Acura TL Type-S – Introduction
Acura TL Type-S – Photo Gallery: Getting “work” done as middle age arrives is relatively uncommon. We wrinkle, we sag, we bulge, and we buy new cars with luxury badges to make us feel better about the ordeal. Cars like the refreshed Acura TL, a three-year-old sport sedan that’s been Botoxed and working out with a personal trainer for 2007. It’s got a new look, bigger muscles, and added refinement to keep it competitive until a redesigned version arrives around the end of the decade. And with the new TL Type-S model, Acura is lookin’ for love with a more emotional, enthusiast type.
Acura TL Type-S – Hardware Upgrades
Power and torque are what make emotional, enthusiast types drool, and the 2007 Acura TL Type-S has plenty of both. It’s also got bigger pipes, a stiffer suspension and meatier brakes. There are other modifications, too, including sexier styling. A new five-speed automatic SportShift transmission is available to replace the standard manual gearbox.
Acura TL Type-S – Interior Modifications
Inside, the Acura TL Type-S gets soft leather upholstery, dash trim with greater visual impact, and a thick three-spoke steering wheel. The gauges wear fresh makeup in the form of improved graphics resolution, and a new navigation system includes a reversing camera, AcuraLink with real-time traffic, and Bluetooth cell phonebook transfer. Other new features include one-touch start for cars equipped with the automatic, signaling side mirrors, and Active Noise Cancellation technology which reduces aural irritants to a breathy whisper. The stereo purrs with upgrades like Dolby Pro-Logic II, an MP3 auxiliary jack, WMA and MP3 playback capability, and speed-sensitive volume compensation.
Acura TL Type-S – Standard Features
Every Acura TL Type-S comes fully equipped; the only choices are between a manual or automatic transmission and all-season or performance tires. Highlights include a power sunroof, an eight-way power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats and side mirrors. Technology abounds with HandsFreeLink Bluetooth communications; an Acura/ELS Surround premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer, a DVD-Audio player, Dolby Pro-Logic II, and XM satellite radio; and a navigation system with voice recognition and Zagat Survey restaurant reviews and ratings.
Acura TL Type-S – Safety
Safety is always an important goal of Acura engineers, so the 2007 Acura TL Type-S is equipped with dual-stage front, front side-impact, and side-curtain airbags. Stability control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system are also standard. According to Acura, crash scores for a frontal impact are five-stars for the driver and passenger, while side impact protection is rated four-stars for front seat occupants and five-stars for rear seat riders. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the TL a Good rating for frontal and side impacts.
Acura TL Type-S – Engine
The Acura TL Type-S gets a 3.5-liter V6 good for 286 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 256 lb.-ft. torque at 5,000 rpm. Acura says the power gain over the standard TL comes from an bump in displacement, exhaust system modifications, and an increase in intake flow. EPA estimates peg the TL Type-S at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. We got much worse than this – about 15.5 mpg – but we spent plenty of time hammering the car at high revs.
Acura TL Type-S – Transmission
The TL’s five-speed automatic with SportShift is brand new for 2007, featuring increased torque capacity, improved responsiveness in manual mode, and a transmission fluid cooler for the Type-S. Type-S models also get different shift logic, producing quick and firm upshifts and smooth rev-matched downshifts. If you still think a car without a clutch should never have the word “sport” attached to its description, the Acura TL Type-S can be equipped with a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission and a helical limited-slip differential to get power from the front wheels and to the ground more efficiently when accelerating out of corners.
Acura TL Type-S – Suspension
Yep, the power still flows to the Acura TL’s front end, through 17” x 8” alloys of unique design wearing Michelin all-seasons. Buyers planning some aggressive driving in the can opt for 235/45 Bridgestone summer performance tires. The rubber stays planted to the road thanks to a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. Type-S models get damper mounts that are 400 times stiffer than before, 20 percent stiffer front shocks, 40 percent stiffer rear shocks, 32 percent stiffer rear spring rates, and stiffer stabilizer bars front and rear. You could say that the Type-S is, uh, stiffer than the regular TL.
Acura TL Type-S – Brakes and Steering
Bigger brake strakes keep the Acura TL’s brakes cooler and free of fade for 2007. Additionally, the TL Type-S gets larger four-piston front Brembo brakes with increased pedal stiffness, a unique pad compound for improved fade performance, and its own master cylinder design for greater durability. For the Type-S, the steering is modified to increase effort characteristics at higher speeds.
Acura TL Type-S – Interior Layout
The Acura TL’s control layout is good but not great, mainly because of the myriad buttons scattered upon the dash. As busy as this looks, the arrangement is preferable to having the climate and stereo system functions bundled with the navigation system, even if the touch screen does offer good resolution and can be operated with touch, a toggle, or using voice commands. We tried the surround sound with XM and while it sounded good, it lacked the richness, depth, and clarity that we expected. But then, we’re not stereo reviewers, we’re car reviewers, and the large, metal radio knobs are things of beauty.
Acura TL Type-S – Exterior Design
The Acura TL Type-S gets “sinister” styling modifications including dark chrome accent trim, flared lower fascias, a larger rear diffuser panel, honeycomb texturing for the lower front inserts and rear diffuser, a subtle lip spoiler, and Type-S badges. The main giveaways, however, are the four big exhaust outlets protruding from the rear bumper cutouts and a unique wheel design painted Dark Euro Silver (perhaps because they appear to be coated in brake dust like the wheels on many German sedans) which will not appeal to everyone.
Acura TL Type-S – Comfort
Sliding into the 2007 Acura TL Type-S’s seats is a wonderful experience, because they are very comfortable and supportive, even if the front passenger’s seat lacks height adjustment. However, there is room for improvement when it comes to comfort: The leather-wrapped steering wheel offers thumb rests, but the wheel rim is a bit thin given the Type-S’s sporting mission, and while the climate control worked well to combat the mid-Atlantic region’s summer heat, ventilated seats would be nice to have for warm, muggy days.
Acura TL Type-S – Performance
Driving the 2007 Acura TL Type-S is a real thrill, despite some concerns about the steering, suspension, and brakes. The engine loves to rev and sounds great doing it, but mind the tachometer because it’s easy to bang this refined powertrain right into the limiter. The six-speed manual transmission is tight, fluid between the gears, and blessed with positive engagement, however, I thought the clutch was a little tricky. That’s why I preferred the SportShift automatic’s five forward gears, actuated using paddle shifters or the gear selector. Unfortunately, torque steer is a problem with either transmission, but was more pronounced in TLs with the manual.
Acura TL Type-S – Steering
In models with the manual transmission, the steering tugs plenty as it fights torque steer and the tendency for the summer performance tires to hunt on imperfect road surfaces. However, response to input is quick and the steering is accurate. Assist levels at low speeds could be lighter, but at higher speeds the Acura TL Type-S works beautifully. Adding Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system, or switching to rear-wheel drive, would make the TL a more entertaining machine to drive if for no other reason than guiding the car would require less work.
Acura TL Type-S – Handling
Couple the Acura TL Type-S’s torque steer and wandering tires with suspension tuning that offers a bit too much compliance and range of motion for a sporting sedan with high handling limits, and the result is a vehicle that feels a bit too light on its feet at speed on imperfect roads. The nose can bob a bit too much on undulating pavement, and the body rolls a little more than expected. Ride quality is a bit busy on irregular surfaces, but the TL Type-S does a masterful job of soaking up larger bumps, such as railroad crossings.
Acura TL Type-S – BMW Beater?
The Acura TL Type-S’s front-drive layout ultimately makes the rear-drive BMW 3 Series the more satisfying vehicle to drive hard and fast. The 3 Series is an utterly capable sport sedan that rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong. The Acura TL is a larger car, and feels it from behind the steering wheel. Plus, it lacks the BMW’s sense of solidity, and the torque steer – especially on the Type S manual – is something you never experience in a BMW. To match BMW, Acura needs to copy the Bimmer’s rear-drive layout, or add the RL sedan’s SH-AWD system.
Photos courtesy of Acura