Acura TL Performance
The TL is classified as a smooth ride with ample power, especially in the Type-S trim. New Car Test Drive reports the TL is a car for people who like to drive. "Its confident, alert composure on the road not only makes driving enjoyable but also makes you a better driver," they note. "Compared to most of its rivals, the TL feels lightweight and responsive."
On the other hand, reviewers consistently note that the front-wheel drive TL's performance is slightly dampened by torque steer, a tug of the steering wheel during acceleration that rear-wheel or all-wheel drives do not suffer. Nevertheless, the majority still views the TL as an exemplary performer, with Kelley Blue Book raving, "Without question, no other manufacturer has ever combined this much horsepower and front-wheel-drive running gear with such satisfying results."
Acceleration and Power
The 2008 Acura TL base model has a 3.2-liter aluminum-alloy VTEC V6 engine under its hood that puts out 258 horsepower and 233 pound-feet of torque. The Type-S model bumps up to a 3.5-liter V6 with 286 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers have mostly good things to say concerning either engine.
When commenting on the base trim's engine, the Boston Globe says it has "the kind of oomph that not long ago would have been labeled high performance … In fact, it was powerful enough to make me wonder if the extra few thousand for the Type-S is necessary." Automobile Magazine echoes that "the new TL's 270-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 pulled us irresistibly forward." During Consumer Guide tests, the base TL could achieve 0 to 60 miles per hour in seven seconds.
Compliments continue for the 3.5-liter V6 featured in the Type-S. Autosite calls the engine "far and away, the best thing about the Acura TL Type-S," while The Family Car says it is "one of the sweetest sounding V6 engines we have ever heard. This engine is so smooth, it almost seems like the sound you hear is coming from the stereo speakers, not the engine itself."
The base 3.2-liter engine is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift, Grade Logic Control and Shift-Hold Control, while the higher Type-S has the option for the automatic or a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission with limited-slip differential. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the base TL rates at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on highways, using its sole automatic transmission. The Type-S rates at 17 mpg on city streets and 26 cruising the highway when using an automatic, and at 18 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway when paired with a manual.
AutoWeek prefers the TL's automatic transmission, praising, "With the SportShift left in auto mode, gear changes are almost imperceptible, slicker and smoother than in some cars costing more than twice the TL's price of entry." The Type-S' automatic comes with wheel-mounted paddle shifters to allow manual-like gear changes. BusinessWeek finds this system "solid," but notes that it's "still not quite as slick as the industry's best, made by Audi. Nor does it provide the complete control of a real manual." However, the finds the opposite. "It is a transmission that truly lets you be in charge when you opt to go manual -- something many automatics with manual option do not allow," it states.
Others call the Type S' optional manual their favorite of the two transmissions. Edmunds describes it as "the type we've all admired from Honda … the light shifter finds its home with a reassuring clickity-thump." NewCars.com notes that the six-speed is good "for quick, crisp shifting," and Consumer Guide finds "silky, short-throw shift action," but warns that "clutch engagement can be abrupt."
Handling and Braking
The 2008 TL has a unit-body sheel with four-wheel independent double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link double wishbone rear suspension. As a result, most describe the sedan's handling as composed, yet agile. "Collectively, the effect is a crisper and more controlled car without the harshness usually associated with sport tuning," says Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book comments that "when the road starts to get curvy and your right foot gets heavy, the quicker, grippier, more responsive Type-S easily earns its price premium."
Reviews begin to differ when discussing the TL's torque-sensing, variable power-assist rack-and-pinion steering. MSN finds it "precise, with good road feel," and AutoMedia.com finds, "This performance-package sedan follows steering-wheel inputs religiously, reacting quickly and positively under all conditions."
MarketWatch's reviewer comments on the number one concern with steering. "The one bugaboo was a bit of torque steer when the TL-S is pressed, but it's quite controllable. In short, it's a blast to drive," he states. To The Family Car, torque steer is "simply an annoyance on an otherwise stellar machine." But others describe the torque steer as a deal breaker. In particular, Automobile.com's reviewer recalls a troublesome incident during a test drive: "The worst was one time when I approached a turn with some hard braking, a hard downshift, and tried to catch hell coming out of the corner hard on the throttle -- that's when the steering wheel felt like it buckled in my hands," he states. "For a second I thought each wheel was going to take a different route around the corner, but only a half-lane over and thankfully no traffic to object, I came out straight, but it's quite possibly the worst and most dangerous incident of torque steer I've ever experienced."
Consumer Guide is just one review to note that both of the 2008 Acura TL's trims "have strong, confident stopping power." The TL's brakes are front and rear disc, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, and the Type-S adds front four-piston Brembo calipers.