- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Smooth. That single word sums up the driving experience of the 2003 Acura 3.2TL Type-S. There's nothing this car can't do well, and the proverbial icing on the cake is that it's an Acura, which means you can own this car without breaking your bank account.
Acura, the luxury brand of Honda, has always had an interesting position in the luxury car marketplace. Though it was launched before the Lexus and Infiniti brands, Acura has been playing third string. Its cars have always been good, but generally have been short on style, a major no-no in the luxury segment.
For years, the "top dog" Acura was a Legend coupe or sedan. The Integra filled in the bottom of the brand, but never has been recognized as a luxury car in the same way as Lexus' bottom feeder, the 300 Series. Acura filled in the middle with the Vigor, and eventually changed the name of the Legend to the 3.5 RL, but Acura still lags behind the dynamic duo.
Well, it's the 2003 model year, folks, and if the 3.2TL sedan and coupe have anything to do with Acura's gaining more market share, they are certainly on the right track.
The 3.2TL is, I dare to say, beautiful. Not heavy on aggressive styling cues, but elegantly sophisticated. Think of it as the girl you ignored in high school who now is a knockout.
Up front, there's lots of chrome around the grille and headlight surrounds.
A sloping hood and trunk sandwich an impressive greenhouse cabin. Michelin Pilot 215-50 series tires on polished 17-inch alloys fill out the wheel wells, giving the 3.2TL Type-S a meaty look. Dual polished exhaust tips finish off the rear nicely.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the car externally is the paint. My test car was finished in "Aegean Blue Pearl." It is simply stunning. Sunlight made the pearl effect light up like diamonds, and moonlight gave it a shimmering effect. There were no spray flaws in the paint, and it looked deep enough to withstand years of sun, salt and other environmental abuses.
Step inside the 3.2TL Type-S, and you are ready to whip out the popcorn. Supportive leather seats cradle you in comfort. A DVD-based navigation system provides a "sense of direction," while you groove to sounds courtesy of a Bose six-disc in-dash CD changer.
New this year is OnStar, which is a perfect complement to the navigation system. OnStar connects you to a live person who can help with directions, make reservations for you at your favorite restaurant, or provide a link to emergency services in the event of a crash.
I tested the system while driving, and it is legit. Acura provides one year of OnStar service free, and subsequent years are billed based on the level of service that you choose.
Good things continue inside, with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, and a power glass moonroof. Lighting the way at night are xenon gas-charged headlamps. Once you drive at night with these lights, everything else seems like a waste of time.
My only dislikes about the interior are the clock it's only readable when the DVD system is on, and the trunk release button you can still open the trunk from the inside after the car's alarm is set, rendering the trunk useless as a place to store things away from predators.
On the road, the 3.2TL Type-S really shines. Its 260 horsepower V-6 is docile until prodded with your right foot, then it screams to life. The TL's 90-mph passing time is a blur. This car is geared like the European marques reasonably quick off the line, but blazing at highway speeds. Pop the hood, and everything is neatly organized. All owner-serviceable items (fluids, etc.) are color coded, and a strut cross brace keeps both front strut towers firmly positioned during hard acceleration and cornering.
This car is very tossable, having Porsche-like neutral handling, and is very quiet. Even with your accelerator foot firmly planted, you can hold a normal conversation in this car. It's not so quiet to the point of being boring, but you will appreciate the lack of cacophony on long road trips.
Acura has made incredible strides in vehicle safety over the years. The 3.2 TL Type-S is equipped with front and side airbags for front-seat occupants, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Stability Assist (Acura's version of traction control) and an emergency trunk release .
Acuras have generally fared well in insurance industry and government crash tests.
Priced loaded at $33,960, this vehicle is a solid buy. So break out your best kimono and take the TL for a spin. Fine silk never felt better.

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