Acura's torchbearer into the burgeoning near-luxury sedan market is the 3.2TL, and it's pitted against some stiff competition in the form of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS 300, Mercedes C-Class and Volvo S60, which puts the pressure on Acura not only to meet, but to exceed what those cars have to offer while simultaneously keeping price in check.
Based on a Honda global platform shared by the Accord, the TL's wheelbase is 2 inches longer than its pedestrian sibling, but features a more cramped rear seat (attributable to its rakish roofline). TL's front end has been restyled for 2002, with a more aggressive grille, reshaped headlights, redesigned bumper fascia, revised badging and standard foglights. The rear end is freshened with clear upper lenses for the taillights. While some detractors call the TL dull and uninspired in terms of styling, many of our staffers like its angular, chiseled look.
The base TL engine is a peppy 3.2-liter V6 that utilizes VTEC technology to produce 225 horsepower and 216 foot-pounds of torque, while still getting 19/29 mpg in city/highway driving. The V6 remains strong in every gear, and it can scoot from zero to 60 in under 8 seconds. This puts the TL ahead of much of its competition in the horsepower race, and we can confirm that it definitely gets out of its own way. The standard SportShift automanual transmission is quite user-friendly, thanks to a shift gate located close to the driver and an intuitive shift pattern.
The biggest TL news for 2002 is the debut of the high-performance Type-S model, which features a 260-horsepower engine, a sport-tuned suspension, a stability control system (called Vehicle Stability Assist) and 17-inch tires. Deeply bolstered, perforated leather seats, a "Type-S" shift knob and a metallic face instrument cluster distinguish the interior of the 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 a new in-dash six-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, traction control and four-wheel antilock brakes. A super-simple DVD-based navigation system with a smudge-free touchscreen is the only option, and it includes coverage of the entire continental United States on a single disc.
Offering sporty styling and near-luxury features for a price that is well below the class average, the TL continues to deliver both performance and value in an attractive package.