When the original Acura Legend debuted in 1986, it offered car buyers a luxury machine with premium, Japanese quality for thousands less than European imports. But along the way, the world changed. European and domestic luxury cars got better and more affordable. All while the rising yen put Acura prices in orbit. Well, now Acura is fighting back and going back to its roots. This week’s Road Test by Request features a new car with a new name, the TL. But is the TL good enough for Acura to bring its past back to the future?
Well, it has two chances, for the Acura TL is actually a series of two sedans, both more upscale than the departed Vigor, the sporty, driver-oriented 2.5 TL, and the more luxurious 3.2 TL. To focus buyer attention on the Acura brand, and less on specific models, the TLs begin a new practice of alpha-numeric model designations. TL stands for touring luxury. The number denotes the engine. In the 2.5 TL’s case, that means the all-aluminum 20-valve, single-overhead cam, 2.5-liter 5-cylinder that powered the Vigor. It still produces 176 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque.
Besides the logo on the decklid, the easiest way to tell the two models apart is by the grille. The 2.5 uses horizontal bars.Then there are these business-like, 4-bolt 15-inch, alloy wheels with wide 60-series tires. The 3.2’s cast wheels are 5-bolt and richer looking, but wear less aggressive 65-series rubber. The grille on the 3.2 is actually one with the hood and wears vertical bars.
Under it, however, is what makes the real difference between the two models. A 3.2-liter, 24-valve, all-aluminum V-6 right out of the Legend L Sedan. Horsepower is 200, and torque is 210. More than enough power for a 0 to 60 sprint of 8.5 seconds.
But the TLs are much more alike than different. From the windshield back, they share most exterior features and mechanicals. Such as Acura’s well known all-independent suspension, with double wishbones and coil-over-shocks at each corner, plus front and rear stabilizer bars. Thus, discovering that the TL is a fine handling machine is no surprise, but the quality of the ride was a revelation. This is the softest riding and quietest Acura ever.
This new gaited shifter activates the only TL transmission, an electronic 4-speed automatic with grade logic control that reduces annoying gear hunting on hills. Brakes are 4-wheel discs, naturally, with a standard 3-channel anti-lock system.Traction control is unfortunately only available on the 3.2 as part of the optional “Premium Package” upgrade. On the 2.5, the premium package does add a leather interior and power moonroof, the same as on this 3.2. Gauges are indicative of Acura’s Honda parentage: large, clear analog units, but fewer in number than we’d like.
The firm driver’s seat in all TLs sports 8-way power with manual lumbar adjust. Add in the standard tilt wheel, and this is also the most accommodating Acura to date. And three cheers for the standard 8-speaker stereo system with both in-dash cassette and CD players. And if you think the switchgear for the automatic climate control system looks familiar, they too come from the Legend. If the owner is a non-smoker, a coin tray can replace the ashtray, while nearby are two Big Gulp size cupholders.
Although the TL’s wheelbase is only 1.4 inches longer than the Vigor’s, rear seat room increases much more, especially leg and head room. There’s also a lockable ski-size pass-through to the large 14.1 cubic foot trunk. These exposed frame supports may hinder some storage, but they are one of the reasons the TL’s body is so solid.
And TL prices are solidly in the mid-luxury car class. The base 2.5 TL goes for $27,900, while the top 3.2 TL Premium Package model is stickered at $35,500. Not bad for almost a Legend, and a lot less than a comparable Mercedes-Benz C280. TL buyers will enjoy safety that’s more than competitive, beginning with standard dual air bags, enhanced seat belts, and anti-lock brakes. Traction control is available on the 3.2 TL, and all TLs have 5-mile-per-hour bumpers and meet 1997 side impact standards.
With all its standard safety and luxury features, roomy interior, able power, fine handling, smooth, quiet ride, and competitive prices, the TL-Series looks to have what it will take to drive Acura back to its former glory. It could be 1986 all over again.