The 2004 Acura TL marked the luxury brand's return to the head of the premium midsize sedan class. Prior to this generation, the TL was viewed by many as little more than a dressed up Honda Accord. With its third generation design, Acura gave the TL a real sense of individuality, as well as performance in the guise of the A-SPEC and Type-S variants. Beyond its racy good looks, comfortable form-fitting bucket seats and a first-of-its-kind DVD audio system, the TL offered something few other sport luxury sedans could match: near flawless reliability and impressive resale values. If the TL has one weakness, it's the car's front-wheel drive layout, which is responsible for some minor torque steer (a front-wheel drive car's tendency to pull in one direction or the other upon hard acceleration) and understeer in hard driving situations.
Why You Want It
While purists will swear only rear-drive cars, such the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G, are real sport sedans, most people don't drive their cars as if they were spending a day on a Grand Prix racetrack. For those seeking excellent driving dynamics, a comfortable ride and premium luxury features, the 2004-2008 Acura TL makes an excellent choice. Better still, if two people with wildly different ideas about driving are relegated to sharing a single car, the TL can most likely satisfy both. With its 258 horsepower engine, choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, and sport suspension, the TL's performance credentials are in no doubt. But, the TL also scores big on the luxury front with high quality materials used throughout the cabin culminating in an artful blend of textures, colors and shapes. High-tech gadgets abound, from a voice activated navigation system to a remarkable eight-speaker DVD audio system.
Notable Features & Options
In true Acura form, the TL is loaded with just about everything a luxury car should have. Standard equipment includes a 258-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine, six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with Sequential Sportshift manual mode, a power moonroof, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down function, HID headlamps, eight-way power driver's and four-way power passenger heated front seats, leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker surround sound with six-disc DVD/CD changer, Bluetooth, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The only option for the TL is Acura's voice activated navigation system. The TL Type-S adds a 286-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (with the automatic transmission), sport suspension, Brembo brakes, additional Type-S exterior trim, sport seats, stainless steel pedals, and navigation. Standard safety features on all 2004-2008 Acura TL's include anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control, front side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags.
2005: The TL's front seats are equipped with weight sensors to control airbag deployment rates.
2006: A tire pressure monitoring system and two new colors mark the changes for 2006. The six-speed manual is recalibrated to help reduce torque steer in lower gears.
2007: The enthusiast-oriented Type-S joins the TL lineup while all models receive minor styling and mechanical upgrades such as an audio unit that can now play MP3/WMA encoded CDs.
2008: No major changes.
Engines and Performance
The TL's 3.2-liter V6 produces 258 horsepower and 233 pounds-feet of torque, which is more than enough power to move this midsize sedan with some authority. Some models come equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, but Acura's five-speed automatic is an excellent piece of work, delivering quick, clean shifts without the constant gear hunting that plagues so many automatic transmissions. The ride is as smooth and quiet as any Lexus, yet the TL's handling abilities are decidedly sharper. The TL delivers brilliant zero-to 60 sprints, stops on a dime and carves through twisting s-curves like a surgeon working the Thanksgiving turkey.
Those who enjoy pushing their cars to the limit will likely want to shop for the Type-S model whose rev-matching five-speed automatic does a good job of neutralizing the torque steer found with the six-speed manual model. The Type-S also features a stiffer suspension and more aggressive wheel and tire package that deliver on Acura's performance promise without compromising ride quality and comfort. Keep in mind that the TL is a front drive car, and no amount of electronic interference will keep it from eventually plowing in hard turns (understeer) when pushed to its limits.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has issued the following recalls for the 2004-2008 Acura TL:
2004-2008: Recalls were issued for a possible power steering hose that may crack and leak fluid, and for model years 2004-2005, a possible defect in the windshield wiper motor that allows water to enter and corrode the unit.
2004: Recall issued for possible defective automatic transmission that could lock up while in motion.
2005: Recalls were issued for a possible loose fuse box terminal that could cut power to the fuel pump, and for a possible defective coil wire inside the fuel pump that could break, also causing the pump to fail.
2006: A recall was issued for possible improperly fastened bolts on the airbag front impact sensor.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
As for safety, both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the government give the 2004-2008 Acura TL their highest scores in their front end, side impact and frontal off-set crash tests.
The 2004-2008 Acura TL has a 4-year/50,000 mile basic warranty, and a 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty. If you buy your TL through a Certified Pre-Owned Acura dealer, you can take additional coverage up to 7-years/100,000 miles from the date the vehicle entered service.
Word on the Web
With the exception of the 2004 model's transmission problems (see recall section), we didn't find many common complaints from owners or consumer groups. Consumer Reports gives the 2004-2008 Acura excellent marks in all areas save for some minor electrical problems on the 2007 and 2008 models. Most people praise the car's dependability, the dealer network and the good resale value. Some found that the automatic transmission begins to shift roughly on higher mileage cars, and some people reported problems with the navigation system periodically resetting itself.
In its price category, there are a number of good competitive choices to rival the Acura TL. The BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 offer the same strong resale value, but will probably cost more and don't have as strong a reliability record. The Infiniti G35 is a worthy opponent, matching the TL in resale and reliability, and besting it in the areas of performance and handling (rear drive vs. front drive). The Lexus ES is also a strong second choice, but it is more luxury oriented than performance tuned.
If you're going for comfort over performance, the 2005-2008 TL is a fine choice; but, if you really want to get the most from the TL platform, spring for the 2007-2009 Type-S. The Type-S can be equipped with a manual or automatic transmission and features all of Acura's high-tech goodies (like the cool voice activated navigation) as standard equipment.