I'm a big fan of the Acura TL -- it's a well-priced, extremely well-equipped vehicle, one of the best in its class. How do you make an excellent car even better? The 2007 Acura TL Type-S aims to answer that question with a host of performance upgrades and some nifty cosmetic touches inside and out. With 28 extra horsepower on tap over the "ordinary" TL, the 2007 Acura TL Type-S carries a base price of $38,125 ($38,795 as tested including $670 destination charge) and EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
First Glance: A certain swagger
There's this scene in every high school comedy. Our hero, an average guy, discovers some hidden strength, perhaps on the football field. The next day, he comes to school looking different. He's still the same guy we knew before, but now his clothes fit better, his hair is slicked back, he walks with a certain swagger.
That's what's the Type-S treatment has done to the TL. It looks better, tougher, sharper than before. The changes are subtle: The grille (link goes to photo) has been recoated with a special dark-metallic chrome that sets off the sparkling Acura "A" logo. The front air dam has been reworked, and funnels air directly to the big front brakes. 17" alloy wheels also wear a dark-metallic finish, their spidery spokes revealing oversized Brembo brake calipers bolted over 12.2" vented discs. The rocker panels hover close to the ground, enhancing the TL's low look. Out back, a subtle trunk edge spoiler sharpens the profile. Dark trim around the license plate and taillights make the elements pop. Quad exhaust pipes poke out from the rear corners, two to a side, beautifully chromed and glistening with the promise of performance. A tasteful "Type-S" badge on the right rear of the trunk lid completes the picture.
It's impossible for me to review an Acura without praising its construction. My test vehicle wore a coat of Alabaster Silver Metallic paint that gave the TL a striking, graphic look. The Type-S package doesn't look like a afterthought bolt-on. It's a great-looking upgrade to an already attractive car.
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In the Driver's Seat: A comfy rear end is a happy rear end
The interior of an Acura is always a pleasure. Tasteful design, excellent, high-quality material choices and a solid sense of luxury abound. For me, a good driving experience begins and ends with one thing in mind -- my behind. If my behind's not happy, I'm not happy. The Type-S treated my behind very well, coddling it in perforated leather, heating it electrically, and keeping it secure with thick side bolsters. Great seats all the way around.
Type-S's dash layout is the same as a regular TL, but with a few different materials and lighting treatments. A hot-looking red lighting scheme is easy to read, and adds a flash of excitement to the instrument panel. The center stack is neatly arrayed, trimmed in textured aluminum accented with carbon-fiber-look panels and compartment doors. Plastic, where it appears, is high-quality and pleasant to the touch.
Acura's navigation system is a standard feature in the Type-S, and it is very well integrated with the high-end audio system. Not only does the Type-S have a 6-CD changer in-dash and a cassette player, it also has a DVD-Audio player and an awesome ELS Surround Sound system. If you haven't tried DVD-Audio yet, it's a real ear-opener. Some great classic rock albums have been remastered for the format. Driving around in the Type-S listening to Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms on a beautiful moonlit night is a great experience.
On the Road: Pulling to the right
286 hp is a lot of power for a front-wheel drive vehicle like the Type-S. When I drove the 258 hp TL, I noted a touch of torque-steer -- the tendency of front-wheel drive vehicles to pull to one side under heavy acceleration. With the more powerful Type-S, the torque-steer was even more pronounced. The first time that I stomped on the gas, I was startled by the effect. I learned to moderate my throttle inputs during my week with the Type-S, but the torque-steer kept me from really wringing it out and getting the most out of the power.
That's not to say that the Type-S isn't a whole lot of fun to drive; it is. The throaty roar that comes from those quad exhausts is music to a gearhead's ears. Type-S shares the same four-wheel independent suspension with the standard TL (double-wishbone front, multi-link rear) with special tuning, making it a willing partner on romps through the canyons. It is capable of thrilling acceleration, and with its big Brembo brakes, rapid, predictable deceleration as well. Type-S can be driven sanely and safely on a daily basis -- you just have to pay attention when you decide to tap all those ponies.
Journey's End: Tripping on torque steer
Then, there are those other pesky manufacturers who keep putting out fantastic cars. Curse them! BMW's 3-series is the benchmark in the field; Infiniti's G35 is close on its heels. Lexus's IS 250 and 350 are hot wheels. The Cadillac CTS-V is a hoot and a half, as long as you're going straight. Dodge's Charger SRT takes a stripped-down musclecar approach, with a great big HEMI engine and a little less luxury than the rest. And Mercedes has a new C-Class due for 2008. All of these cars employ rear-wheel-drive, so torque steer isn't an issue.
There's another scene in that high school movie. Our hero, looking sharp with his newfound confidence, approaches the cool kids to take his place in the "In Crowd." Just as he's about to reach his goal, he trips over his own shoelaces and returns to his former status with a jolt. In my eyes, the Type-S's shoelace is its torque-steer. In a crowd of cool kids, the Acura TL Type-S is still an average Joe. -- Jason Fogelson