 2008 Acura TL receives no significant changes.
The 2008 Acura TL is increasingly becoming an oddball. While there are a handful of front-wheel-drive, entry-level luxury sedans, a scant few can claim to be truly sporty. A real high-performance driving experience can usually only be had when the power is sent to the rear wheels and occasionally all of them. The TL, particularly the Type-S model, sets itself apart by being a front driver that can keep up with (although still not surpass) such rear-drive thoroughbreds as the Infiniti G35. Yet despite this sporty nature, the TL still provides a wonderfully smooth ride and luxury appointments that will make comfort-minded customers happy.
After substantial changes last year, including the return of the Type-S model, the TL carries over unchanged for 2008. That's certainly OK, as Acura's best-selling car has always stood out from the pack since being redesigned for 2004. The TL's wedge-like shape is still attractive as ever, and its spacious interior remains a model of craftsmanship and ergonomics. The base engine operates with utter serenity but still manages to have an engaging character, while the suspension is well-controlled without being a rough rider. Its surround-sound stereo is so good, it's almost enough to justify buying the car alone.
If the TL has a particular forte, it's value. A package that bundles a voice-activated navigation system (with real-time traffic information) and a rearview camera is the lone option on the base car (standard on the Type-S), while features like Bluetooth, leather seating, power front seats, sunroof and that surround-sound system are included on all TLs. Those features are usually options on rivals that typically start at a higher base price.
For a front-wheel-drive, entry-level luxury sedan with sporting tendencies, the 2008 Acura TL is the best choice around. Its mix of driving fun, comfort, quality and value can't be beat. But if maximum handling and performance are priorities, the BMW 328i, Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS 350 are better choices. In the end, it could very well hinge on how you feel about oddballs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Acura TL is a midsize entry-level luxury sport sedan available in two incredibly well-equipped trim levels. The base TL comes standard with 17-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, foglights, sunroof, leather upholstery, eight-way driver and four-way passenger power/heated seats, driver memory functions, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker surround-sound system with in-dash six-CD/DVD audio changer, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The lone factory option is a navigation system that comes with a voice command interface, real-time traffic updates and a rearview camera.
The TL Type-S is the more performance-oriented trim level, adding a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned suspension and more powerful brakes. The exterior is also treated to more aggressively styled fascias and side skirts, along with a deck lid spoiler, quad exhausts and special 17-inch wheels. The navigation system and its accompanying features are standard on the Type-S, which also gets sport seats, special interior trim and different lighting. High-performance tires are the Type-S model's lone option.
Powertrains and Performance
All TL are front-wheel drive. The base TL is powered by 3.2-liter V6 that produces 258 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. Unlike in the past, a five-speed automatic is the lone transmission available. Despite this being the "base" engine, it's still capable of bringing the TL from zero to 60 mph in around 6 seconds. For an even quicker experience, the Type-S is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 286 hp and 256 lb-ft of torque. Buyers have a choice of either a slick-shifting six-speed manual with a limited-slip differential, or a five-speed automatic that features paddle shifters. Expect either combination to deliver a 0-60-mph time in the mid to high 5-second range.
Fuel economy for the base 2008 TL is 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The manual-equipped Type-S actually returns better mileage at 18 city and 27 highway, while the five-speed automatic gets 17/26.
The 2008 Acura TL comes standard with stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length curtain airbags. A rearview camera comes along with the available navigation system. In crash tests, the TL gets five out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for both frontal impact protection and rear side impact protection. Front side impact testing resulted in four out of five stars. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's side and frontal-offset crash tests, the TL received top scores of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
For those who define "luxury" as prominent swaths of wood trim and chrome accents, the TL is likely to disappoint. Subtle wood trim can be found on the base model's center console, but otherwise, this Acura goes for more of a sporting motif with dominant alloy trim, and in the Type-S, faux carbon fiber. Both TL models are beautifully crafted, and that's where this luxury sedan really shines, with near bulletproof build quality and top-notch materials. The Type-S differentiates itself with more aggressively bolstered seats, red instrument lighting (versus cobalt blue) and two-tone leather.
Crammed full of electronics, the TL is thankfully pretty easy to operate -- even for those who wouldn't know the difference between an iPod and an iPhone. As Acura and Honda slowly migrate to an iDrive-like electronics interface, the TL features the good-old touchscreen setup (bolstered by voice commands) for navigation-equipped models that's easy to figure out and operate. Enjoy it while you can.
It's a well-known fact that front-wheel-drive cars tend to only take so much power before torque steer takes over and the car darts off in whichever direction it chooses. Despite healthy doses of 258 hp and 286 hp, respectively, both the base TL and Type-S manage to feel no worse for wear. Its steering is incalculably precise, and the car's cornering is tack-sharp. The Type-S in particular is the best that front-drive gets. In fact, only when driven aggressively back to back with rear-wheel-drive competitors like the Infiniti G35 or Lexus IS does the TL start to suffer from its drivetrain. Yet for a majority of buyers, the TL provides a tremendously sporty driving experience that nevertheless is the smoothest operator in its segment. Even the edgier Type-S is well within the acceptable range of ride comfort. Whether on a straight slog from K.C. to Denver or on a high-speed tour of the Smoky Mountains, the 2008 TL delivers.