2006 Acura TL Review
Toe the Line
Like a stunt pilot with a parachute, Acura toed the line between daring and safe with its top-seller, the TL. Its arrow-like profile was the daring part, proclaiming its sporting intensions with sharp edges and taut surfaces that hide its ample size. The safe bit was sticking with a front-wheel-drive platform for traction, simplicity and probably a little stubbornness, despite the fact that almost every other serious entry-level luxury sports sedan is either rear- or all-wheel drive. Conventional wisdom says FWD can only take so much power before torque-steer takes over and the car begins to happily dance in whatever direction it chooses.
Luckily, this isn’t the case with the 258-horsepower TL, as only a truly manic launch will induce the slightest hint of the dreaded torque steer. Credit the Acura engineers’ diligence in making the TL handle like a real sports sedan, although it still misses the lofty bar set by rear-drive cars like the Infiniti G35 and BMW 3 Series. It’s also not as fun to drive as its slightly smaller brother, the TSX.
Nevertheless, the hardcore canyon driving generally needed to appreciate such comparisons can really only be enjoyed by those who, well, live near a canyon. Or perhaps those who treat everyday streets like their own personal Talladega. For everyone else, the TL is a sporty sedan that comfortably seats five and comes packed to the pillars with standard high-tech features. Our top-of-the-line test car, with the optional navigation system and high-performance tires (the six-speed manual is a no-cost option), rang up at a very reasonable $36,195. That includes Bluetooth phone connection, XM radio, voice-activated commands for the navigation, radio and A/C systems, leather, heated seats, and an incredible ELS surround sound stereo with DVD audio. Put all that on a similarly equipped BMW 328i and you’re looking at 43-large with a 30-horsepower deficit and everyone’s favorite punching bag, iDrive, in lieu of voice commands and a touchscreen.
It is important to note, however, that the 2006 TL’s otherwise excellent navigation and voice command systems are a generation behind those found in all other Acuras and even some Hondas like the Civic Hybrid. The 2007 model (see below) will bring it up to date with quicker processing time and Real Time Traffic updates.
Our tester, as previously noted, came equipped with a manual transmission, which although popular with enthusiasts and car writers, generally sells as well as turnip pudding. Nowadays, rowing your own gears just isn’t attractive for most drivers. They’re not missing much, though, as the TL has certainly the most disappointing manual made by Acura/Honda. The shifter is direct enough with short throws and low effort, but the clutch is too stiff with an odd let out point. Most people struggle not to stall it on their first drive, which is strange considering that most Acura/Honda manuals are relative no-brainers. Interestingly, this manual option has been dropped from the 2007 base TL, and will only be offered on the high-performance Type-S. We'll have to see if the 6-speed undergoes any changes, though.
On a 200-mile trek from Los Angeles to San Diego and back, the TL proved to be a competent driving companion. Its smooth V6 was ideal for passing slower traffic, while its supportive front seats prevented any posterior narcolepsy. The only detractor was a measly 22 mpg over mostly highway driving, which obviously got even worse in the city.
The Acura TL is an enjoyable sports sedan that not only toes the line between daring and safe, but also between comfort and sporty. It might not be as fun to fling around the mountains as its rear-wheel drive competition, but those in frostier climes will appreciate the improved traction the TL’s front-drive lay-out provides. For them and for those who know good value when they see it, the TL is definitely worth a look.
Read a review of the 2009 Acura TL
Warranty/Service: 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; 6-year/70,000 powertrain warranty.