The mid-size Acura TL returns largely unchanged for 2014. The car continues to feature the bold, angular yet sleek styling that Acura is now known for and a roomy interior with a host of high-tech features.
On the inside, the TL has a layout that affords both the driver and front passenger their own personal space, divided by a center console and audio controls that protrude outward. Front occupants get firm but comfortable sport seats and there's space in back for three adults across.
A 280-horsepower, 3.5L V6 powers the front-wheel-drive TL through a Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive SH-AWD model gets a 305-horsepower, 3.7L V6 and a throaty high-flow dual exhaust system that brings more of a sport-sedan character. Although the all-wheel-drive model does improve the TL's available traction in snow and on slippery roads, the primary focus of the SH-AWD (super handling) is to improve stability in sharp corners by sending torque to the wheels that need it most. The SH-AWD offers an optional 6-speed manual transmission.
For both trims, a double-wishbone front suspension and rear multi-link setup assure a firm but smooth ride. The SH-AWD model is tuned for more responsive handling without giving up ride comfort by incorporating a performance-tuned suspension, larger wheels and tires and a version of the electric power steering system tuned for better road feel. Versions equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission also receive numerous other changes to the vehicle's dynamics, including a self-adjusting clutch assembly and a specially calibrated Hill Start Assist that helps hold the vehicle on inclines of 8 degrees or more. The hood is made of aluminum for weight savings in both models.
Standard features on the TL include dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof, leather upholstery, a Bluetooth HandsFreeLink calling interface and an 8-speaker, 276-watt sound system. XM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth audio streaming are also standard.
Options are limited on the TL, the most noteworthy of them being the Technology Package. It brings premium Milano leather surfaces, plus Acura's voice-recognition navigation system, AcuraLink real-time traffic and weather info, a surround-sound premium system with ten speakers, 440 watts and a 2,500-song hard-drive system and Keyless Access. An active noise cancellation system and ambient lighting system are also included. The Advance option package is also available, which adds a blind spot warning system, larger wheels and ventilated front seats.
We've been a little disappointed with the Acura cars we've seen lately, so the 2008 Acura TL Type-S surprised us with its fun performance. Last year's Acura RL in particular was a letdown, as its electronics were old and its performance wasn't particularly fun or economical. But the 2008 Acura TL Type-S proved to be a car we wanted to drive. And although its electronics are dated, its audio system is one of the best around.
A good part of what made this TL fun was that Type-S trim, signifying the sport-tuned version of the car. The Type-S gets a slightly bigger V-6 engine than the base model, and a limited slip differential. But it's still a front-wheel-drive car, making handling a bit weird, and the optional five-speed automatic transmission kills the car's performance. Fortunately, our test car came with Honda's six-speed close ratio manual, a transmission we've enjoyed on many other Honda cars such as the S2000 and the Civic Si.
The Good With live traffic and an excellent-sounding stereo, the 2008 Acura TL Type-S features some advanced technology. Its engine produces plenty of power while getting good fuel economy and a low emissions rating.
The Bad The interface for the cabin electronics is a little haphazard, with limited touch-screen functionality and dual voice-command buttons.
The Bottom Line The 2008 Acura TL Type-S is very fun to drive, but a number of small issues keep it from being a top performer. To stay on the cutting edge of tech, its cabin electronics need a makeover.
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