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1999 Acura 3.2 TL Navigation

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price$ 29,950
Price As Tested$ 30,514
Engine TypeVTEC SOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/PGM-FI*
Engine Size196 cid/3210 cc
Horsepower225 @ 5500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)216 @ 5000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length108.1"/70.3"/192.9"
TransmissionFour-speed automatic
Curb Weight3489 pounds
Fuel Capacity17.2 gallons
Tires (F/R)P205/60R16 91V
Brakes (F/R)Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive TrainFront-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle TypeFive-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content65 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)N/A
 
PERFORMANCE
EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average
19/27/24
0-60 MPH8 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)16 seconds @ 88 mph
Top-speed140 mph
* Programmed-fuel injection

The Acura TL used to come in two models, but now there is just one. The lineup evolved from the Acura Vigor, an anonymous vehicle with a less-than-stellar sales record, often overlooked by shoppers in the near-luxury category. A major drawback may have been that one of the versions was powered by an unconventional five-cylinder engine.

Now, the TL is offered only with a stellar V6 engine whose displacement is incorporated in its name, the Acura 3.2TL.

OUTSIDE - When TL came on market in 1996, it lacked personality. The design was hardly earth-shaking, and poor sales proved its lack of appeal. But the new TL is longer and wider than before, and is much more than just a freshened version of an old design. The shape is clean and handsome, though not overly provocative. In typical Japanese fashion, it is quite conservative. Based on Honda's Global Midsize Platform, the chassis first appeared in this country as the underpinnings of the current Honda Accord. To beef things up a bit, it's been strengthened in key areas for extra rigidity. According to Acura, torsional strength has increased by 70 percent, and lengthwise rigidity is 80 percent stronger than the '98 model. This increase in size has moved it into the EPA's midsize class, and it's evident the first time behind the wheel. Chrome trim surrounds the windows and covers the door handles, and 16-inch alloy wheels and performance tires are standard.

INSIDE - The interior has a wraparound feel, and is swathed in rich leather upholstery. Lots of glass and a low cowl and beltline provide excellent visibility. The dashboard controls fall easily to hand and the eight-way power driver's seat offers plenty of adjustment. Our car was the Navigation model, which comes standard with a six-inch video screen that gives navigational information. The screen also doubles as the climate control system, which takes some getting used to for intuitive operation. The rear seat is roomy enough for two, though three across approaches coziness. A close look at the window sticker reveals that the options list is surprisingly empty: the TL comes fully loaded. Some of those items are a Bose-brand high-power stereo, automatic climate control, a Homelink transmitter and speed-sensing intermittent wipers.

ON THE ROAD - The new 3.2 version is powered by an all-new V6 that is made in a narrow 60-degree wedge, rather than the 90-degree V6 of the previous model. It's more compact and lighter, yet it produces 225 horsepower, 11 percent more than the old engine. Torque figures have risen slightly as well, and that extra twist is noticeable off-the-line. Also, the new engine is now mounted transversely under the hood. Honda engineers felt that the "old" model's longitudinal packaging intruded on interior space. Mated to this is a four-speed automatic transmission, with what Acura calls "SportShift," a semi-manual mode that enables the driver to make quick up-and-down gear changes for a more sporting feel. It also uses Grade Logic, a computer-controlled system that makes the car feel like it is downshifting on downhill grades, along with a standard traction control system to reduce wheelspin on slippery roads.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The TL chassis is "modular" in design, which means that it is used in various configurations underneath several Honda-made vehicles. The extra bracing used for the TL model does well to enhance its handling. Both front and rear suspensions are of the multi-link design, with dual control arm front and five-link rear underpinnings. Both are mounted to subframes, which effectively reduce road harshness, and are connected to the aforementioned extra bracing. Handling is spirited, yet not too stiff, and a bit of nose dive appears under heavy braking. Its nose-heavy front-wheel-drive layout contributes to this, but it doesn't become a problem. The TL's variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering is communicative and delivers a well-weighted feel. Braking is handled by four-wheel discs with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual airbags, traction control, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Floor mats: $109; Destination charge: $455.

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