Slotting into the middle of a 3 sedan lineup, Acura's third generation TL has helped anchor Acura's bottom line ever since its 2004 (model year) introduction. The TL's carefully proportioned blend of luxury, performance, technology, style, and value has proven to be a potent formula in the entry premium market segment. For several years following its introduction, the TL reigned supreme in its segment in terms of sales, only having been recently surpassed by the redesigned (E90) BMW 3-series sedan. This is despite the fact that the TL's offering was about as simplified as it gets: for equipment you had a choice between fully loaded, or fully loaded with navi. As far as drivetrain options, your choice was limited to a 5AT or 6MT hooked to a smooth and potent 258hp 3.2L V6 (J32). While it was obviously a successful approach, there were some buyers who shopped elsewhere because they found the one-size-fits-all TL either to be too sporty, or not sporty enough.
With the addition of the Type-S model for 2007, Acura's product planners were given the freedom to take some of the edge off of the base TL and orient it more towards a touring role rather than that of a luxury-sport-touring sedan. This move should broaden the TL's appeal to the shoppers who are drawn to the TL more for its style, luxury, and technology. Conversely, the Type-S model is tailored to suit drivers who want all of those things AND a further emphasis on performance.
What Looks Different?
While the 2007 TL's trim changes are generally minor, there are a few noticeable differences that are evident from the curb. The base TL features a new split 5-spoke 17x8" wheel design that is stiffer than last year's design. When paired with new softer subframe bushings, according to Acura the wheels help contribute to a 1.0dB reduction in road noise. Type-S models feature their own new 10-spoke 17x8" wheel design in a dark silver finish. While the '04-'06 TL had foglights that were integrated into the headlight housing, this was a fact lost on many people. For 2007 the foglights have been relocated down in the front fascia where they are more evident. Satin/black chrome (base/Type-S) crossbars have been added to the two lower grilles on the front bumper. The main grille has been enlarged along with the Acura caliper logo mounted in the center of it.
Looking at the 2007 TL's profile, the most noticeable new feature is the LED turn signal indicators that are now integrated into the door mirrors. On the Type-S, the side sills are slightly wider than on the base model and the lenses of the sidemarker lamps now have a smoked appearance. At the rear of the vehicle, the 2007 TL features a "diffusor" on the lower end of the bumper. The taillights have been partially cleared out on the base TL, while the Type-S model gets black chrome trim within the taillights. The rear bumper of the Type-S model is slightly different from the base model, with a larger honeycombed (and still nonfunctional) "diffusor" along with larger exhaust openings to allow for the TL's "package" of quad exhaust pipes to be prominently displayed. Additionally, the somewhat busy rear visage of the Type-S is finished with a decklid lip spoiler.
What's Changed Inside?
Inside the car, there's a modest list of revisions, starting with a new sportier 3-spoke steering wheel on both '07 TL trim levels. Type-S models equipped with the 5-speed automatic transmission get steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for an extra measure of control. The TL now uses Acura's "switchblade" ignition key design, which is more pocket-friendly. The 2007 TL's gauge cluster is similar in layout to last year's package, but now features a brushed metallic meter face and a higher resolution multi-information-display. The base TL continues with a blue/white interior illumination scheme, while the Type-S rolls with a red illumination theme, which is carried from the gauges to the ambient LED cabin lighting, audio/HVAC displays and the switchgear illumination. All models (finally) feature an auxiliary jack for iPod/MP3 player hookup (located in the two-tiered center console), while the ELS surround system has added Dolby Pro-Logic decoding capabilities for your 5.1 surround sound pleasure. Additionally, MP3/WMA playback is now supported via the TL's in-dash 6-disc changer.
While all 2007 TL Type-S models are equipped with a standard DVD-based satellite navigation system, the base model is still offered without the navi system. For these base models, Acura has mercifully redesigned the center stack, which was (to be blunt) an eyesore on previous base model TLs. The new base model center stack design features a more handsome vacuum fluorescent display containing a 24-point digital compass and enhanced audio and HVAC system displays. I've only seen this new design in photos so far and the biggest improvement appears to be the vacuum fluorescent display, which provides for a more uniform look; that said, the new compass looks a little video-game hokey. The worst part of the old system was the stark black masking around the display and the lettering comparable to a cheap clock radio.
On all 2007 TL models equipped with the navigation system, Acura includes a standard rear view camera, the ability to transfer your cell phone's phonebook (up to 1000 entries and 10000 numbers) via Acura's HandsFreeLink (Bluetooth), and the addition of AcuraLink with RealTime traffic (subscription required). These are nice little upgrades but Acura charges a hefty $2500 for the Navi package.
Elsewhere inside the TL, you might notice the new design for the aluminum and "wood" trim, with the Type-S getting a slightly darker finish for the aluminum and faux carbon fiber inserts instead of the base model's fake wood. To further differentiate the Type-S interior, contrasting stitching is used on the door panel and seat trim, with Type-S logos appearing on the steering wheel and embossed into the front headrests. Base TL seats have been redesigned for more comfort (read: less bolstering) while the TL Type-S seats have deeper bolsters and "metallic" finish leather seat inserts. I'm not sure I care for the "metallic" leather finish inserts myself (too pimpalicious?), but it does serve as a point of distinction vs. the base model. For all TL models, the seat leather is said to have been upgraded to a softer and more natural feel. While the TL's seats are generally quite good, we'd like to see Acura offering a bit more adjustability (e.g. adjustable thigh support) as many of its European competitors currently offer.
Read on for our road impressions.