Since its introduction for 1999, the Acura 3.2 TL has proved a fierce competitor among near luxury sedans, especially for a front-driver. With that success, Acura engineers started to kick around ideas for a more exciting TL. Well, they quickly focused on the TL’s higher performance coupe cousin, the 3.2 CL Type-S. So now the TL has been given the Type-S treatment. And while it looks great, the question remains: how does it measure up against the best rear-wheel drive cars in its class?
Well, our response to that query lies primarily in the scope of the engine, suspension, and brakes Acura engineers have installed in the 2002 Acura 3.2TL Type-S.
Under the hood is the 3.2-liter single-overhead-cam 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing, just like the standard TL. But the Type-S treatment adds a new dual-stage induction system, and a free flowing exhaust. This helps provide a big boost to 260 horsepower, and 232 pound-feet of torque. That’s 35 horses more than the standard TL, and beats the BMW 330i, Mercedes-Benz C320, and Lincoln LS V-6 in the horsepower wars.
Unlike the Lincoln however, no manual transmission is offered. Though the Acura’s standard 5-speed automatic does come equipped with a manual-mode Sequential Sportshift.
With shifter in hand, our test drivers hit 60 in a very sporting 6.6-seconds. And ran the full 1/4 mile in 15.1 seconds at 94 miles-per-hour. That’s about half-a-second slower than a BMW 330i we tested a few months back. But the Acura drivetrain is smooth and strong, with minimal torque steer to tell you it’s front-wheel driven.
Handling equipment, the double wishbone front, and multi-link rear suspensions, also get the full Type-S treatment: stiffer springs and dampers, larger rear stabilizer bar, 50-Series 17- inch tires, and electronic stability system. Toss it into a corner, and the front end feels as firmly planted as the best Germanic sport sedan. Steering feedback is excellent, the Type-S model’s torque-sensing rotary-valve steering system being quick and precise. But the front-drive Acura’s rear-end breaks away more quickly, and with less warning, than those of its rear-drive counterparts. While out in everyday driving conditions, the Type-S delivers a solid, but never harsh, ride.
Braking gear consists of 4-wheel discs, ventilated in the front, with standard 4-channel ABS. Stops from 60 average 123 feet, with plenty of pedal feedback. Though as in the handling test, our car’s back end felt a little jumpy, especially over choppy pavement.
Of course, today’s sport sedans are as much about style as performance. And for 2002, the 3.2TL’s exterior gets a new front end. The look is very clean, and has the Acura family grille. But around back, it’s more generic, lacking the distinctive cues of a BMW or Mercedes.
The roomy Type-S interior is more distinctive. It shares the standard TL’s clean, efficient, wraparound dash, but adds its own ebony wood-patterned trim. While the Type-S instrument cluster features a more techno-look metallic finish. The 8-way power sport driver’s seat and 4-way power passenger seat feature perforated leather upholstery, and deeper side bolsters. They’re truly comfortable and supportive. The only option in the Type-S is Acura’s DVD-based, Satellite-Linked navigation system. The 5-inch screen is easy to read, and the maps are very comprehensive.
Rear seat room is also well thought out, with plenty of head and leg room for adults. While the trunk provides 14.3-cubic feet of cargo space. It’s one of the largest in its class.
But prices aren’t. The 2002 Acura 3.2TL Type-S starts at $31,710. That’s $2,350 more that the standard TL. Add on the only TL option, the navigation system, and the Type-S will run you $33,710. That’s more than an LS V-6, about the same as a 330i, and less than a C320.
So, with the most horsepower in its class, excellent overall performance, a long list of equipment, plus a price squarely in the middle of the near-luxury ranks, the 2002 Acura 3.2TL Type-S looks very competitive. Indeed, no matter if you compare it to a rear wheel drive, front- wheel drive, or even all-wheel drive rival, import or domestic, the Type-S ranks as an excellent sport sedan choice.
Engine: 3.2 Liter, Sohc, 24-valve, V-6
Torque: 232 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.1 Seconds @ 94 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
EPA Mileage: 19 MPG City 29 MPG Highway