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TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT

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Published on Fri, Jul 16, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT

By JOHN GRAFMAN

Half jokingly I think to myself, “what is that funny-looking stick with a knob on it doing protruding from between the front seats?” Wait, I remember now, it’s a manual transmission. Wow, Flashback! Looking back, I’ve owned an Acura and several Hondas, and all had manual trannies. Many years and many miles have been spent in perfecting the art of shifting. Today, it’s a dying art (at least in this country). How does this car manage to sneak its way into the press fleet? Some poor journalist may not know what to make of it. I, on the other hand, know this is the stuff of good times.

While other car companies forgo offering this basic element, Acura is going so far as to offer a six-speed in a high-end model. Evidently, Acura knows that shifting the car yourself not only is integral to moving the vehicle, but stirs the soul of the driver as well. The low-tone burble coming from the tail pipe means one thing; I’m going to have some fun tonight. Far too many cars have the tone, but don’t have the lungs. The TL has both. Try 270 horses turning the front tires into dust, for instance. Good for the soul, bad for the tires. All that power has a reverse fishtail action where the front wants to take off towards the weeds if you aren’t paying proper attention to what you’re doing. Torque steer may not be refined out of this car, but at least it’s the result of a healthy engine. Yes, this car requires the driver to actually pay attention!

Around town, the TL hunts down BMWs and such looking for a meal. Anti-social behavior is part of the deal. It’s in the genes I tell ya. In this respect, the TL is just a rung or two up the evolutionary ladder from its lesser cousins you might see your local tuner cruising around in. Thankfully, the powers that be haven’t exorcised the spirit from this car. The TL is a life preserver in the sea of mainstream autos. The TL may not do everything perfectly. However, it does a very convincing job of doing almost everything perfectly. This has to be taken in context of the price. The TL falls smack dab in the sector between the get-in luxury models and the too-pricey-for-my-blood models. Virtually everything inside and out of the Acura is satisfying. Can some elements be improved upon in one-way or another? Sure they can be. For this price, fat chance!

The suspension couples with the performance tires to give this car a ride quality that is biased toward the firm side. While the handling seems firm, the overall road-going behavior is well within the bounds of acceptability. I can shuttle my elderly parents one moment, and then take off to my favorite barren hillside twisties the next. The Acura stops as well as it goes. This is always a comforting feeling. The six-speed downshifts easy enough to keep the foot off the brakes. Almost nothing attracts Jon Q. Law more than constant flashing of a hotshoes' taillights. I suppose if I drive the TL more like a normal person and less like an enthusiast, I wouldn’t have to concern myself with these trivial driving habits. But, I’m not normal, and this car is not your normal four-door sedan.

The top-notch planning and execution found in the performance department is also evident in the interior execution too. Many cars of both lesser and higher stature fail to measure up on user-friendliness. The TL is easy to use, despite the abundance of features standard with the car. The navigation system is a perfect example. Not only does it have the normal functions (including voice command), the screen is also touch activated. No messing around with some funky knob or buttons. Just reach out and touch someone… err, someplace. The cruise control is another good example of a feature that some manage to make far too complex. Acura has placed very logical buttons on the steering wheel and are easy to operate without any owner’s manual assistance. Some of this isn’t really brain surgery, but given the competition, you have to wonder. The one noticeable and rather problematic part of the interior execution has to do with the instrument readouts. They have a blue glow to the dials, which is just fine. However, it is rather difficult to see the redline. I’d like to think there is no redline, as Honda racecars seem to rev endlessly. Alas, I know this is probably not the case.

The sedan can easily accommodate four on a decent jaunt. The trunk can swallow all the gear they can bring. The trunk is lined nicely and has the same level of fit and finish I find in the rest of the car. The trunk is almost nice enough to sublet, but the lack of windows just might be a problem. The sport sedan is Acura’s mainstay, and they hit the mark very near the bull’s-eye. ‘Just a bit too much torque steer to keep it from hitting the mark dead center.

For more on Acura please visit www.acura.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: $35,395 Engine type: 3.2 liter, SOHC VTEC V-6, four valves per cylinder, aluminium alloy, with cast iron cylinder liners, aluminium alloy cylinder head Horsepower: 270 @ 6200 rpm Torque: 238 lb.-ft @ 5,000 rpm Drive configuration: Transverse mounted front engine / front-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual, helical gear limited slip differential Suspension: Front: Independent double wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar Rear: Independent multi link, double wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: Front: 17 x 8 JJ cast-aluminum alloy, 235/45R17 93W Bridgestone Potentza High-Performance (optional for models with 6-speed MT) Rear: 17 x 8 JJ cast-aluminum alloy, 235/45R17 93W Bridgestone Potentza High-Performance (optional for models with 6-speed MT) Brakes: Front: Brembo ventilated, 12.2 in (310 mm) diameter, 0.98 in (25 mm) rotor thickness Rear: Solid, 11.1 in (282 mm) diameter; 0.35 in (9 mm) rotor thickness Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, Traction Control System (TCS) Overall length: 186.2” Overall width: 72.2” Overall height: 56.7 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,482 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 20/30

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