Classic CARmentary: 1999 Acura 3.2TL

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

It was with this generation TL that Acura finally got the “near luxury” category right.  The Vigor looked like little more than an Accord with a prominent proboscis (all of these models are based on a stretched version of the Accord platform).  The first generation TL at least looked more different than the Accord on which it was still based, but it was still kind of strange looking.  In addition, the lower 2.5TL with the five-cylinder engine from the Vigor was priced in line with its six-cylinder competition, and the six-cylinder 3.2TL was several thousand dollars above that.  

This car was everything the previous models weren’t.  By the end of 2000, sales of the TL had more than doubled.  According to the Standard Catalog of Imported Cars, “This car may well have been the bargain of the year.  Nowhere else was the combination of driving pleasure, great options, and low price available in one sleek package.”  Thanks to the all-new 3.2-liter V6 under the hood, not only was fuel economy improved over the old 3.2TL, but it also scooted to sixty 2 seconds quicker.

This was also my first experience with a navigation system.  I distinctly remember using it to direct my wife and me to Friendly’s in Burke, VA, and having absolutely no idea how I got there or back home.

The following review was written on February 1, 1999.

There are some cars that you just can’t go wrong if you purchase. The all-new 3.2TL is one of them.

The near-luxury TL has been smartly redesigned for 1999. Less upright than its predecessor, it exhibits sportier styling with more creased edges. The new TL actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the last Acura Legend. Furthermore, with consumers becoming more price conscious, Acura has gotten rid of the 2.5TL with its odd five-cylinder engine and priced the new 3.2 $750 less than that car and over $5,000 less than last year’s 3.2. That’s progress.

The level of equipment surely hasn’t been sacrificed, as the 3.2TL comes as one fully loaded model. Leather, power seats, alloy wheels, power moonroof, CD player, even Xenon High-Intensity Discharge Headlamps – you name it, it’s probably there. The highlight is the optional Satellite-Linked Navigation System, which is the only option. By using the Global Positioning System developed by the military, it can tell you exactly where you are on the earth, as well as how to get to wherever it is you need to go. A touch sensitive CRT monitor in the center of the dashboard displays all of the relevant information, and a female voice also directs with phrases such as “Right Turn Ahead.” My wife and I had a hoot playing with it, intentionally getting lost and having it get us out. Although I sometimes disagreed with its selection of routes, it never failed to get us to our destination.

With its 225-horsepower 3.2-liter V6, the 3.2TL definitely has an advantage over the weaker 3.0 liter V6s in its Lexus ES300, Infiniti I30 and Cadillac Catera competition. Combined with the four-speed automatic transmission with the “manumatic” SportShift and above-average handling, driving is far more fun than with your average car. The only problem is a ride that may be far more harsh than most people expect in this price range.

With its roomy rear seat and 14.3 cubic foot trunk, I dare say that the 3.2TL is damn near perfect. With its understated appearance, level of equipment, low price, and near bulletproof quality, you definitely can’t go wrong.

For more information contact 1-800-TO-ACURA


Type: Four-door Sedan
Engine: 225-horsepower, 3.2 liter V6
Transmission: Four-Speed Automatic with SportShift
EPA Mileage: 19 city/27 highway
Tested Price: $30,514