The big news for '04 isn't limited to the 6-MT. The 5-speed Sequential Sportshift automatic transmission is the benificiary of numerous enhancements. While all '04 TLs feature a drive by wire throttle system, the 5AT models will likely see the most benefit from this system. The electronic throttle control allows for tightly coupled engine and transmission operation, resulting in amazingly quick and refined shifting.
The 5AT uses an advanced version of Acura's Grade Logic Control System and Shift Hold control. This was designed to minimize the constant gear hunting that results from tipping on and off the throttle while negotiating a series of curves. Acura states it this way: "When the throttle is suddenly released and the brakes are applied, as is the case when decelerating at the entrance of a corner, Shift-Hold Control keeps the transmission in its current (lower) ratio as it negotiates the corner and accelerates out. This feature leaves the chassis undisturbed by excess shifting, and ensures that abundant power is available without a downshift at the exit of the corner."
The 5-speed automatic continues to use the Grade Logic to minimize shifting when the computer determines that the car is on a hill using various sensors.
With the new transmission, you can leave the selector in "D" and allow the computer to make all the decisions, or if you're in a frisky mood you can direct the gear changes yourself. Place the lever into the special gate left of the Drive position and you can select a higher gear by pushing forward and a lower gear by pulling rearward. By going this route, the transmission is said to deliver quicker and firmer shifts than the standard fully automatic mode. Whether it results in better "real-world" results remains to be seen. In general, most cars equipped with sportshift-style transmissions tend to perform best in the fully automatic mode.
Touted by Acura as a safety feature, the 5AT sportshift retains the characteristics of the previous TL Type- S model. In particular, this means the transmission will automatically upshift from 1st to 2nd gear in Sportshift mode. Acura's explanation goes: "The transmission will upshift from first to second automatically if the driver doesn't command an upshift in time. In second, third and fourth, the transmission won't upshift without a command from the driver; the ECU cuts off fuel flow to the engine if there is danger of over-revving the engine. The transmission will upshift itself to prevent engine damage in the rare situation where the fuel cutoff alone is unable to prevent further engine over revving (as could happen on a steep downhill). When downshifting, the transmission won't execute a driver-commanded downshift that would send the engine beyond redline in the lower gear. To prevent lugging away from a stop in a high gear, the Sequential SportShift transmission will automatically downshift to first gear as it comes to a stop, even in manual mode."
Acura claims that the combination of the Drive-by-Wire Throttle System (diagramed to the left) and the 5AT allows upshifts from first to second gear, and from second to third gear, to be more than 0.3 seconds faster which is a 33 percent or better improvement. In the manual Sportshift mdoe, driver downshifts are also more than 0.3 second quicker. Finally, the peak G-force has been reduced significantly during upshifts and downshifts. Again, this is something we'll be sure to confirm for our readers.
New to the 5AT is an active lockup torque converter that improves fuel economy. Acura describes it as: "A precise linear solenoid expands the speed and throttle setting range in which lockup can be engaged in the top four gears. This results in a reduction in transmission slippage for an improvement in fuel mileage. The torque converter is now calibrated to offer more progressive acceleration than in the past, coupled with better acceleration at large throttle openings."
Initial EPA estimates for the 5AT is 29 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city.
See which TOV Dealer Network affiliates are currently accepting pre-orders for the 2004 Acura TL.