December 11, 2006
Acura sells about 5,000 Acura TLs in Canada year-after-year, which in our market is pretty good for a near-luxury, sports/technology-oriented sedan starting at $42,500. But of course, they’d love to sell more.
And I think they will, too, with the introduction of the TL Type-S which increases the TL’s already significant power and adds all manner of desirable options and features, while bumping the price to a still competitive $46,300 for the six-speed manual transmission model, and $47,500 with the five-speed automatic.
But let’s backtrack a bit, and revisit the TL before elaborating on the features of the TL Type-S.
Introduced in 2004, the current version of the TL is all about sporty performance and the latest in personal technology. Its 3.2-litre V6 makes 258 horsepower and 233 pounds-feet of torque through the front wheels, and is one of the smoothest engines in any car. Available with a manual or automatic transmission (the manual comes with a limited slip differential), the TL is built for people who like their cars and like the gadgets that come with them.
The TL’s DVD-Audio system, for instance, delivers breathtaking sound through its six channels, eight speakers and dedicated sub-woofer. The audio system also integrates an active noise cancellation system to reduce cabin noise while cruising, and standard XM satellite radio. The TL with Navigation is specially programmed for bilingual instructions and is voice activated. Voice recognition also controls the climate and audio controls. The TL was one of the first Bluetooth-enabled vehicles, so your phone can be operated by voice, and used through the audio system. You can even download your phonebook from your phone into the car.
The attention to personal technology, coupled with formidable acceleration and handling, plus the somewhat executive, “downtown office” presence of the TL pretty much sum up the nature of the car. The Type-S simply adds more of the same.
The Type-S 3.5-litre V6 engine, for instance, increases horsepower to 286 at 6,200 rpm, and raises the torque to 255 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm. The engine is effectively the same as that found in Acura’s flagship RL, with a single overhead camshaft and variable valve timing (VTEC), minus four horsepower.
A new five-speed automatic transmission features paddle shifters, and the close-ratio six-speed manual is designed for quickness and precision. The Type-S also features a performance-tuned suspension (firmer front and rear anti-roll bars, stiffer springs and shocks) with front double wishbones and a rear multilink configuration, plus four-piston Brembo front brakes.
Exterior enhancements are numerous and make the TL Type-S easily recognizable. The Type-S 17-inch wheels (18-inch are available) feature a “Dark Euro Silver” look, and a large quad-style exhaust exits from the rear (it’s actually a single exhaust that branches into four outlets). Black chrome accents differentiate the grille, trim, rear lights and headlight surrounds. A new Type-S badge identifies the car, and a spoiler finishes the rear deck.
Inside, The Type-S receives all the TL’s personal technologies, including a navigation system that features a rear-view camera to aid when reversing the car. Type-S badging, dark silver trim and multifunction buttons enhance the TL’s new, three-spoke steering wheel. Instrument illumination is red (compared with blue for the TL), as is the ambient lighting for the console and footwells. The seats feature an embossed Type-S logo, extra lateral support bolsters and contrasting stitching. Additional enhancements include aluminum trim panels, carbon fibre pattern inserts and stainless steel pedals.
Safety equipment is comprehensive and includes anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, bi-function xenon projector headlights, door mirrors with turn signal, multiple airbags with side curtains and front seatbelt pretensioners.
We had the opportunity to drive the TL Type-S on public roads in and around Washington DC, and on the tight Summit Point Raceway in Virginia. The first impression when behind the wheel was that the car virtually leaps away from standstill, with the new six-speed manual transmission delivering short, satisfying, crisp shifts as required.
When cruising at legal speeds on the highway, or negotiating the smooth curves of secondary roads, the TL Type-S is comfortable, tight, and a pleasure to drive. Suspension is not harsh or noisy, and the car’s reserves of power and handling are there if you need them, but recede into the background when you don’t. Fuel economy is rated at a respectable 11.6/7.5 litres/100 km, city/highway. Power delivery is smooth and progressive, the passenger compartment is almost silent, and everything about the car seems very precise, cool, technical.
However, on a track you really get to experience the TL Type-S’s performance potential. In fact, this particular track may have been a bit too tight for the TL Type-S, as the numerous turns didn’t really allow it to finds its legs. Interestingly, those vehicles with an automatic transmission provided the more satisfying and balanced ride (at least, with me behind the wheel). The paddle shifters moved through the gears without delay, and left it to the driver to decide when to change gears, and which gear to select (automatics with manual override from some other manufacturers will change gears in spite of the driver).
But that six-speed manual is a joy to operate, so if you like shifting, you’ll really like this option. Bottom line about the transmission: it’s a sweet six-speed manual, for sure, but prospective buyers shouldn’t discount the automatic.
Power from the TL Type-S is formidable. When owners do get the opportunity (or have the need) to floor that accelerator, the car hurtles forward with authority. Even with the rush of power, torque steer is largely under control as the TL Type-S rapidly gains speed.
But what the TL has needed for a long time is a rear-wheel drive platform, or all-wheel drive. Acura knows this, and look for the next generation TL to arrive with such a platform, likely the latter. On a track like Summit Point Raceway, such a set-up would have further enhanced the TL Type-S handling, I should think. The car wasn’t quite as “tossable” as you might like (check out the CSX Type-S for that), and really worked those Brembo brakes when approaching a corner. But then again, it’s not a flat-out sports car, and doesn’t claim to be.
If the TL Type-S lacks anything, though, it may be the character that its German competitors seem to so easily manufacture. Like the replicant Rachael in the movie, “Blade Runner,” you have to warm up to her cybernetic charms. Some won’t get it, always prejudiced by the belief in torquey V8s or inline six’s. Others just love Acura’s sharp lines, smart technology, and business class cabin. With Honda/Acura, it’s a philosophy of car building that you’re buying into, not just a badge.
The Acura TL Type-S is built in Marysville, Ohio, and Acura Canada expects to sell about 1,300 models for 2007.
Manufacturer’s web site