2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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by Greg Wilson

New for 2002, the Acura 3.2TL Type S is a higher-performance version of the 3.2TL mid-sized sedan – it offers a more powerful 260 horsepower 3.2 litre V6 engine, 17 inch low profile tires, a tuned suspension, quicker steering, and an upgraded interior. The MSRP is $41,000.

Type S adds performance to Acura 3.2TL luxury sedan

Soon after the Acura 3.2TL was introduced in 1999, it was named ‘Car of the Year’ by the members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada – an award that surprised many people. The TL is based on the same platform as the current Honda Accord sedan and is built in the same plant in Marysville, Ohio – casual observers could not be faulted for surmising that the 3.2TL is merely a restyled, better-equipped version of the Honda Accord.

Critics, like myself, who drove the car back then got into the car thinking the same thing – and emerged from the car with a different perspective. I was surprised at the TL’s balanced driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, quick acceleration, and was impressed by its attractive interior and special features such as the SportShift automatic/manual transmission. The icing on the cake was the 3.2TL’s base price of $35,000, considerably cheaper than its import rivals.

>2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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Fast forward to the 2002 model year (it’s already started!), and Acura is introducing a higher performance version of this car called the Type S. Like the 3.2CL Type S 2-door coupe introduced last year, the TL Type S 4-door sedan has more horsepower, better handling and a few more luxury features than the standard model. Specifically, the TL Type S has a more powerful 260 horsepower 3.2 litre V6 (vs 225 horsepower for the regular TL), wider 17 inch tires, quicker steering, a tuned suspension, a computerised anti-skid system (VSA), and some unique interior features such as metallic-look gauges, darker wood trim on models with black interiors, and perforated leather seats.

The Type S shares some minor changes with the regular TL for the 2002 model year, including revised front end styling, redesigned taillights, a new 6-disc in-dash CD changer (replacing a single disc player), more sound insulation in the doors, and new door seals to reduce wind noise.

2002 Acura TL Type S models are priced at $41,000, $4,000 more than the 2002 3.2TL sedan.

Increased performance

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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Though the Type S has the same 3.2 litre VTEC V6 engine as the standard TL sedan, it offers more horsepower and torque due to a different dual stage air induction system for improved engine breathing and a higher compression ratio (10.5:1 vs 9.8:1). As a result, the Type S engine develops a maximum of 260 horsepower at 6100 rpm (vs 225 horsepower at 5600 rpm) and maximum torque of 232 lb-ft between 3500 and 5500 rpm (vs 216 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm). The Type S has a higher redline than the regular TL: 6900 rpm vs 6300 rpm. With 260 horsepower, the 3.2TL has the most horsepower in the mid-sized sport sedan class.

Type S models also include a standard computerised skid control system (Vehicle Stability Assist) and traction control while standard TL sedans have traction control only. Similar to the system used in the Acura 3.5RL flagship, the VSA system automatically corrects for loss of directional control in a sudden skid or collision-avoidance manoeuver by applying brake force to one of the front wheels. This helps bring the car back to the driver’s intended direction of travel.

Other notable differences between the TL Type S and TL include lower-profile V-rated P215/50R-17 inch tires (vs P215/60R-16 inch), 4 channel ABS (vs 3 channel), torque-sensing variable-assist steering (vs speed-sensitive), quicker steering with 2.93 turns lock to lock (vs 3.11), a thicker rear stabilizer bar, and a heavy duty 120 amp alternator (vs 105 amp).

Not everything has improved though. The Type S has a larger turning circle: 12.0 metres/39.7 feet (vs 11.2 metres/36.8 feet), and the Type S weighs 30 kilograms (66 lb.) more. Oh, and the Type S is $4,000 more than the regular TL.

Classy interior

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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The interior is smartly-styled, and has room for five adult passengers. The perforated leather seats are very comfortable and have front seat heaters for cold days, and the steering wheel has the same perforated leather material. The floor shift lever has a leather-wrapped knob with a ‘Type S’ badge on the top. A brushed steel shift gate, chrome door handles, and wood trim on the console all add up to a tasteful, quality look.

The three round gauges ahead of the driver have a sporty, light metallic finish, and the centre instrument panel includes a digital clock, single zone climate control, a slide-out note tray, a new 6-disc in-dash CD player and an AM/FM/cassette stereo, and a 12 volt outlet. Two cupholders are tastefully hidden under a pop-up cover, and the centre armrest has a roomy bi-level storage bin. Sunglasses holder and map lights are overhead.

The driver’s seat has power for-aft, rake, and height adjustment, and two position memory settings. The front seats have height-adjustable head restraints and rear seats have fixed head restraints. Dual front and front side-airbags are standard.

The two outboard rear seats are sculpted out, so the rear seat is better suited for two passengers rather than three – although there are three 3-point seatbelts. At the rear, there’s a centre fold-down armrest with two built-in cupholders, a small fold-out storage tray at the back of the centre console, map pockets on the back of the front seats, and two rear air vents. The rear windows wind all the way down. For long trunk items, there’s a pass-through behind the rear armrest, but the rear seats do not fold down.

The trunk has a rather high liftover height, but it’s roomy and has an open storage cavity on the left. A temporary spare tire is found under the trunk floor.

Driving Impressions

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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Of all the front-wheel-drive sport sedans on the market, I think the 3.2TL Type S is second only to the Audi A4 1.8T and 2.8 in driving performance. After having driven the Type S for a week, words that come to mind include ‘responsive’, ‘quick’, ‘surprising’, ‘firm ride’, ‘low-to-the-ground’, ‘fun’, ‘smooth’, and ‘impressive.

Purists may prefer the driving dynamics of a rear-wheel-drive sedan like the BMW 330i, but the Type S is nevertheless an outstanding performer. It’s surprisingly well-balanced for a front-driver with 60% of it weight over the front wheels. The TL Type S corners flat, shows very little dive under heavy braking, and grips the road tenaciously. However, its suspension is stiffer than the standard 3.2TL, particularly over concrete expansion joints and person-hole covers.

From a standing start, acceleration is immediate and continuous – the engine is a free-revving, racy powerplant – typical of Honda/Acura engines. Throttle response at highway passing speeds is also exemplary. The standard 5-speed automatic SportShift transmission (a manual is not available) shifts with fluidic precision in automatic mode and features grade logic to prevent ‘gear-hunting’ when climbing slight grades. In manual SportShift mode, the driver puts the lever in a separate gate, and taps forwards to change up and back to change down. Shifts take about a second, give greater control over engine performance, and are best used on curvy, hilly, demanding roads. In the city however, I preferred to leave it in automatic mode.

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
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Standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS provide very short stops, and the VSA/traction control system offers peace of mind when encountering sudden slippery surfaces, or other conditions where the vehicle may go out of control. It automatically corrects understeer (front-end ‘ploughing’) and oversteer (rear-end swing-out), and the traction control prevents wheelspin when accelerating on snow, ice, gravel or other slippery surfaces.

I wasn’t as impressed with the torque-sensing variable-assist steering. The steering feel is rather uncommunicative, though accurate.

Price and features

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
For a base price of $41,000, the Acura 3.2TL Type S includes everything I mentioned above plus an immobilizer, keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, speed-sensing intermittent wipers, power moonroof, Homelink garage door opener, and auto-off headlights.

Competitors for the Type S include the Infiniti I30, BMW 330i, Lexus ES300, Lexus IS300, Audi A4 2.8, Mercedes-Benz C280, and Subaru Legacy GT. The Acura 3.2TL Type S is favourable priced when compared with most of these models.


Technical Data:

2002 Acura 3.2TL Type S
Base price $41,000
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.2 litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves, VTEC (variable valve timing)
Horsepower 260 @ 6100 rpm
Torque 232 lb-ft. @ 3500 to 5500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic SportShift
Tires P215/50R-17
Curb weight 1614 kg (3551 lb.)
Wheelbase 2745 mm (108.1 in.)
Length 4889 mm (192.5 in.)
Width 1795 mm (70.6 in.)
Height 1365 mm (53.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 405 litres (14.3 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption n/a
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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