Review: 2005 Acura TL

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Review: 2005 Acura TL

Hiding under the body panels of the Acura TL are all the expected safety features in a luxury brand--systems for both traction and stability control, dual front, side, and head curtain airbags, ABS, and bi-Xenon headlights to better illuminate the road ahead. For those who opt to shift through the gears themselves, manual transmission cars come with a limited-slip differential to help prevent excessive wheel spin, as well as meaty four-piston Brembo brakes for increased stopping performance. Backing up all these features is the accolade of being named an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) "Best Pick" in frontal-impact crash testing.

The sole TL engine offering is a smooth 3.2-liter/270-horse V-6 that provides rich, quick revving power. Equipped with VTEC variable valve timing, a Honda hallmark since its debut in the Acura NSX in the early '90s, the engine is smooth and offers a wide powerband. A drive-by-wire system evens out throttle regulation even more. Most TLs are sold with the effective and engaging five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic, which allows clutchless gear selection and full automatic functionality. The same-priced six-speed manual vehicles are a bit harder to find and don't sit on dealer lots very long because of their desirability among dedicated enthusiasts. Shifter feel is akin to that of the race-inspired Honda S2000, and the stubby but stylish shifter knob is even similar to the one found in that roadster. The addition of larger brakes and a limited-slip differential make manual cars even more lovable.

Where previous TLs were prone to a fair amount of body roll, the current model has been tightened down just enough. A comfortable ride is the TL's first priority, and it smoothes rough roads without becoming a wallowing boat (ahem, Lexus ES 330). The car's most prominent flaw lies in Acura's resistance to the increasingly popular rear-wheel-drive layout, as this front-driver cannot put 270 ponies to the pavement without noticeable torque steer and occasional embarrassing wheelspin. Get on the throttle to make a quick pass, and the steering wheel will give a mean jerk to the side if you're not ready to wrangle it back into place. While rear-drive is probably not in the Acura's near future, the sophisticated all-wheel-drive system in the new RL could find its way down the line to the TL in the next few years; it would add both safety and performance.

The TL's steering isn't as direct as some sportier competitors, but Acura makes no pretense that the TL is a BMW-beater. Rather, it's a pleasant car to drive that offers more than ample performance for most situations. Its sporty demeanor, combined with the very well appointed interior, makes for a rewarding driving experience that pampers driver and passengers, alike.

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