The 3.2 TL body is a significant departure from the previous generation TL. Based on a lengthened version of the Acura/Honda Midsize Global Platform, the new TL unit-body is 70 percent stronger in torsion, 80 percent stronger in bending, longer overall, has a wider track and more interior room than its predecessor. The front drive powertrain is now transversely mounted, in the interest of improved packaging efficiency.
The lines of the TL, which were designed by Honda R&D in Torrance, California and Raymond, Ohio, have a more aggressive, athletic edge, complemented by improvements in aerodynamic performance. Designed and engineered in America and assembled at Honda's Marysville Ohio plant, the TL has a six percent better Cd than the previous generation TL.
Here are some of the highlights of the TL's new body and its related systems:
- Dynamic, dimensional lines reflect a more youthful, aggressive spirit
- Cabin-forward silhouette
- Higher belt line and pronounced wedge shape
Quality and Refinement
- Tightly controlled noise and vibration
- Heat-rejecting green glass
- Full frame windows for improved sealing and reduced wind noise
- Gas spring hood supports and new low-effort multilink trunk hinges provide easy operation
- Rigid door structures
- Jointless front and rear windshield molding
- Foam sound barriers in all body pillars
- Extensive asphalt-based sandwich melt sheet used in rear wheel-house regions
- Fiberglass hood insulator
- Triple door seals
- Increased density dashboard insulator
- Extensive use of asphalt melt sheets with resin applied to floor and dashboard lower
- Additional engine room dashboard insulator
- Increased rigidity of steering hanger beam, steering column shaft and accelerator cable bracket for a reduction of vibration in the steering wheel and the gas pedal
- Midsize car total interior volume (110.8 cu ft)
- Large 14.3 cu ft trunk
- Generous interior head, leg, shoulder and hip room
- Abundant step-in room for rear passengers
Ride and handling
- Torsional rigidity has increased by 70 percent from previous generation TL, with only a five percent increase in the weight of the body-in-white relative to the previous generation
- Four-point strut-tower bar
- Side-impact door beams
- Upper door panel stiffener structure
- Door lining pads
- Reinforced side-sills with added bulkheads for offset and side impact protection
- Strengthened front pillars and roof side rail sections
- Thicker, larger floor cross members for additional side impact protection
- Reinforced center pillars help reduce body deformation during side impact
- Rear-door catcher reduces rear-door intrusion into interior during side impact
- Xenon High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights
- Dual-stage passenger-side SRS airbag
- New front seat side airbags with front passenger side occupant position sensor.
- Special shielding protects door-locking mechanisms and latches to make break-in more difficult
- Standard immobilizer and security systems cuts fuel to the engine and sounds an alarm in the event of tampering
- Auto-off headlights
- Full frame windows to make a break-in more difficult
- Reinforced door key cylinders to make a break-in more difficult
- Double-sided galvanized steel panels in all high-corrosion areas
- Anti-chipping primer applied to leading edges of hood and fenders
- PVC and wax sealer applied to underbody
- Anti-acid-etch clear coat on dark colors helps protect paint from acid rain
Concept work on the new 3.2 TL started in 1995, when the driving ideas behind the TL's styling were just beginning to take shape. The inspiration for the spirit of the TL is San Francisco's exclusive Nob Hill area. Known for its fashionable international flair, upscale ambience and a uniquely youthful blending of formal and active lifestyles, Nob Hill sets the tone for the TL. A design team visited Nob Hill in 1995 and stayed in the famous Fairmont Hotel before beginning initial styling drawings of the new TL.
Carefully orchestrated styling elements lend the TL dynamic elegance. In bold strokes, it has a crisper, higher beltline and is more wedgelike, with the cabin positioned 95 mm farther forward than the '98 TL.
To foster a personal feel, the greenhouse is visually distinct from the powerful lines of the body, purposely not blended into a single amorphous shape. A pronounced shoulder to the upper body complements this feeling. High-gloss black accents on the B-pillars add a subtle upscale touch. Front-end styling is dimensional, with the bumper and fenders swept back (in plain view) from the new grille. Reflector-type High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights lend a technical feel to the front end. The rear styling is uncluttered, with the license plate inset in the rear bumper. A crisp break at the top of the rear panel lends a sporting edge, while the chrome logo and letters of the Acura name individually mounted across the rear panel make the car's luxury status apparent.
PRECISE FIT AND FINISH
Fine attention to detail is evident in the TL's fit and finish. Stiffened door structures, laser-welded blank door panels, special plastic-encapsulated door checkers and latches, and added sound damping materials all combine to tune the closing sound of the TL's doors. Special power window motors increase window speed and reduce noise. Window sealing has improved as well, with the move to sash-type door structures that seal more reliably.
Many details are very subtle:
- Jointless front and rear windshield moldings have a more finished look
- The windshield wiper stopping position has been lowered to improve visibility and reduce wind noise
UNIT BODY STRUCTURE
To achieve significant improvements in ride, handling and noise reduction, the engineering goals for the new-generation TL unit body centered around maximizing torsional and bending rigidity of the body without adding unnecessary weight.
The TL unit body utilizes a high-strength cabin and ladder type subframe with large box section rails and strategically placed reinforcements for maximum rigidity.
Significant advances in design efficiency make the TL's body-in-white 70 percent stronger in torsion, with only a 5 percent increase in weight as compared to its predecessor. Bending strength has been increased by 80 percent as well.
The TL utilizes highly rigid door structures with full-frame windows for improved protection, weather sealing and reduced wind noise. By laser welding the door panels, steels of different thickness can be used in the door. This allowed the designers to use the optimum steel thickness in each area and resulted in a stronger yet lighter door.
NOISE, VIBRATION AND HARSHNESS (NVH)
Throughout the body, features like foam roof pillar separators, wheel arch extension melt sheets and even vacuum-controlled hydraulic engine mounts are used to minimize noise intrusion into the car's interior. A total of 41.3 kg of noise attenuation material is used throughout the TL, resulting in a vehicle that is serenely quiet, making long trips less fatiguing and more enjoyable.
HIGH INTENSITY DISCHARGE (HID) HEADLIGHTS
Typically an extra-cost option (if offered at all) on competitive cars, the TL comes standard with reflector-type HID low beam headlights. Three times as efficient as conventional halogen lamps, the TL's HID system uses less electrical energy, yet produces almost twice the illumination with more than double the bulb life. The useful range of illumination on low beam increases 45 percent. This eliminates the need for separate fog lights. The TL's high beams use conventional halogen bulbs. An auto-off feature turns off the headlights 15 seconds after the driver's door is closed or the doors are locked.
GAS-FILLED HOOD DAMPERS/LINK-STYLE TRUNK HINGES
In keeping with the TL's attention to detail, the hood is supported when open by gas-filled dampers. The trunk lid mechanism has been specially engineered with a link-style hinge that provides a more uniform opening and closing action and is less intrusive into the storage area within the trunk.
ADVANCED MATERIAL TECHNOLOGY
A wide range of advanced materials and technologies are used in the TL. Here is a listing of the more significant advances:
- Laser-welded inner door panel blanks increase strength while minimizing weight
- High-gloss B-pillars with improved scratch resistance
- High-strength steel door panels for greater dent resistance
- Side door protectors, front chin spoiler and side sill garnishes use body-color film manufacturing technology for greater chip and scratch resistance
- Body-color roof molding
- Lightweight fiberglass hood insulator
- Anti-acid-etch clear coat
- Chrome-plated injection molded door handles
- Low modulus material applied to front spoiler for improved curb impact resistance
- 57.5 percent of plastic materials are polypropylene or polyethylene and highly recyclable
WIND NOISE PERFORMANCE
Wind noise targets for the TL were set at a remarkably quiet level, which required an extensive amount of research and development to attain. All causes of wind noise were investigated, including crosswind components and their effect on total noise level. The work began on a computer simulation in early phases of development, then moved on to a full-scale wind tunnel later in the project. Besides the refined subtleties of the TL's body panel and folding side mirror shapes, many different new wind-sealing strategies were brought into play in the final car. The result is interior wind noise that is competitive with many far more expensive cars.
The cockpit-style interior has an intimate, driver-oriented feel, resplendent in luxurious materials like the hand-stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel -- all assembled with great attention to detail. In all, the TL interior seamlessly satisfies the conflicting demands of both sport and luxury performance. The window switches throughout the car are illuminated, the LCD odometer display is brightened for better daytime visibility and the instrument panel script has a contemporary appearance.
Three key words drove the TL's interior design: emotional, personal and elegant. Emotional in its dramatic interior shapes and the individual feeling of the interior space. Personal in the connected, tactile sporting feel of the controls. Elegant in the fit and quality of fine interior materials.
The TL's interior designers looked to the wrap-around cockpit design of powerful pacific coast cruiser powerboats for inspiration. The flow of the TL's door panels into the instrument panel, then into the center console, echoes the same sort of personal, purposeful cockpit feel.
The TL's new interior capitalizes on the space efficiency afforded by the architecture of the car's unit-body design. Relative to the '98 TL, the redesigned multi-link rear suspension allowed the rear passenger's hip-point to be moved 10 mm rearward, opening up legroom in front and rear. With a 16-mm-lower cabin floor, but the same overall vehicle height, interior spaciousness was enhanced, and specially engineered door structures allowed increased interior space even though overall width of the new-generation TL is actually 15 mm less than before.
Relative to its prime competition, the TL is significantly roomier and offers more usable interior space, with room for five occupants.
To complement the TL's dual sporting/luxury mission, its standard power front seats have unique design features. Careful attention was paid to the stitching patterns in the upgraded, U.S.-sourced leather seating surfaces to ensure comfort over long periods of time. The supple, contoured seats with dual-density backrests provide an enveloping feel, but offer sufficient width for continuing comfort on long drives. To allow the driver to capitalize on the TL's elevated handling limits, firm side bolsters provide solid support during high-lateral-g cornering.
The driver's seat has heated bottom cushion and backrest, and the passenger's seat has a heated bottom cushion; the driver's seat is eight-way power adjustable, and the passenger seat offers four-way power adjustment. All five seating positions in the TL are equipped with three-point seat belts.
A highly accurate micro-processor-controlled instrument cluster keeps the TL's driver informed via a complement of analog instrumentation with illuminated pointers. The large diameter tachometer face includes a bold LCD digital indicator to track gear position when the transmission is in its semi manual SportShift mode.
Specially selected materials line the interior and lend the car an appropriately upscale ambiance. The instrument panel and door armrests are made with a special molding process that creates a softer-feeling surface with a uniform surface grain; the sides of the center console are backed with soft foam to cushion the driver's and passengers' legs. Wood-grain accents on the door panel and edges of the console warm the look of the interior.
AUTOMATIC CLIMATE CONTROL
Careful analysis of the prime competition led to the development of a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) for the TL that offers significantly faster temperature correction of the total passenger cabin. The TL's automatic system has a new compressor and larger evaporator and is assisted by solar glass, which reduces the heat load on the interior. In tests under hot ambient conditions, relative to the Lexus ES 300, the TL's front passenger area cools to a comfortable target temperature 15 percent sooner. And with the improved flow afforded by the TL's adjustable rear seat vents positioned behind the center console, the rear passenger compartment reaches a comfortable temperature a full 30 percent earlier than in the Lexus.
With a quiet blower unit, high airflow and an aluminum heater core, heater performance is similarly ahead of the prime competition. In cold ambient conditions the TL's front foot well temperature reaches the warmth target 15 percent sooner. The front to rear temperature differential is narrowed as well, meaning that rear seat passengers aren't left out in the cold.
MICRON AIR-FILTRATION SYSTEM
A passenger compartment air-filtration system traps dust and pollen particles down to eight microns, helping to eliminate dust and other airborne particulates from the cabin area and also traps bacteria as small as one micron.
ACURA NAVIGATION SYSTEM
The latest generation of the Acura Navigation System is the only factory-installed option available on the well-equipped TL. In model-year '99, it proved to be remarkably popular with customers. In 2001, the Acura Navigation System returns with significant enhancements that boost its convenience and utility. There's a new matte-finish touch-screen that resists fingerprinting and is easier to read. Enhanced logic lets you type in your destination with significantly fewer keystrokes, and route calculation time has been reduced. You can also pre-program a route with up to five destinations, or have the moving map display icons for gas stations, restaurants or ATMs. And with a new DVD-ROM database with almost 14 times the storage capacity of the '99 system, the on-board system has 3.7 million additional points of interest, and covers the entire continental United States.
Like the similar system in the 3.5 RL, the 3.2 TL's unit uses Global Positioning System (GPS) data received from satellites, as well as its own inertial guidance system, to precisely pinpoint location and velocity. When asked to guide the driver from one location to another, the system provides both audio and visual cues, helping the driver find the proper destination quickly and easily and with minimal distraction. Verbal instructions such as, "Keep right" or "Next exit on the right" give the driver the basic direction. An LCD, located high on the center console, provides a moving map with direction arrows, detailed information on street names, turning instructions and driving distance. The navigation system also provides information and directions to local restaurants, theaters and points of interest.
The large six-inch, color LCD display has a picture-in-picture capability, so you can see the "big picture" map and get detailed turning instructions simultaneously. The system will also display your current position at any time, and a balloon function instantly shows the address of any location you select on the map. You can also search for a selected point of interest simply by inputting its phone number. The touch-screen display can also be used to provide manual control over the TL's automatic air conditioning operation. The voice guidance control has 11 different volume settings and automatically mutes the audio entertainment system front speakers momentarily when direction commands are given.
All freeway networks and major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are mapped by the system. The TL's on-board database can be updated annually by Acura dealers. The owner pays a minimal charge for annual updates.
A customized Acura/Bose Audio System is standard equipment on the TL. Designed and built as an integral part of the car, the system is engineered to take advantage of the TL's unique acoustics. All speakers have been carefully selected and placed, and the electronics have been specifically tuned to work with the car's interior. Bose equalization circuitry automatically maintains proper tonal balance at all times to produce natural, lifelike sound for drivers and passengers.
Another innovation in this music system is the Bose Nd woofer in the rear package shelf. Using a rare earth neodymium iron boron, its breakthrough design enables deep, powerful bass and high output from a remarkably slim, lightweight speaker. The music system comes complete with an in-dash CD player, cassette player, AM/FM stereo tuner and convenient steering wheel controls.
POWER GLASS MOON ROOF
Another standard feature on the highly equipped TL is a glass moon roof with tilt-up and sliding action that can be used to increase interior ventilation or opened fully for open-air motoring. Its thin, efficient design is a contributing factor in the TL's abundant headroom.
MULTIPLEX DATA BUS
CPU-controlled functions in the TL such as the various warning systems, illumination intensity, intermittent wipers, power windows, remote control security system, auto headlight system and more are divided among three separate CPUs. Communication among the CPUs is via a multiplex data bus, which requires considerably less wiring.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
Offered in just one trim level, with a remarkably short options list, the TL has a formidable roster of standard comfort and luxury features.
Here are some of the more notable items:
- Overhead sunglasses storage compartment
- Large dual cupholder in the console with a removable liner for easy cleaning
- Illuminated two compartment center console, with internal power port and hidden storage area
- Padded center armrest slides fore and aft for comfort
- Soft-touch instrument panel and interior panels
- Glove box has a damper-controlled door and interior light
- Four-disc CD storage tray built into dash (when not equipped with navigation system)
- Trunk opening switch on driver's door panel and main switch in glove compartment
- Sliding sun visor extensions
- New illuminated power window switches at all positions
- HomeLink" remote system operates three different devices
- Speed-synchronized intermittent wipers
- Dual cupholder built into rear fold-down armrest
- Security system with remote keyless entry
- Automatic day/night rearview mirror
- Lockable trunk pass through
With the compact dimensions of the TL's multi-link rear suspension, the trunk volume is a generous 14.3 cu ft. A wide opening and low lift-over height eases loading and unloading. A lockable flip-down pass-through door to the passenger compartment expands utility further, for carrying long objects. A cargo net with multiple attachment points makes it easy to restrain cargo. The jack is in a closed compartment on the right side of the trunk, with a toolbox positioned nearby. A storage compartment is positioned on the left side of the trunk. A convenient hook just above allows plastic grocery bags to be secured in place. A tether with a hook allows the trunk floor to be secured in the raised position for convenient access to the spare tire.