- Near-luxury pricing with full-luxury equipment.
- Styling may be too conservative, and where are the side airbags?
The TL has been redesigned for 1999, with everything just getting better. The 2.5-liter engine is gone, making way for an all-new 3.2-liter V6. The transmission has been refined, the interior design makes better use of space, and the exterior is updated.
As Acura's torch bearer into the rapidly growing near-luxury market, the TL is pitted against some stiff competition in the form of the Audi A4, Infiniti I30, Lexus ES300 and Mercedes C-Class. Each of these models is already well established in the marketplace, which puts the pressure on Acura not only to meet but exceed what those cars have to offer. The new TL, with its combination of luxury, performance, and value, is prepared to meet the challenge.
Introduced in 1995, the TL replaced the Vigor as Acura's mid-level luxury sedan. The car remained largely unchanged from its introduction until this new 1999 model. Gone is the smaller 2.5-liter inline five that was standard in the first generation TLs. This year's only engine option is an all-new 3.2-liter V6 that utilizes VTEC technology to produce 225 horsepower and 216 foot-pounds of torque while still returning 19/27 mpg in city/highway driving. This puts the TL ahead of much of its competition in the horsepower race, and after driving the car we can confirm that it definitely gets out of its own way. In addition, with an initial service interval of 100,000 miles you can rest easy knowing that this engine will run in typical Honda fashion--a long time with little or no problems.
This year's changes are not just mechanical. In addition to the new engine and improved transmission, the TL has been molded to create more interior space. The revisions provide 2.4 more inches of front headroom (it loses an inch of legroom), and shoulder and hip room are increased for all passengers despite the car losing half an inch of exterior width. The new TL has a shorter wheelbase than its predecessor, and it has shed 59 lbs. of weight. Acura claims that zero-60 times have been improved by a full second. As for the new styling, the TL is attractive but still conservative.
As a near-luxury vehicle, the TL offers more than just air conditioning and leather. What you may not expect is a list of over 100 standard features including heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, steering wheel audio controls, rear heat/air vents, micron air filtration system, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes and an electronic immobilizer system. In fact, the only option available on the TL is a navigation system that uses a central monitor with touch screen controls. All this for $3,000 less than last year's 3.2TL now that's what we call value.
In the final analysis, this is a car that offers performance, interior room, and luxury features for a price that is well below the class average. These days, anything less from Acura would be a major disappointment; we've come to expect a lot of car for not a lot of money from Honda's upscale division. The TL delivers this value in typical Acura fashion.