The History of Acura TL



The Acura TL was at a time, Acura’s best-selling model up until 2007 when the MDX model outsold it. It has had a high reception in the US before been phased out by the TLX. This front-wheel-drive dominated the luxury automobile market even though it was an entry-level luxury sedan. With just 4 generations of the Acura TL, this car model definitely left its mark and impact on the automobile market especially in 2015 when it ranked the 2nd selling luxury car after the BMW 3 series.


All of its entry specification especially in the 1st generation came from the Vigor. However, the optional engine specs came from the 2nd generation Acura Legend. Both car model defined the Acura TL that people came to love and cherish.

Variation and Class

All through its four generations, the Acura TL maintained a 4-door sedan model and a compact executive class. Manufactured under the Acura brand from Honda, it seeks to be a luxury class vehicle that could compete with the likes of BMW to give the same kind of impact the Honda Accord gave in the compact/mid-size sector. TL meaning Touring Luxury is supposed to give consumer luxury with every distance.

Manufactured in Japan between 1996 to 1998 (UA1- UA3), the longitudinal front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 4-speed automatic car also called Honda Inspire had 2.0-litre G20A I5, 2.5-litre G25A, G25A4 (176 hp) I5, 3.2-litre C32A, C32A6 (200 hp) V6 option. With the 2.5-litre and 3.2 litre used for the 2.5 TL and 3.2 TL and drawing inspiration from the Vigor and Legend. The 2.5 TL was branded the sporty model while the 3.2 TL, the luxurious model with more acceleration. Introduction of standard power moon roof to all TL models occurred in 1997 with the 3.2 TL having a V6 motor, and the 2.5 TL fitted with alloy wheels to further push the sporty brand.

Now, manufactured in the US, the 2nd generation (1999 to 2003) provided a transverse front-engine, front-wheel-drive. Also, there was an introduction of a new transmission, 5-speed automatic, in addition to the 4-speed automatic with SportShift. In terms of the engine specifications, the TL model had 3 options; 2.5 L J25A, 3.2 L J32A, J32A1 (225 hp) V6, 3.2 L J32A2 (260 hp) V6 (Type-S Models). All TL in this generation were called the 3.2 TL. The commencement of the Acura TL (2G) in 1999 came with an optional CD-based navigation system. With cabin air filters coming with all models. In 2000, the Acura TL moved to a 5-speed automatic transmission with SportShift with improved fuel efficiency and acceleration. The new 5-speed automatic transmission soon failed due to failure to change of gears as a result of blocked oil passages. The problem was stated to be resolved via the introduction of a third gear clutch pack. A coupe version was introduced in 2001 called the 3.2CL and was discontinued at the end of this generation. Also, automatic transmission issues were noticed with the 2001 models. At the end of this generation, a Type-S model was added with a 3.2-litre engine at 260 hp.

The 3rd generation, 2004 to 2008 (UA6 – UA7), used the same layout with two transmission options, 5-speed automatic and 6-speed manual with SportShift. The engines, 3.2 L J32A3 (270 hp) V6, 3.5 L J35A8 (286 hp) V6 (Type-S only), drew inspiration from the Honda Accord. In 2004, the Acura’s best-selling luxury sedan was the TL and had a massive improvement in terms of safety and reliability in relation to the previous generation. In 2006, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) was introduced to help reduce imbalance. Close to the end of this generation, there was noticeable change in the exterior of the TL model as well as the steering wheel in addition to numerous changes such as fog lamps, turn signal repeaters, touchscreen navigation. With the return of the Type-S edition, a new engine, 3.5-litre V6 which topped a 286 hp, made its entry to the model alongside the 5-speed automatic or 6-speed automatic transmission. The year 2008 brought with it a new immobilizer system and a separate TPMS warning lamp. The AcuraLink Satellite system was now capable of working in 76 markets.

This last generation, the 4th (2008 to 2014) saw the Acura TL use three transmission options; 5-speed automatic, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed manual. The front engine, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive was in use with the two V6 engine specification options; 3.5 L J35Z6 (280 hp) V6, 3.7 L J37A4 (305 hp) V6 (SH-AWD). From this last generation, the Acura TLX was introduced to replace the TL model. The structural rigidity of the TL was improved with the use of high-strength steel. Also, there were changes with interior with a noticeable stronger and stiffer suspension. In 2010, the SH-AWD model had a 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission. Also in addition to the comfort that the Acura TL provided, the TL mode provided some technology upgrade in relation to their audio setup and USB support. In 2012, the SH-AWD model were upgrade to a 3.7-litre engine (305 hp). The year of 2013, a Special Edition Acura TL was introduced with additional features such as keyless access system, pushbutton start, ebony interior leather upholstery with contrast stitching.

Safety Features and Reliability

With a lot of transmission issues in the 2nd generation, the Acura TL had a low score rating in terms of reliability but with the 3rd and the 4th, Acura was able to turn around the TL story making it the 2nd selling luxury sedan in the US. With the 3rd and 4th generation, the reliability scores moved from the lower 60 percent to a higher 80 percent.

Safety wise, the Acura TL considerable during the fallout years in the 2nd generation had a good safety score due its dependency on the Honda Accord. Moving from the 2nd generation, the Acura TL used most of the Honda Accord safety features to push the brand. Some of the passive safety features includes Honda’s own Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure which aids passenger protection, dual-chamber airbags, active head restraints, 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions. In terms of active safety systems, the anti-lock brake system, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) traction control among others help make the Acura TL are safer car to drive.

Acclaim and Reception

After the fallout years between 1999 and 2003, the Acura rose to be well received in the US. Aside from being well received, it had good rating in terms of IIHS testing. The TL model didn’t perform as much as expected during its lifetime but its successor, the TLX, went on to be the luxury model that consumers yearned for.


The Acura TL didn’t live up to its dream of being a compact executive luxury sedan even though it racked up the sales towards the end of the last generation. The Acura TL regardless of its failure definitely set up its successor for success.