The term Q-Ship originally referred to a Royal Navy war ship in merchant-vessel disguise. When a U-Boat would approach and open fire, the Q-Ship would drop its screens and return its own blaze of fire. As an anonymous sedan packing a surprising wallop, the Acura TL of this generation was very much a Q-Ship–and proof that the ability to attract zero attention can sometimes be a good thing.
As some of you know, my family was involved for many years in the car (and taxi) repair business. It was good money, but eventually a series of external factors, mainly economic, resulted in several major business and lifestyle changes. In a nutshell, the consequences of years of borrowing and spending by the Canadian government had come home to roost in 1993. Canadian T-Bills had no takers, and the government’s massive spending cuts took a deep and direct toll on my family’s livelihood.
Long story short, I was ready to do something completely different. When a major Japanese tech company offered me a job translating their Japanglish manuals into English, I jumped at the opportunity. I sold all my stuff and went off to Asia. My travels took me to virtually every Asian nation, and included extended stays in Korea, China and the Philippines. I barely drove in the entire 11 years I spent abroad.
Returning to Canada presented me with a series of difficulties, including having no job with which to support my new family. It took quite a while for me to settle in after such a long absence. Along the way, I owned a couple of beaters (which I’ll cover in an upcoming COAL odds-and-ends post), as well as a brand-new Chevrolet Aveo and Honda Fit–but it wasn’t until March 2011 that I bought my first really nice ride, a used 2000 Acura TL with all of 66,000 km (41,000 miles) on the odometer.
The story of how I got my Acura starts with my business partner in Saskatoon, who doesn’t like to spend much when it comes to depreciating assets like cars. He did want something nice for his wife to drive, and since Vancouver roads get very little snow (and thus not much road salt), I did some looking for him around here. After a few days, I found a 2001 Acura TL with 90,000 km (56,000 miles) on the clock. I bought it for $11,000, fitted it with a new set of Nokian WR-G2 tires, and drove to Saskatoon to make the delivery. I made that trip alone and it was one of my most enjoyable drives ever–so much so that when I got back I started looking for a TL for myself. After five months, I found a one-owner, 2000 TL with no accidents or hits, complete records and low mileage. The owner’s ha-ha price was $12,500. Fortunately for me, 11-year-old cars in BMW City (aka Vancouver) aren’t terribly easy to sell, and three weeks later the car was mine for $9,000–top dollar, yes, but I thought the car was worth the money.
Like all Acuras, my TL clearly reflects Japanese thinking, which I understand quite well after having lived and worked there. Its entire presentation whispers understatement; it contains nothing beyond the appropriate, and what it does provide is exquisite. This generation TL features fit and finish beyond reproach, and materials of unsurpassed quality. Even the substantial doors close with a pinky-pull. These cars also boast exceptional reliability; nothing has broken or stopped working on mine since I’ve owned it. Despite their overall excellence, Acuras of this era just couldn’t seem to get any respect. The contemporary buff mags consistently panned the TL for lacking rear-wheel-drive and/or eight cylinders (so far, I’ve driven mine 25,000 km (15,500 mi.) and, in my opinion, it needs neither). The irony is that these were the largest-selling near-luxury cars of their era–and by a healthy margin.
The engine is a 3.2 liter, 24-valve VTEC, with a variable intake plenum. It makes good torque right off the line, and at 4,000 rpm the fun really begins. At that point the second-cam profile kicks in, and the engine screams to redline with a great V-6 rasp as the automatic transmission bangs off impressive shifts. These truly great engines are smooth, quiet, powerful and reliable–and live on today as Honda outboard motors. This iteration is rated at 225 hp, and never have I felt the car lacked power, not even at the highest mountain elevations. It will do 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in under 7.5 seconds, and has more power than I’d ever need on a public road. At 1540 kg (3,400 lbs.), it is not like the portly “sport sedans” of today, and actually feels very light on its feet. It also returns decent fuel economy of 12L/100 km (19.5 mpg) in the city and up to 7.2 (31 mpg) on the highway on premium fuel.
The multi-link front and rear suspensions give a firm ride and terrific handling. That shock tower brace seen in the picture above is one of reasons the car’s body as stiff as a corpse, with zero rattles and squeaks. Steering is scalpel-precise and brakes are equally impressive. In short, this is an exceptionally good driver and a really good car for someone who, like me, puts in a lot of wheel time. Its speed is limited to an indicated 230 km/h (143 mph) which, of course, I didn’t test on the 200-km straight stretch of Alberta Highway 9, just outside of Drumheller. That would be illegal, you know.
The interior is a very nice place to spend a few hours, which I do almost every day. The supremely comfortable seats are covered in leather of very high quality. All the dash materials are first-rate, as are the general layout and feel of the controls (save for heater controls that are a bit of a reach). The huge sunroof is nice on sunny days, and the stereo sounds good for its age. All in all, I can’t think of a better car for the money I paid. So what if it drinks high-test gas? After all, I bought the car for cash and it’s so old, I don’t even bother with collision insurance. Obviously, the transmission has been repaired (keep reading) but to the best of my knowledge nothing else has ever broken, cracked or malfunctioned since the car was new.
Exactly what’s so great about this Acura? In a word, handling. The car is exceptionally well mannered and responsive. The turn-in is simply amazing, and there’s practically no body roll–in a very fast bend, literally all you do you is crank the wheel, hang on and gun it at the apex. There is zero understeer, and the car simply rockets out of tight bends without drama, squealing, squeaks or rattles. The steering is so good, you need only look at where you’re going to get there, and that is an amazing feeling. On the highway, you’d never know this is a front-wheel drive sedan; in fact, about the only time you’re made aware of it is when using a heavy foot while driving on a wet road. On the road from Kelowna to Sicamous, it snakes along Okanagan Lake brilliantly as it shifts between second and third. The car is simply sweet to drive, and the harder I flog it, the better it gets. Seriously, everyone should have mountain ranges in their back yards–it’s so much more fun that way!
No car is without its problems, and these are notorious for their bad transmissions. The one in my car was replaced, under warranty by an Acura dealer, just before I bought it. It is not an especially smooth unit, and it frequently hesitates on downshifts while trying to hold the higher gear for fuel economy. It has grade logic, so more aggressive driving will cause it to hold gears longer and lock up less often. Really whaling on it produces great redline shifts, and its manual mode works well when you want to stay above the magic 4,000 rpm VTEC line. The car does have a few more drawbacks, such as too-firm ride quality that becomes almost unacceptable on some of the rougher roads around here. There’s not much trunk space, and (for the sake of structural stiffness) the rear seat does not fold down. If trips to IKEA are your thing, this isn’t the car for you….but if blasting down the highway cloaked in invisibility is your thing, then the Acura is great!
When driven around town, the Acura feels like a big cat straining to get free, rarely exceeding 2,000 rpm. This is a car that lives for the open highway and fortunately, we have some of North America’s most spectacular drives right here in British Columbia. Last summer we went to Saskatoon, via Kelowna, Radium and Banff.
The drive through Roger’s Pass was the most fun I’ve ever had while clothed. The truly great thing about the TL (especially a grey TL) is its complete Q-Shipness. You can blow by anything, including cops, and go unnoticed; it might as well be invisible. The new bridge at Kicking Horse Canyon, a stunning piece of engineering, provided a real thrill when a kid in a clapped out Mazda 323 tried to race me up the hill. Climbing it at 140 km/h (87 mph) was child’s play for the Acura, which remains utterly composed at every speed of which it is capable. The summit is 1627 m (5,300 ft.), and the scenery is great. By the way, the old road was a death trap, and kudos to the BC government for building a new one that’s a real improvement.
Next stop was Radium Hot Spring, where there’s something in the water that just leaves me happy and feeling good. From there, the drive up Sinclair Canyon though Kootenay Park is something that every car guy should experience. You climb up the canyon to a high alpine valley that appears untouched by human activity. There are no shops, stores or anything else, only spectacular vistas and a wide, smooth road. Barrelling though there at 160 km/h (100 mph) with the sunroof open, loud music (of many genres!) and a beautiful woman next to you is something that really cannot be described here.
The trip from Banff to Saskatoon is eight hours of nothing, but the Acura sails along nicely on cruise control. My buddy had warned me about deer on the Oyen, Alberta stretch; sure enough, just outside Oyen I crested a hill at high speed and saw a deer in the far distance (thanks to LASIK surgery). I immediately stood on the brakes, and the ABS hauled us down just in time for the deer to jump in front of the car. The brakes really impressed me; they didn’t shudder, fade or yaw, they just stopped the car with no drama whatsoever. Although the rest of the trip to Saskatoon involved typical, monotonous prairie, it was made in total comfort thanks to ice-cold A/C.
Because of ever-rising fuel prices, this Acura probably is my last hurrah in terms of a sport sedan. From such a perspective, owning it really doesn’t make much sense, but I feel justified given the purchase price. Its classic, ageless styling still looks so good that it impresses clients whenever I pull up in it. Inevitably there will come the day when it makes more sense to get a fuel-efficient vehicle for the city. The long-term plan is to keep the Acura, dispose of my wife’s POS Taurus and get a hybrid for town duty, but all that is several years away. The Acura is paid for and is really cheap to run. Depreciation is minimal, perhaps $1,000 a year tops. In fact, since I got the car driving it has cost me a mere $0.26/km (about 16 cents per mile), and that’s economy-car territory. Considering that I’d have to pay so much in repairs to even approach the cost of a new car, I’ll just continue to enjoy my big, powerful and surprisingly cheap-to-run luxury sedan.
This year’s road trip is along BC Highway 3, to Osoyoos, then on to Nelson, White Swan Hot Spring, Fairmont Hot Spring, Radium Hot Spring and back to Vancouver. If you get a chance, visit Google maps and check out this fantastic drive,which promises to be yet another highly entertaining romp in my Acura.
There are sure to be plenty of people wanting to pan my Acura and tell me how unreliable it is. To me, all that matters is that this car suits my needs. It’s well built, comfortable and highly capable. I can get a little bored driving it in the city, but on an open road with some nice twisty curves–like the one I took home this evening–I fall in love all over again. For me, taking this car to romp in the Rockies is what driving is all about.
Always loved a good Q-ship. Every cop and hormonal kid expects you to be fast in a Corvette, Mustang, Camaro, Impala SS, etc… and so forth and so on. But something fast and not flashy, now that’s a thing of beauty.
I always liked this generation of TL. And who doesn’t love a good Q ship? I have always wondered about the TL vs. RL in this generation. The TL is probably the better performer due to lighter weight, but I suspect that the RL may be the bigger bargain.
The transmissions have always scared me away from these. Most of my experience (second or third hand) has been with the unit in Honda minivans. Perhaps these lighter-weight sedans are easier on the trannys. I trust that you have a cooler on it or at least change that fluid very frequently.
Other than the autobox, these Acuras embodied all of the traditional attributes that made Hondas so beloved by their owners. It is not hard to see why you enjoy it so much.
There is the 6 speed manual option too, if you don’t mind shifting yourself.
The TL was the first to have the issue and be recalled. The manual wasn’t available until the 05 redesign.
OK. A 7-8 year old Acura would still be pretty cheap, although its easier to find an Accord with a V6 and manual trans. Another car people don’t expect to be quick.
Finding one, especially a manual, that hasn’t had the bark beat off it would be a major challenge. I am very picky about used cars. I find a lot of looking really pays off later on.
Also, try selling a manual car worth more than $10,000. You had better be very patient
Redesign was actually for ’04. ’04-’06 offered a manual in both the base and A-Spec trims; with the Type-S’s arrival for ’07, the manual became a Type-S exclusive. Things changed again for ’09, but let’s not talk about that…
I love my 98 3.2TL for many of the same reasons but it requires a little more attention at 141k miles… Little things are starting to wear and get replaced. But it gets up and goes with nothing more than a roar from its non-VTEC SOHC 90 degree V6. No squeaks or rattles and better interior materials then what was found in my folk’s 02 E430
Every generation of the TL is a Q ship, even the current.
Unfortunately these never came with a manual transmission, but the pretty-much-identical CL-S did! I drove one while looking for a new car last year and it was a hoot. The engine note after 4000 RPM really reminded me of trumpets; it perfectly illustrated an engine “on song.” Too bad the example I was looking at had been in an accident and hadn’t been repaired that well, otherwise I would have snapped it up.
Good story but I’ve started to think a story about you might be more interesting than a story about a car. Bonus is that we get a bit of both at the same time.
I second this! Len, I look forward to hearing more of your adventures in Asia as well as in the gorgeous Canuckistani West.
Glad you used the word “Canuckistani.” I’ve been told I’m not allowed to anymore.
Not true. Maybe just not quite as often; you’re on a Canuckistan diet.
I once thought Canada might be a little bit of a police state (even though I knew better). This talk of the Canuckistan diet makes me have to tell it.
It was 2002 and my wife and I drove to Victoria, BC and took a ship to Alaska. When we returned we headed east on what, I suppose, was the TCH. We intended to go through Albertville and head south for home. About 2 days before I got there we started being followed by someone in a Dodge pickup. When we stopped, he stopped. He had cop written all over him and he engaged us in conversation wondering how our Texas tag found itself way up here.
We must have satisfied him because he didn’t follow us anymore so far as I know. We stopped for the night in a podunk type hotel (my favorite kind) and the next morning the sky was full of helicopters and nobody knew why. I thought we must be at war and the radios weren’t talking. It got worse as we got to Albertville. When we passed through, it stopped being Canuckistan and returned to the Canada I had grown to really like.
Turns out that the greatest concentration of cops I had ever seen was accumulated around the old olympic ski park (or whatever you call it) in Albertville. Also turns out they were having a G8 conference that included Geo Bush (the junior) so my Texas tags had gathered a bunch of attention.
It may not be a police state but my opinion of the cops is that they are good. Apologies to all for the non-car story.
The only “Albertville” I am familiar with is in northern Saskatchewan. I a not quite sure why you would want to go there from Victoria, it is like 2000 km away.
Well google just told me that I had a senior moment. It was in Alberta that we headed south. Don’t know why Albertville got stuck in my head. I know that I have taken a trip from both ends of the TCH now but not the middle. We started in BC and dropped down from Alberta. Back in 1966 I started at the other end from Argentia Newfoundland to St Johns and across the Ferry. Someday I intend to take the whole thing if I don’t take the big dirt nap first.
Canada is absolutely beautiful.
Duh. As I look. Alberta – albertville.
My Grandpa has one that is about this age. I’ve always admired it as a well-designed and well-engineered car. Its a shame that Acura doesn’t build anything this attractive anymore. Seems like everything under the Acura label is too heavy, too expensive, and clad with a chrome beak on the grill that looks very gaudy.
Nice car. I respect the fact that you love your TL. Kind of bland for my tastes but a nice car just the same.
How is this a curbside classic though? This is more like a consumer guide review by an owner that is very enthusiastic about they’re nice used car..
No disrespect meant, just questioning where this is going.
It’s not a Curbside Classic. It’s a car of a lifetime. A regular Sunday feature here.
I stand corrected sir. I apologize.
Good write up Len. Yeah, Japanese cars are just too reliable for my taste! And I really can’t live with front wheel drive in a performance car. I know it seems great in these, that is until you really push it beyond it’s limits, then it does not. One has to do so much to try and get an unruly front drive car back in line once it’s plowing through the apex. As opposed to simple throttle manipulation and counter steer in a rear drive. But I know how nice these rides are and I can’t fault you for loving it. After all, true love is blind; she could be a fat heifer or a skinny gymnast, it’s love.
You’re lucky. I’ve never been a hot enough driver to actually NEED rear wheel drive all the time. (Or, at least I’ve had no problem with admitting to the fact that I’m not a hot enough driver to need RWD all the time.)
Always seemed to me that the people who really need RWD need it at the track. In a car that’s prepped for the track. Street? What’s the big difference?
Like Skye, I’ve never been in a situation where fwd has been a problem. My Acura’s limits are quite a bit higher than mine.
The main reason I drive the Acura is I can’t think of a better performing car for the price I paid for it. I’m also not interested in the maintenance headaches of a BMW or Audi, the only two cars with equal or better performance to the Acura I can think of.
But I anyone who can find me a BMW five series with 66,000 km on it for $9000 please let me know ASAP!
No such thing as too reliable for me. I don’t like problems. As to RWD vs FWD; I recall reading that German and/or Austrian policemen favor long wheelbase FWD cars for patrol on high speed roads.
Its handling abilities souned like my old 406 Pug anybody who thinks FWD done properly wont handle watch the car chase on Ronin thats a 406 being flung around corners like a toy.
I always loved this generation of TL. Well, I always loved the TL (and even Vigor before them) but this always seemed to me to be the first one that was just North-American enough (and the first with full-frame doors) and with styling that had just the right amount of edge!
The current TL, by contrast, has a little too much edge, like the rest of Acura’s lineup. There is a fine line between edgy and overcooked…
Reminds me of my `96 LHS, another great Q-ship.
Yes, let that one sink in! 🙂
These cars are good values on the used car market. $9k in 2011 is a little dear…. Big problems from the automatic. I never found these to feel particularly luxurious. Give me a lexus (even an es) any day. CL-S manual? That’s another story….
The $9000 price is top dollar but first I’m not in the USA. Add $1000 for Canada and another for the Lower Mainland.
I do ask anyone who thinks I paid too much, find me a car of similar pperformance with this milage for a lower price
You get what you pay for.
I have a lot of experience with the TL’s Honda counterpart and a bit with the Acura itself. With a six there’s plenty of power and the transmission’s smooth until it starts to be less smooth. I’ve found hills will take the life out of it quickly. My last replacement was quoted at $4,300 US from the dealer so I sold the thing to a scrapper rather than deal with it any more. The airbags on mine were dangerously faulty, before, and after the accident, contributing to the desire to see mine pulled apart slowly in a scrap yard.
I agree that the leather in the Acura was nice, much more so than a new 335 I recently drove. Overall, the interior was really well done, if you can ignore the cheapness of the center console compartment. The interior really spoiled me when I test drove a loaded 2010 Camry. The Camry was so sad by comparison.
The exterior, while not exciting, was handsome and perfect for maintaining a low profile. A coworker has one in dark green with a tan interior and it’s still a sharp, modern looking car. Few designs have aged as well as this one.
Part of me did like this generation of Honda/Acura, but I think it is also the one that marked Honda’s turning point. The dealer body had started to run off reputation alone, trying to bluster their way out of repairs and treating the customers like pariahs for daring to have a badly built Honda. The company itself ignored problems. Customer feedback became less important. I think that when Paul is compiling the list of deadly sins that brought the company down, this generation of car will be one of the leading candidates.
I genuinely hope your TL is one of the good ones. My coworker’s car is a 2001 and has experienced no issues in 120,000 miles. Hopefully yours will bring you as many years of Q ship fun.
Len: Nothing personal, but explain to me: HOW is this car a “curbside classic”? Future classic? Wanna-be classic? When you post about a non-classic car, it dilutes the value/ meaning/ focus of the blog, which is appropriately named CURBSIDE CLASSIC… Did you miss that whole part? Pretty soon, we’ll be seeing articles about 2011 Sentras and 2010 Honda Civics… Heck, maybe I should put my son’s 2002 Lexus in here as well!
How many times do we have to go through this routine? CC is not just about “classics”; it’s about the wide world of cars, trucks, trains, planes and whatever catches our fancy, except that we don’t focus on brand new cars, although we have taken up that subject too, from time to time. Is that ok with you? If not, I’d be happy to refund your subscription.
Len is writing a series titled “Cars Of A Lifetime” (COAL); that includes all the cars in his life that he owned, new or used.
As it is, we’ve had several Curbside Classics on cars as new as his Acura. And we will again.
We strongly considered this car when we bought our Volvo in ’98. Oddly enough, the TL had the edge until it was near impossible to find one since they were in short supply after introduction.
The 2004 followup is even better looking in my opinion. The current model can’t touch the earlier two generations….
“This year’s road trip is along BC Highway 3, to Osoyoos, then on to Nelson, White Swan Hot Spring, Fairmont Hot Spring, Radium Hot Spring and back to Vancouver.”
Sounds like a great trip! I would add Ainsworth Hot Springs to that list, and try to work the Kootenay Lake Ferry and Hwy 3A from the Kootenay Bay to Creston into the itinerary.
In fact that is the plan. I have never been to Ainsowrth, although I have done the Kootenay Lake ferry a few times. Stunning scenery.
This TL reminds me of its contemporary, the Lincoln LS, in that despite being quite handsome, its design themes were completely abandoned in the next generation. Strange thinking, especially for luxury marques trying to justify repeat purchases at premium prices.
Len, my humble (used, FWD, slushbox – take that, haters 😉 ) Mazda and I are envious of those amazing western highways. Thanks for the vicarious road trip.
Pardon me, I must wipe the drool off my keyboard…
There now, all clean. Since you are driving an Accord that drank a few energy drinks and did some exercises, I’m not surprised you are in love with it. I drove a 2001 Accord (same suspension and general body build) for 8 years. Though it was a 4-cylinder, I loved it no less, and the transmission lasted the life of the car.
Thanks for the nice comments. However the 2001 Accord had struts up front, not multi-link. It does make quite difference how the car drives.
In fact I was looking for an Accord of this generation but couldn’t find one with less than 100,000 km on it.
Good point about the multi-link suspension. The difference in handling is night and day. One of my major regrets with my Honda was not ponying up the extra money for the TL, especially since adding options to the Honda put it in the ballpark of a fairly basic TL and I would have gotten a substantially sportier car. Live and learn.
Having previously owned a 2001 3.2 CL Type S, I’m familiar with the transmission failure in these cars. Mine was luckily covered under warranty, but after owning two trouble-free Civics (an ’88 and a ’95), I was shocked when the tranny gave up the ghost at 39,000 miles.
I feel like these were the last of the “honest” Acuras. One summer in college, I worked as a porter for a detail shop that serviced a large auto park in San Diego. The Acura dealership was one of our clients, so I drove TONS of TLs and CLs of this vintage. At the time, they were very nice, sensible cars, if a bit dull. I thought the CL Type-S’s were the coolest of the bunch. The quality gap was still huge then, so the cabin seemed even nicer that it probably actually was in comparison to the trash Detroit was churning out at the time, i.e. early ’00s Buicks.
This is the type of car that gave Acura the reputation that they are beginning to lose. The ’04 TL was a huge departure and really quite bold for the brand. They got lucky and it was beautiful and very well received by the public. I think it went to Acura’s head and they felt “cool” and compelled to keep pushing the envelope. And now we have the current-gen TL and not much hope in sight.
My current roomate’s girlfriend drives an ’02 TL, with the refreshed headlights. IMO, the earlier versions like your car are much better looking. She’s on her third tranny in 200k miles but still loves the car. She HATES the current-gen TLs so it looks like it’ll be her last Acura.
Wow, $9K for a 12 year old car! Seems very steep to me. A friend of mine had for 2 years ’01 Taurus with the same mileage. I do understand where you’re coming from that material quality, handling and engine is not the same as a ‘fancy Honda’, but I wouldn’t call Taurus a POS, especially as it has original transmission, unlike your Acura, that is three times pricier.
Would you call ’02 Nissan Altima also a ‘sport sedan’, since it has 15 more horsepower over your TL?
True, $9,000 isn’t cheap, but it does appear to be in nice shape, and the previous owner likely saw at least $18,000 in depreciation, so all Len has to do is push the car to 112K to have gotten the same use out of the same car for less than half the outlay. Not too shabby.
Last year I picked up a loaded Ford Focus of the same vintage as this Acura for only $2,000. The original owner had paid over $18K new. But then all I got for my money was a Focus. I would have gladly taken the Acura.
My wife has a Taurus and I can say, without doubt, that the car is a POS.
The Nissan is a nice car but the handling is not in the league of the Acura.
I am in Vancouver, British Columbia. Prices are higher for cars here since they tend to be low kms and rust free.
Bimmer, if you can find me a sport sedan with 66,000 km on it for less than $9000 I will buy it tomorrow. I have always shopped carefully for used cars and buying a low km car with all records, garage kept, etc, is worth it in the long run.
Seems to have been a good strategy as I have not spent a nickel on the Acura since I got it almost a year and a half ago.
Nice write-up Len, and one nice Honda too (as it was a JDM Honda Saber/Aspire). I looked at them at some point, but the coupe was impractical for my needs, and the sedan that I tried, seemed too sedate. Too vegetarian. Too – for no better word – feminine to me after all my multiple SAABs.
Which also BTW make an excellent Q-car.
Yes, Saabs are cool cars. I just do not have the patience to maintain them.
I don’t think car magazines ever complained that the TL lacks rear wheel drive or V8 engines. It’s the RL that they complain about, and they should, at its price range, its competitors have both (Lexus GS/LS and Infiniti M). The TL’s competitors are mostly FWD and has V6 engines, so, not much to complain about.
Anyway, thanks for reminding us that Acura used to be handsome (if a bit generic looking) before they grow a beak.
I have a ’99 TL, the first year of this particular design. One of the things I like about it is its classic, non-offensive overall look, which has aged very well. Interior materials are excellent. Visibility is too, which is why I will probably keep it for as long as it’ll hold up; I can’t stand the fact that outward visibility has become so poor in so many modern cars. Of course, the transmission did go at 100k, right on schedule.
My sister purchased one of these in 2011. Not sure what year it is but it looks nearly identical to the one in the pic except its white. It only had 76k original miles and she got a really good deal on it. At first it was a GREAT car and I was so jealous, that is until the dreaded check engine light came on shortly after purchasing it. She ended up having to replace the transmission at a cost of nearly 3000 bucks. Fast forward maybe a year or so later, same thing, check engine light. She takes it back to the same shop that did the repairs the first time and low and behold, it needs another transmission. Since the repairs were covered by a limited warranty, she only had to pay for the labor costs, still nearly 1200 bucks. Fast forward to this past Christmas, we decided to ride home together for the holidays. On the way there, the check engine light comes on again, but then it turns off and the car drives with no issues. The day after Christmas, we are getting ready to return home, pull out of my mother’s driveway, the check engine light comes back on, and the tranny refuses to shift out of second gear. WTH?!!! We ended up having to ride the bus home and the car is still sitting in my mother’s driveway. Apparently this is a common problem with this particular Acura.
I would suggest the independent shop that did the tranny job cheaped out and only replaced the broken parts inside. I would also wonder why anyone would spend that much on a car that old.
Fluid changes by the book-50,000 km, are vital, as well as not stomping it from a rest at stop lights. I would not buy a used Acrua without the record of this being done on schedule.
UPDATE: I have now had the car three years, and there has not been an unscheduled repair. I did, however, had rodents eat out a fuel and a couple of EVAP lines! That was $800.00 but the insurance covered it.
I now have all of 111,000 km on the car. I have done the transmission fluid but that is it in three years, other than changing oil.
The Acura now has 131,000 km on it and still drives beautifully. The car recently had its first tune-up. The spark plugs were changed, and for good measure I replaced all the coils in the car, as the idle was a little rough, and the coils in these cars are known to last about 200,000 km. After the tune up and cleaning out the throttle body, the Acura is running as sweetly as ever.
It doesn’t get drive much now. I drive it once a week as a troubleshoot, and my wife takes it shopping occasionally. I have decided to make it into a real classic car; look for many updates!
I had the TL for a total of six years. In the entire time, there was not a single repair. I didn’t even do the brakes.
I sold it 2017 for $4000, so it cost me a whopping $5000 to drive it for six years. I also expensed it to my business, so it cost me almost nothing.
Sometimes I really miss it, but my buddy still has his. I drive it every summer and it is still amazing for a 22 year old car. The styling is stiff fresh after all those years.