2002 Acura 3.2 TL -- Safety

Because passenger safety was of paramount importance in the creation of the TL, a comprehensive array of occupant-protection systems and features are included as standard equipment. The TL Type-S is equipped with a standard Acura Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, which integrates the Traction Control System (TCS) and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) functions with stability control to enhance driver control during sudden maneuvers.

Should an accident prove unavoidable, the TL is designed to protect its passengers with a sophisticated repertoire of safety technologies. Front and rear crumple zones, analyzed and developed on super-computers, are designed to deform progressively in an impact, helping to absorb and dissipate collision forces before they can intrude on the passenger compartment. Supplementing these and other structural systems are standard driver's and front passenger's (dual-stage) air bags and a driver's and front passenger's side air bag system.

For enhanced driver control during hard cornering and accident-avoidance maneuvers, the 2002 TL Type-S is equipped with a standard Acura Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system similar to the system first unveiled in the 2000 model year on the 3.5 RL flagship sedan.

Integrating TCS, ABS, and stability enhancement processes, the VSA system constantly monitors eight vehicle sensors that compare the driver's control inputs with the vehicle's actual response. If the actual response falls outside a calculated response range -- i.e., the vehicle is beginning to understeer severely -- VSA automatically attempts to intervene with corrective action. In the case of understeer (where the vehicle continues in a straight line rather than turning), VSA applies braking to the inside front wheel and reduces engine power -- helping to bring the car back onto the driver's intended line. In the event of oversteer (which can lead to a spin), VSA applies braking to the outside front wheel to counter the unintended yawing tendency.

Because driver control is so crucial to the enjoyment of a fine sporting automobile, the Acura VSA system has been carefully designed to add stability and handling poise without negating the car's dynamic responsiveness.

An indicator light on the instrument panel alerts the driver whenever the VSA system is actively enhancing the vehicle's stability. VSA can be disabled using a cockpit switch. The standard ABS system remains fully functional.

The ABS system in the 3.2 TL is a three-channel design that modulates braking power to the front wheels independently and to the rear wheels in tandem -- enhancing driver control during maximum-effort stops on slippery road surfaces.

The TL Type-S is fitted with a special four-channel ABS system that works in conjunction with the car's standard Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. When braking in a straight line, the TL Type-S ABS system functions in the same three-channel mode as the 3.2 TL's. When the Type-S system senses high cornering forces, however, it automatically switches to a four-channel mode -- allowing the ABS system to exploit the weight transfer to the outside of the vehicle in a turn and apply higher brake pressure to the outer rear wheel for enhanced braking performance and directional stability.

To enhance traction while increasing all-weather usability, the TL features a standard Traction Control System (TCS). Operating at vehicle speeds below 18 miles per hour, the system can apply one or both front brakes as necessary to control wheel spin. Because the system provides independent drive-wheel control, it also greatly enhances performance when accelerating on split-traction surfaces.

From the very outset, the TL's "safety cage" was designed to provide the structural strength to meet safety regulations. Using super computers to simulate a variety of crash situations, engineers were able to study the impact forces on a "virtual car" to supplement their real-life prototype testing.

Among the innovations developed as a result of this testing are straight-section frame box rails with large cross-sections. In a frontal impact, these rails feed impact energy directly into the main frame structure -- without the need for stiffeners at changes in cross-section.

Helping the TL exceed 2002 federal head-impact safety regulations are energy-absorbing roof-pillar garnishes and a roof lining designed to help reduce injury to passengers. To handle offset-impact energy, reinforcements are located at the roof side rails, the side sills, the A-pillars, and the front and side frame members.

For added protection in the event of a collision from the side, the B-pillars of the TL are stiffened, a substantial cross member runs transversely across the floor pan, a tubular brace connects the two A-pillars inside the instrument panel, a bulkhead is positioned at the back of the passenger cabin, and the rear doors are fitted with special catcher mechanisms to restrict intrusion into the passenger compartment. Each front door is equipped with twin side impact beams, while each rear door features a single beam. All four doors have a stamped-steel stiffening structure at the tops of the door panels, as well as impact-absorbing door-lining pads positioned near the occupants.

The 2002 TL features a standard driver's and front passenger's air bag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS). The driver's air bag is located in the steering wheel hub, while the passenger's air bag is located on top of the dash. Both air bags are triggered simultaneously by means of three impact sensors located in the passenger compartment. To ensure maximum reliability, the sensors use gold-plated electrical connectors. As in all Acura automobiles, the front passenger's air bag is designed to deploy upward along the windshield and then back toward the occupant. This provides a large cushion to help protect the front passenger.

To enhance the protection of the driver and front seat passenger during a variety of frontal impact collisions, varying air bag deployment power is used in the TL. The system, which uses a dual-stage inflator, automatically adjusts the deployment of the driver's and front passenger's SRS air bags to one of two speeds based on the severity of the crash and seat belt usage. During a slower speed collision, the dual-stage inflator system for the air bag is triggered in sequence, resulting in slower overall air bag deployment with less initial force. During a high-speed collision, both inflators operate simultaneously for full immediate inflation, to correspond with the greater impact force.

The TL features seat-mounted side air bags for the driver and front seat passenger. The front passenger's seat is equipped with an innovative system designed to prevent injury to a small child or small-statured adult by preventing side air bag deployment if they lean into the side air bag deployment path. Seven sensors in the passenger seatback determine the height and position of the occupant to assist the system in determining if it is safe to deploy the side air bag. If the passenger is in the deployment path of the side air bag, the system will prevent the side air bag from inflating. When the passenger returns to an upright seating position, the side air bag will reactivate so it can deploy and protect the passenger in a side impact.

The TL is equipped with standard driver and front passenger seatbelt pretensioners. A device located in the seatbelt retractor mechanism tightens the seatbelt to help keep the occupant firmly in the seat -- further enhancing the effectiveness of the seatbelts during a collision.

To allow a child seat to be securely positioned in any of the back seat positions, rear child seat tether anchors are standard in the TL. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system has also been fitted to help further secure compatible child safety seats.

For exceptional visibility when driving at night, the TL is equipped with standard reflector-type xenon high intensity discharge (HID) headlights. These premium headlights are three times as efficient as conventional halogen lamps (using less electrical energy) and produce nearly twice the illumination and more than double the bulb life. The brilliant beam delivered by the xenon headlights increases illumination by 45 percent on low beam (the TL uses the HID lamps and conventional halogen lamps for high beam illumination).

To prevent the battery drain that can occur if the headlights are accidentally left on, the TL is equipped with an auto-off feature that turns off the headlights 15 seconds after the driver's door is closed or the doors are locked.

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