Acura TL

Being the upmarket version of Honda Accord, inevitably, Acura 3.2TL has to rival the very best European compact sedans, namely BMW 3-series, Alfa Romeo 156 and Audi A4. Now the rival list also include Toyota Altezza / Lexus IS. Mission impossible ? very likely. 

The strongest aspect of the US-built 3.2TL is undoubtedly engine. Displacing 3210 c.c., the V6 output a massive 225 horsepower and 216 pound-foot of torque, thus outpowers anyone else. However, this is not to say it is the best engine among rivals. The sohc cylinder head prevent it from revving as eagerly as BMW's or Lexus' inline-6 despite the existence of VTEC. Worst of all is the induction noise - isn't it too quiet and unexciting ? 

Against the clock, the Acura is not the fastest too. BMW 328i and Audi A4 2.8 Quattro, plus the forthcoming Lexus IS300, are all faster. In terms of transmission, the American-biased Acura is the only car not offer with manual gearbox. However, it has a 5-speed auto with sequential manual mode. 

The worst element is the chassis, which was derived from the bread-and-butter Accord. To provide class-leading interior space, Honda decided to make the TL larger than the Accord - 30 mm longer in wheelbase, 45 mm longer overall - rather than making it more nimble and responsive to handle. I believe Honda will regret for this decision. Carrying 1565 kg kerb weight, how can the 3.2TL not be named as the bulkiest car in the class ? Furthermore, there's no Alfa-style sharp suspension tuning or super quick steering ratio, no BMW's refined aluminum suspension, no Altezza's 17-inch low profile tyres, no rear-wheel-drive or Audi's 4WD. Even the monocoque seems not as rigid as rivals. Steering feel is typically numb. 

Admittedly, TL is already a sportier car than Accord due to the stiffer springs and dampers. However, compare with the aforementioned rivals, it is quite out of pace. In particular, BMW 3-series handles sharper yet rides smoother than it.  

There is a price advantage for the TL, but not much. In the US, a similarly equipped 328i is 20% more expensive. After considering build quality, use of material (remember, the TL employs fake wood in the cabin), styling and reputation, it's not hard to see the little BMW is far more favourable.

Japanese equivalents to Acura TL: Honda Saber and Inspire
The above report was last updated on 19 Feb 2000. All Rights Reserved.

3.2TL Type S

What power the Type S version of TL is exactly the same engine as the corresponding CL, that is, a 3.2-litre V6 tuned to deliver 260hp. That's a lot of power for the class - some 30 more horsepower than BMW's firebreathing 330i. However, the Type S actually feels less powerful, perhaps because its torque curve is not as flat or probably because sohc cylinder head limiting its top-end revability. Carrying 65 more kilograms than the Bimmer won't help performance too. Road & Track's stop watch confirms the subjective feeling: it takes 7 seconds flat to do 0-60 and 17.6 ticks to reach the ton. The BMW - though with manual transmission - do that in 6.7 and 16.5 seconds respectively. Therefore the TL Type S is not as quick as we hope for. 

The weak chassis is basically unchanged, so Honda cannot stiffen its suspensions too much, otherwise NVH would have been obvious. Undoubtedly, the Type S resist roll better than its lesser sisters, but it is far off from European rivals. It still rolls a lot for a sporting premium car. It still understeer when pushed - though already reduced. It still steers with neither effort nor feel. Worst of all, its suspensions fail to satisfy both the requirements of stability and ride comfort. Strangely, its springs and dampers react stiffly to initial compression and soften to more compression. That means it fails to filter small irregularities on road surface but it will roll too much under strong cornering force.  

The TL is not new anymore. Facing the very good new European rivals - Mercedes C-class, BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Jaguar X-Type or Volvo S60T5, it can barely be seen as second-class, at best. Interior space and price still stand on the Acura's side, but that is not enough to persuade us.

The above report was last updated on 17 Sep 2001. All Rights Reserved.


Acura 3.2TL
Acura 3.2TL Type S
Front-engined, Fwd.
Front-engined, Fwd.
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
4860 / 1795 / 1420 / 2745
V6, sohc, 4v/cyl, VTEC.
V6, sohc, 4v/cyl, VTEC, 
variable intake.
3210 c.c.
3210 c.c.
225 hp
260 hp
216 lbft
232 lbft
5A with manual mode
5A with manual mode
F: double wishbones / R: multi-link
F: double wishbones / R: multi-link
205/60 R16
215/50 R17
1565 kg
1620 kg
Top speed
145 mph (estimated)
153 mph (est)
0-60 mph
7.2 sec*
6.5 sec*
0-100 mph
* Tested by Road & Track

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