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The Acura TL and TLX: History, Generations, Specifications

All things Acura TL and TLX on Automobile.

2007 Acura TL Type-S.
Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Acura TL First Generation

The Acura TL was introduced in 1996 as a replacement for the Vigor, which sat between the compact Integra and the flagship-ish Legend. The TL was initially offered as the 2.5TL and 3.2TL, the former with the Vigor's unusual 176-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, while the 3.2TL had the Legend's 200-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6. Both engines were mounted longitudinally, though the TL was front-wheel-drive. Unlike other Acura models of the time, the first-gen TL was not offered with a manual transmission.

Acura TL Second Generation

The second-generation TL appeared in 1998 for the 1999 model year, now exclusively in 3.2 TL form with a 225-horsepower transverse-mounted V-6. For 2000 the TL's four-speed automatic was replaced by a troublesome five-speed. The TL was facelifted for 2002 and a new 3.2TL Type-S model boosted power to 260.

Acura TL Third Generation

Acura introduced a new third-generation TL for 2004, and the displacement prefix was dropped, with the car now known simply as the TL. The 3.2-liter V-6 was now up to 270 horsepower, and for the first time the TL could be had with a manual transmission, a six-speed unit that came accompanied by a limited-slip differential, stiffer sway bars, Brembo brakes and performance tires. The 2004 TL A-Spec offered tauter springs that lowered the ride height, re-tuned the shocks, and added bigger wheels with lower-profile tires to complement a body kit. In 2006 the engine was re-rated to 258 horsepower, though there were no mechanical changes.

In 2007 Acura introduced the TL Type-S, powered by a 286-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and offering either a paddle-shifted five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, the latter paired with a limited-slip differential. The Type S offered a stiffer suspension, Brembo brakes, unique body and interior trim, and could be had in its own shade of paint, called Kinetic Blue.

Acura TL Fourth Generation

The fourth and final TL arrived for the 2009 model year, a larger car with a controversial chrome grille that critics likened to a mandoline vegetable slicer. Base models had a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that drove the front wheels, while the new SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) model, which replaced the Type S, had a 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 and (as the name implies) a rather sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, as well as a firmer suspension. SH-AWD models could be had with a six-speed manual starting in 2010. Sales fell precipitously compared to the third-generation TL, and a 2012 restyle, with a downplayed grille, failed to stop the bleeding.

Acura TLX Replaces TL

For 2015, Acura replaced the TL with the all-new TLX. The car was available with four- or six-cylinder power, the former in the guise of a 206-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Four-cylinder TLXs had Acura's Precision All Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system. Cars fitted with the 3.5-liter V-6 scored 290 horsepower, and were paired with a nine-speed automatic and either front-wheel-drive (with P-AWS) or SH-AWD (without P-AWS). Acura facelifted the TLX for the 2018 model year, adding a performance-tuned A-Spec model with a stiffer suspension and active sound enhancement.

Acura TLX Second Generation

Acura TL and TLX Highlights

The TL was Acura's best-selling model from 1999 (when it surpassed the Integra) through 2006, and again between 2008 and 2009. The MDX SUV outsold it in 2007 and from 2010 onwards.

The TL spawned a two-door version, which was marketed as the Acura CL.

Acura offers an extended-wheelbase TLX, called the TLX-L, for the Chinese market.

Acura TL and TLX Buying Tips

The 2007-2008 Type S is the most desirable TL from a performance standpoint, and the A-Spec cars aren't far behind. Beyond that, we think the third-gen (2004-2008) manual-transmission TL is perhaps the best of the bunch, though it suffers from serious torque steer, a problem that was reduced (but not eliminated) in A-Spec and Type-S models.

Among second-generation cars, 2000-2002 (and some 2003) Acura TLs had a troublesome five-speed automatic transmission which was the subject of a class-action lawsuit and an extended warranty. If considering a TL from this era, it's important to find out if the transmission has been replaced. Original and early-replacement transmissions are prone to failure.

Acura TL and TLX Articles on Automobile

Acura TL and TLX Recent Auctions

Acura TL and TLX Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1995 (for the 1996 model year)
  • Last year of production (TL): 2014
  • Total production (TL): 907,162
  • Original price (1996 Acura 2.5TL): $27,900
  • Characteristic feature: Longitudinal engine, FWD (1st gen)

 Acura TL and TLX FAQ

Are the Acura TL and TLX good cars?

The TL is considered a high point in Acura history and was one of the brand's strongest-selling cars for several years, though 2009-and-later cars are not as exciting. The TLX is seen as trailing most of its competitors in terms of amenities and driver appeal. On the plus side, the TL and TLX, like most Acura cars, are exceptionally reliable.

Why was the Acura TL discontinued?

Acura replaced the TL and the smaller TSX with a single vehicle, the 2015 TLX.

Is an Acura a Honda?

Yes, the Acura brand is owned by Honda and some Acura models are sold as Hondas in other countries.