NEMACOLIN, Pennsylvania - Revivals of performance-focused models typically meet an enthusiastic audience. That's the prime rationale for Acura's reintroduction of the TL Type-S.
During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Acura offered a hotter-performing, tauter-handling offshoot of its popular TL sport sedan. After those two model years, however, the Type-S faded away.
Now, as part of the revamping of its TL series for 2007, the Type-S is back. Fans will be pleased to learn that it comes with 28 more horsepower than the regular TL sedan: 286 vs. 258.
In its 2007 form, the Type-S with its race-inspired styling cues flaunts a "more sinister appearance," said principal design engineer Philip La Pointe, led by its black chrome grille and more pronounced splitter. Black chrome trim decorates the Type-S, which wears a trunk-lid spoiler above sizable quad exhaust outlets. Dark Euro Silver 17x8 wheels are standard, but both TL models can be equipped with 18-inch tires.
Inside, the Type-S driver slips into logo-embossed seats, faces red illuminated meters, and manipulates stainless steel pedals. A new three-spoke steering wheel has been installed. When equipped with automatic, the Type-S offers paddle shift levers to change gears as desired.
Differences between the regular TL and the Type-S give the latter a "distinct, recognizable character," La Pointe said. With tighter dampers and thicker stabilizer bars, its suspension promises improved stability and roadholding force. Brembo front brakes are installed on the Type-S, which demands greater steering effort than a standard TL sedan.
For both 2007 TL models, Acura promotes three factors:
2. Exhilarating performance.
3. Advanced, intuitive technology.
To expand its sales appeal, the basic TL sedan promises improved ride comfort and road noise, said La Pointe. This year's satin chrome TL grille is 21 millimeters larger than before, with a bigger logo at its center. Fog lamps are now separate units.
"Laser sharp prestige" is supposed to attract attention from prospective customers, while color and trim choices with more texture and contrast suggest "Bauhaus with Attitude." With its "understated and daring tone," the Type-S interior is meant to bring to mind the "ultimate athlete," La Pointe explained.
Beneath the regular TL's hood, a 3.2-liter V-6 develops 258 horsepower at 6200 rpm, and 233 pound-feet of torque at 5000. A one-touch starter brings the engine to life, and fuel economy is estimated at 20-mpg city and 28 mpg on the highway. Moving up to a Type-S brings a 3.5-liter V-6, issuing 286 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 256 pound-feet at 5000. Mileage dips just slightly, to 19/28 mpg. Both engines have a rather spirited 6800-rpm redline rev limit.
A new high-capacity five-speed automatic transmission goes into the TL sedan, while the Type-S adds faster-shifting SportShift logic. Shifts from 1st-2nd and 2nd-1st no longer are automatically accomplished, giving the Type-S driver greater control. Acura also offers a manual gearbox for the Type-S.
Acura's available navigation system, the sole TL option, promises improved screen graphics and is coupled with a Rear View camera for backing-up assistance. Real Time Traffic information is standard with the navigation system, now offering traffic data in 31 cities. Acura's HandsFreeLink setup incorporates a new Cell Phonebook Transfer system.
While the prior TL and its Type-S offshoot were appealing vehicles, the 2007 Type-S has turned into a masterful highway machine. Plenty of exuberant energy stands waiting, ready to work with an automatic transmission that only occasionally might yield an awkward downshift at lower speeds.
Acura's snappy manual shifter works effortlessly, producing swift gear changes - but clicking sounds that accompany each shift could annoy. The Type-S clutch demands a bit of effort, and occasional slight jerkiness can appear at moderate speeds in third or fourth gear.
Handling is the biggest bonus in a Type-S, which clutches the pavement with unwavering tenacity, through one twisty two-lane stretch after another. Reacting promptly and positively under virtually all highway conditions, the Type-S follows the driver's steering-wheel inputs zealously.
On the road, the Type-S feels taut and totally satisfying. Even when rolling through wavy pavement surfaces, the ride is more than tolerable. Though you invariably sense the suspension's tautness, the ride on smooth roads is quite good.
Snugly-bolstered seats lack long bottoms, but they provide excellent thigh and back support. Cushioning falls short of traditional luxury level, but comfort is part of the Type-S picture. Front occupants enjoy plenty of head and elbow room. Good-sized instruments are well-lit, including the gas gauge. All are easy to read with even a slight glance.
Sales begin this fall, and Acura expects to sell a total of 70,000 TLs per year. Prices have not yet been announced, but should run between $34,000 and $39,000.