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2007 Acura TL Type-S First Impressions

Type ''S'' for Speed Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Type "S" for Speed

Washington, D.C. - When the third-generation Acura TL was introduced in 2004, it immediately became the best-selling luxury car south of the border. Sales in Canada have been brisk since that time as well. This fact convinced the manufacturer that a wholesale makeover for the TL was not yet needed and, with some slight enhancements, this sleek sedan could still compete with the very best on the block.

2007 Acura TL Type S (Photo: Acura)
For the 2007 model year, then, the slightly revised Acura TL retains the same 258-horsepower, 3.2-litre V6 engine as was found in last year's version. But the all-new Acura TL Type-S - the second TL to bear the sporty designation - is a different beast altogether. Slotted into the engine bay is a 3.5-litre V6 that generates 283 horsepower and 224 lb-ft of torque. This potent engine is mated to a slick, 6-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Apart from the power increase and the paddle shifters, the Type S also features a number of performance improvements including a limited-slip differential, larger rear stabilizer bar, revised spring and damper tuning, larger front brake discs and 4-piston Brembo front brake calipers.

In order to fully test these attributes without collecting dangerous driving citations, journalists were invited to Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, some two hours from Washington. The venue's multi-configuration Shenandoah track is narrow and twisty, more suited to kart racing than car racing, but it did offer the chance to assess the TL Type S when driven in anger.

First impressions: the TL Type S was definitely too much car for the track; its potent V6 prefers a more wide-open setting. With only one fast corner to negotiate, the bulk of the lap was spent bending the car around one tight turn, then pointing and shooting it towards the next.

2007 Acura TL Type S (Photo: Acura)
The track was also not easy to learn with no fewer than three blind corners obscured by elevation changes. Eight laps in the TL - four in the manual and four in the automatic - weren't sufficient to get any real flow going. In this scenario, the automatic was the more suitable ride: With the VSA stability assist switched off and the left-foot caressing the brake, it became much easier to minimize understeer and align the car properly for the corners.

To my surprise, the Acura exhibited more body roll than I'd expected, but to be fair this track was an extreme test. The all-season Michelin P235/45 R17 tires performed well, offering decent grip for a compromise tire. The front brakes produced a significant amount of smoke at the end of each two-lap run, but they were being driven hard (this was a group of auto journalists, after all). And the clutch in the manual version felt too light for repeated, heavy use which leads to another concern: 283 horsepower is a lot of power to funnel through the front wheels, even with a limited slip differential.