Used 2003 Acura TL Review

Edmunds expert review

Jack-of-all-trades but master of none, the TL provides an impressive mix of luxury, sport and affordability.




What's new for 2003

For 2003, all TL models equipped with the navigation system receive OnStar as standard equipment.

Vehicle overview

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.






Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.