2006 Acura TL
The 2006 Acura TL is impressively outfitted with electronics for entertaining and informing its occupants, as well as propelling them down the road. The expected chassis systems are in place for controlling the car's generally forgiving front-wheel-drive behavior, while the driver and the passengers are treated to surround sound, satellite radio, voice-operated navigation, and cell phone operation.
Materials and hues inside work harmoniously, creating a feeling of comfort, if not quite luxury. The exterior styling of the 2006 Acura TL left us somewhat cold in contrast, looking quite derivative and bland, like sort of a softer, reclining Audi A4. This flat impression was probably made worse by our car's pearlescent-white paint.
Power is plentiful and the ride is smooth, with minimal jouncing and good shock absorption over rough surfaces. However, the overall driving experience isn't exciting in any way, making the 2006 Acura TL memorable more for its gizmos than being especially fun to drive.
With an as-tested list price of $35,940, the 2006 Acura TL certainly represents solid value with its level of electronic sophistication and typically solid Honda build quality. Tech fans will find a lot to like here, but there are some minor shortcomings as well.
The 2006 Acura TL surrounds occupants in neutral tones--in our test car's case, beige leather offset with real wood and brushed-aluminum accents on the console. Seating is comfortable, with four-way power adjustment for the front passenger and eight-way, including lumbar, for the driver. Controls and gauges are refreshingly large and legible. The speedometer and the tach are proper analog instruments, backlit blue even with the headlights off, and share the main dashboard binnacle with a fuel and temperature dial. This gauge also houses a digital display for warnings, trip computations, and status messages. The center stack of the 2006 Acura TL houses the main tech interface: a large touch screen displaying audio and (optional) navigation information. The screen's low resolution and blocky text are perhaps a trade-off for touch sensitivity but one that pays dividends in ease of use. Programming destinations is simple with an onscreen keyboard, which can be set to an alphabetical or a QWERTY layout. A joystick-button control can also be used, but we found this method tedious in comparison, with our usual complaint of difficulty pressing the button without moving the joystick.
The TL's systems can be controlled by the touch screen, voice, the hard buttons, or the unreliable joystick.
Routes are plotted quickly, with a choice of alternatives to select from in some cases. Zooming is relatively smooth, but no bird's-eye view is available. Voice instructions for upcoming turns are helpful and well timed, but the lack of a text-to-voice function makes all streets "the road," as in "follow the road for 2.4 miles." The real-time traffic-integration feature that comes with the pricier RL is not offered in the 2006 Acura TL, unfortunately.
Beyond steering-wheel switches, good, old-fashioned, round radio knobs, and dedicated buttons surrounding the screen, control redundancy extends to voice activation for most major interior systems. Nearly 300 commands are in the system's vocabulary, including responses to what time it is, as well as queries about the nearest restaurants by cuisine (yes, just like in the commercial).
When paired with a Bluetooth phone, easily accomplished by responding vocally to a series of voice prompts, the system can also call points of interest, for which it has phone numbers in its database. Bluetooth operation was very smooth overall with every phone we tried, and while no phone-book information is transferred, the 2006 Acura TL can store 50 names and numbers itself for later voice retrieval. Voice dialing, digit by digit, worked similarly well. The system can pair with up to six phones.
Although we like the voice-command system, Acura could do a better job of consolidating its phone and voice buttons.
We weren't totally enamored with all of the 2006 Acura TL's electronics, however. Most notably, the stereo left us wanting deeper sound. The ELS surround-sound system with its eight speakers and DVD-audio capability looks better on paper than it sounds in the car. Adjusting the directional surround controls on the main screen was effective, but we never felt as if we heard the sweet spot.
On the upside, XM Satellite Radio is standard on the 2006 Acura TL, as on some other Hondas, including the first 90 days of service. Basic satellite prep on many other manufacturers' options lists runs more than $500. But we couldn't find an XM channel-overview menu of any kind, forcing us to surf blindly by category or by channel; there was a printed lineup card in the glove box, however.
We continue to question the need for two voice-control activation buttons--one for the phone and one for everything else. And we continue to really wonder about the inclusion of cassette decks in otherwise tech-laden cars that don't offer auxiliary inputs for MP3 players. A tape slot may be a cheap universal input of sorts, but a simple line-in jack would be even cheaper and would remove the last vestige of the '80s from our cars. (An iPod adaptor is available as an option.)
The 2006 Acura TL is powered by a 258-horsepower, aluminum-alloy V-6 displacing 3.2 liters. A six-speed manual is standard; our test car's five-speed automatic is a no-cost option. The automatic has a SportShift mode for sequential manual control, as well as the handy Grade Logic Control we encountered in thewe tested previously. This feature engine-brakes a bit on downhills rather than purely coasting and holds gears longer while climbing.
Using Honda's pioneering (in the 1989 Acura Integra) VTEC variable valve timing in conjunction with a dual-stage intake manifold, the 2006 Acura TL manages to return both good EPA fuel economy ratings (20mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway) and ULEV-2 emissions status along with its ample power. The engine revs freely and stops just short of overwhelming the front wheels to the point of intrusive torque steer.
The de rigueur gear-selection mode for the automatic will likely go unused, as the TL doesn't inspire sport driving.
The 2006 Acura TL is pleasing to drive but in the sort of disconnected way we're used to from most modern Japanese vehicles. Turn-in is crisp, and handling remains neutral under normal conditions, but the TL never seems to want to go faster, the way some of its competitors do. Acura's vehicle-stability assist (VSA) works with traction control to modulate brakes and engine output when necessary to maintain grip and direction. VSA can be killed with a switch to the left of the steering column.
The 2006 Acura TL offers a solid roster of safety features, both electronic and physical. Both front occupants get front dual-stage, side, and side-curtain air bags. Side-impact door beams provide rigidity and protection as part of Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering overall energy-dissipation concept. Antilock brakes are of course standard on the 2006 Acura TL, working with the VSA system, with electronic brake-force distribution applying added force in panic stops. A tire-pressure monitor is accessible through the main interior screen. High-intensity-discharge xenon headlights keep the road illuminated at night.
Acura's new-vehicle warranty covers the first four years/50,000 miles of ownership, including Total Luxury Care roadside assistance and concierge service for that duration. Power train coverage runs to six years/70,000 miles. The first scheduled engine tune-up for the 2006 Acura TL occurs at 100,000 miles.