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Acura 3.2 TL Type S (2002)

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 33,230
     Price As Tested                                    $ 33,710
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 196 cid/3210 cc
     Horsepower                                   260 @ 6100 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               232 @ 3500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.1"/70.7"/192.5"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3550 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                    215/50R17 93V Michelin MXM4
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 70 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/29/25
     0-60 MPH                                        7.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.5 seconds @ 94.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           145 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Acura TL was introduced in 1996, then redesigned in 1999. It was about that time when the car's sales numbers really took off. It quickly became Acura's number one selling vehicle.

Acura wanted a sporty sedan to offer enthusiasts to compliment the two-door Acura 3.2 CL Type-S. This week we enjoy the 3.2 TL Type-S.

OUTSIDE - Acura stylists took a conservative approach when designing the TL. Its smooth, flowing curves could easily be mistaken for one of the multitude of mid-sized sedans on the road today. A crisp break at the top of the trunk, a few character lines down the side of the car and across the hood are about its only sharp lines. Fresh styling updates for the 2002 model include revised headlamps and clear-lens taillights, a larger grille, higher hood line and standard fog lamps. The outside mirrors have been reshaped to produce less wind noise, and the windshield washer nozzles have been removed from the hood for a cleaner look. The only exterior cues that make this a recognizable performance sedan are the Type S badging on the trunk lid, and the 215/50 tires mounted on 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.

INSIDE - The Type-S differs from its standard TL sibling in its perforated leather sport seats and steering wheel, metallic gauge faces, ebony wood patterned trim and shift knob, which is emblazoned with a large, red "S." The interior is comfortable, yet efficient, which is to say that Acura again has taken no chances in terms of styling. The front bucket seats are supportive enough, but lack the extra side bolstering one might find in some of its sporty competitors. And those over six-feet tall will find headroom a bit limited in front, partly due to the sunroof, which reduces available space a bit. In back there is plenty of room for two average-sized adults, and three can squeeze in in a pinch. Visibility is excellent, thanks to slim roof pillars and a low cowl, while an optional navigation system is simple to use and very comprehensive. Standard Type-S interior items include power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, automatic climate control, power driver's seat with memory, a power sunroof, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, an in-dash, six-disc CD changer stereo, steering wheel audio controls, speed control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

ON THE ROAD - Where the Type-S differs most compared to the standard TL is mechanically. It uses the same 3.3-liter V6 as its sibling, but Acura tunes it with more assertive camshaft profiles and redesigned intake valves to squeeze extra performance from its variable valve timing system. It also uses spin-cast cylinder wall liners that are lighter and dissipate heat faster than normal, along with a higher compression ratio. A new dual-chamber intake plenum rounds off the engine modifications and the result is a healthy 260 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, while torque steer, a phenomenon wherein powerful front-wheel drive cars can twist the steering wheel under heavy acceleration, is virtually non-existent. Acura's Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) traction control system is standard, and can be deactivated for "sporty" driving.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The TL rides on a unit body platform, with race- inspired double wishbone suspension front and rear. The engine and front suspension are carried on a subframe that allows for more cabin isolation and chassis rigidity. The Type-S has stiffer springs, a larger diameter rear anti-roll bar and more shock damping. The speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system has been replaced on the Type-S version by an engine-speed-sensitive system that responds faster to repeated quick changes in direction. Its handling is responsive and precise, with not much of a penalty in smoothness that might be expected from its more assertive suspension settings. Braking is handled using four-wheel discs, vented in front; solid in back. An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, ABS, VSC, side-impact door beams and front seat belt pre-tensioners are standard.

OPTIONS - There were no options on our test vehicle.