Sabtu, 07 Juni 2008



Reviewed by: Kevin Massy
Edited by: Wayne Cunningham

Reviewed on: 02/22/2007 The Type-S makes a comeback to the Acura TL lineup for the 2007 model year. With a more powerful V-6 engine than the standard TL, stiffened suspension, and a host of telltale custom design cues including 10-spoke alloy wheels, a front air dam, and quad-outlet chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, the Type-S makes its sporty intentions clear. The cabin is packed with all that Acura's technology labs have to offer, with a voice-activated, traffic-enabled navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and a surround-sound audio system all standard. In our week with the car, we put its tech and performance to the test: most of it, including much of the onboard gadgetry, impressed us; some of it--such as the automatic transmission--didn't.

Test the tech: Jamming with XM NavTraffic

For our tech test of the Acura TL Type-S, we decided to focus on the car's real-time traffic XM NavTraffic information service. Offered for the first time in the TL for the 2007 model year, XM NavTraffic uses the same satellite infrastructure as XM Satellite Radio to deliver what Acura calls "up-to-the-minute" traffic information. The system's most prominent feature is its color-coded highway information, which informs drivers of the current speed on major routes with different colors indicating different traffic speeds: green for speeds more than 40mph, orange for speeds between 20mph and 40mph, and red for speeds of less than 20mph. We have seen this feature on a number of high-end models over the last couple of years, including the 2006 Acura RL and the 2007 Lexus LS 460L (both of which won CNET's Editors' Choice award). To thoroughly test the NavTraffic function, we found ourselves planning one of the most counterintuitive things we have ever done behind the wheel: trying to get stuck in traffic.

XM NavTraffic overlays the navigation screen maps with color-coded traffic information.

Not only did we want to find the densest congestion available, we also were interested in finding our way to any specific incidents and accidents that were showing up on the NavTraffic system. Between the gridlock and the ambulance chasing, we were clearly in for a morning rush hour of high entertainment on the maze of highways around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Scanning the freeways south of the city using the navigation system's scrolling function, we spotted a warning icon on southbound Route 80 at Army Street and Potrero Avenue. Drivers can get more detail on a specific traffic incident by moving the crosshair (controlled by a joystick beneath the screen) over the yellow diamond and clicking. In this case, we were told there was an "object on the roadway," and traffic was shown moving at orange speed (between 20 and 40mph). This seemed like the ideal way to start our morning. However, approaching the supposed incident spot at 70mph, we found no evidence whatever of an object on the roadway, and we passed right through the yellow warning icon on the navigation system's map at full highway speed.

The next stop on our morning commute was another hotspot, this time labeled as an accident on Highway 280 heading south toward Daly City. We set our sights on this trouble spot and headed toward the supposed accident. When we arrived, however, we found there was nothing to be seen: yet again, the XM NavTraffic information was outdated. Zero out of two: not a great scorecard for traffic incidents so far.

Next, we decided to test the color-coded traffic-speed information by making our way back into San Francisco north on Highway 280 in the middle of the morning rush hour. About 10 miles south of the city, the map screen showed green roads, which was accurate as we cruised along in heavy, but fast-moving traffic. Within five miles of the city, the map started to display orange roads all the way to the highway exit, suggesting the traffic was slowing to below 40mph; however, the reality was the traffic speed remained constant at about 60mph way past the start of the orange-labeled road. Finally, within about one mile of the freeway exit, traffic suddenly backed up, and we found ourselves in stop-and-go traffic, at speeds less than 20mph. If the NavTraffic was accurate, this last section of the freeway would have been shown in red. Again, the traffic service proved to be far from "up to the minute." Most other incidents and traffic were reported accurately, including a red diamond warning for construction on the Bay Bridge and patches of slower traffic on Route 580 toward Oakland. Overall, we found NavTraffic a nice-to-have feature, but not one we could rely on for exact traffic information.

In the cabin

The cockpit of the 2007 Acura TL Type-S is a cross between typical Acura comfort and standard sporty design language. While it does feature leather seating (standard on all Acuras), the cabin is not sumptuously appointed. Dash materials are a mixture of soft black plastic, hard silver plastic, and charcoal-gray carbon fiber trim.

The TL Type-S's central stack is dominated by a massive LCD touch screen, which is the focal point for most onboard tech systems, including navigation and audio control. In navigation mode, the screen shows bright, colorful maps, which are clear and easy to read at a glance, albeit with blocky graphics and road-name fonts.

Acura's navigation system never ceases to impress us with its voice-recognition capabilities. In addition to its touch screen programmability for destinations, the system can understand spoken addresses with consistent accuracy. For points of interest, the system cannot understand spoken location names, but drivers are given the option of entering destinations by spelling them out letter by letter.

Once underway, the navigation map defaults to show a bright blue route, which is very clear and easy to see at a glance. At freeway junctions, a very well-rendered schematic appears on the right of the map screen with information on where--and where not to go. The TL's navigation system also features turn-by-turn voice guidance with text-to-speech, which calls out the names of individual roads. However, for some reason, this feature occasionally disabled itself in some of our tests, leaving us to fend for ourselves by following directions on the screen.

Similar to the regular 2007 Acura TL, the 2007 Acura RDX, and Acura MDX, the 2007 Type-S features an ELS stereo system, capable of playing CDs, as well as MP3-, WMA-, and DVD-audio discs. In the Type-S, this system plays through an eight-speaker Dolby Pro Logic II surround-sound system, which delivers a different acoustic experience depending on where you're sitting and on the format of the media you're listening to. Those up front unquestionably get the best audio experience. Of the car's eight speakers, five are placed in front of the driver's ears, so front occupants naturally get a more immersed sound. When in the back, the acoustics are less surround sound and more "behind sound," as the two speakers and sub in the rear parcel shelf dominate the output; the fact there are no speakers in the rear doors plus the localization of much of the sound up front adds to this effect.

Unsurprisingly, audio quality also varies between sources: DVD audio discs, which have up to 500 times the sound resolution of regular CDs, play with astonishing clarity, with crisp highs and rich bass. Regular red book CDs also sound great from the front seats, and there were only a couple of times we could tell the difference between the DVD-A and CD versions of the same song. Being compressed audio formats, MP3 and WMA discs play with less clarity, and significantly less volume, but still sound respectably clear. When playing MP3s, the touch screen displays a very useful button labeled as List, which gave us the chance to browse through the tracks on our homemade CDs five at a time--a feature we really like.

The TL Type-S does have an auxiliary input jack, but, like that on the 2006 Acura TSX, it is buried in the center console behind a spring-loaded door, making it very difficult to access and plug into. Three months' worth of XM Satellite radio comes standard on all 2007 model year TLs, and we particularly like the system's ability to understand voice commands for switching between stations: just press the talk button on the left of the steering wheel and say "XM channel 54" (for example) and after a couple of seconds, the system repeats the command and changes itself over to the requested station.

Rounding out the major tech trifecta, the 2007 Acura TL Type-S comes complete with Acura's HandsFreeLink Bluetooth calling interface as standard. While the voice-command side of the pairing process is relatively straightforward (say "phone setup," then "pair phone"), drivers are required to complete the sync using their cell phones. We had a few problems ensuring that our Samsung SGH-T619 stayed connected to the HandsFreeLink between calls, although this may have been our phone's fault, as some later testing with an LG enV worked without any problem. Voice recognition is once again the star when using the hands-free calling function. Drivers can call out numbers or names of phone book entries (the system will copy over the entire phone book from some cell phones), and we had a good time trying to make the system misunderstand us by calling out numbers as quickly as possible. To its credit, the Acura managed to understand us remarkably well at most coherent speeds.

Other notable tech features in the Type-S's cabin include the voice-activated dual-zone air-conditioning, heated front seats, and the AcuraLink communications system, which, in addition to XM NavTraffic, provides vehicle diagnostic data and reminders for dealer appointments. A dealer-installed dedicated iPod adapter gives users a means of turning the touch screen into an intelligent interface for navigating iPod content.

Under the hood

The Acura TL Type-S features a modified version of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine found in the Acura RL. The Type-S delivers 28 more horsepower than its more sedate TL siblings, but also brings a couple of other performance features to ensure a sportier drive. Most notable among these is the Type-S's sport-tuned suspension, which gives the car more assurance in cornering, but which makes for a bone-rattling ride on the freeway. While its lack of ride refinement might be a deterrent for sporty-minded family guys, speed demons also might find something to gripe about in the Type-S's performance.

The Type-S's 286 horsepower is nothing to sniff at, but most of it is reachable only at very high rev bands. Peak power is achieved north of 6,000rpm, which is tough to reach, especially in our five-speed automatic test car (the alternative six-speed manual might have been a bit more to our liking). In everyday freeway driving, the Type-S feels less peppy than its sporty specs and trim imply. Mashing the accelerator results in a conspicuous delay, followed by some adequate forward thrust, but nothing to match the sweet sound coming from the engine, and certainly nothing like the oomph that results from similar behavior in the 2006 Lexus IS 350. Those wishing to take matters more into their own hands in the TL Type-S do have some autonomy in the form of the two small paddle shifters on each side of the steering wheel. These paddles give drivers the opportunity of holding the gears up to a certain point, but even when paddle shifting, you still have to climb a long way up the rev band to take full advantage of all 286 horses.

One possible reason for our mild disappointment with the Type-S's performance off the line is the car's Drive-by-Wire technology that relies on input from a variety of sensors before it adjusts the electronic throttle input. While this may improve fuel economy and ensure that the drivetrain lasts longer, it limits the amount of fun you can have in fast launches from the stoplight. Another thing we noticed when attempting said fast launches is the 2007 TL Type-S is at times conspicuously front-wheel drive, demonstrating some noticeable torque steer in spirited starts. Acura's SH-AWD would make a welcome addition to the option sheet. On a positive performance note, we noticed steering assistance was dialed back substantially in the Type-S compared with that in the regular TL, offering much better feel and encouraging more aggressive cornering.

In sum

Our 2007 Acura TL Type-S in Kinetic Blue came without a single piece of optional equipment, which is amazing for a car with traffic-enabled GPS navigation, a phonebook-eating Bluetooth hands-free calling system, a surround-sound audio system, XM radio, a rear-view camera, voice-activated climate control, heated seats, and 17-inch wheels with W-rated tires. With a single price of $38,125, the TL Type-S throws its hat in the ring with the 2006 Lexus IS 350, the 2007 Infiniti G35 sedan, and the 2007 BMW 335i sedan.


By William C Montgomery
November 16, 2006 - 92,090 Views

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to honor the Acura RSX, whose life was cut short by overlapping products and muddled brand identity. Since 2002, this, the US version of the fourth generation Honda Integra, has enjoyed strong consumer support and numerous awards from erstwhile auto critics, including two consecutive year’s on Car and Driver’s 10Best list. But we are not here to debate the value of ad-sponsored gongs or mourn the passing of a beloved automobile. We are here to celebrate a life well lived.

Until it ceased production this summer, the Acura RSX was an upgraded seventh generation Civic coupe. To differentiate the two models, Acura’s brandgineers gave the RSX a lower and wider stance than its Honda counterpart. It also blessed the RSX’ snout with a vertical crease, bisecting the model’s nose from bumper to windshield, forming an aerodynamic point. The model’s steeply raked windshield starts an arc that terminates down the rear of the steeply raked rear window. The lift back design reveals the RSX for what it is: a longish three-door hatchback. Overall, the RSX’ clean and uncluttered looks lacked both brand identity and charisma, a lethal combination (ipso facto).

Once inside, Steve Jobs himself would applaud the RSX’ no-brainer ergonomics. The car’s curved dash pod is blissfully, elegantly Spartan; free from the infestation of dials and buttons, bells and whistles that clutter most new cars. You get three Playskool knobs for your climate control, a few glove-friendly radio buttons for your BOSE blaster, a hazard switch and that’s all she wrote. Also delightfully absent: in-dash GPS, car phone, onboard computer and all the other electronic tchotchkes that distract enthusiasts from the art of driving.

The top of the RSX’ dash is lined with a substance of uncertain origin called “textured titanium.” While the dashboard’s clothing isn’t particularly attractive or sporty-looking, props to Acura for deploying a material that hasn't [apparently] been pumped from beneath Saudi sand or peeled off the butt of a dead cow. The front seats hug driver and passenger. The rear chairs are inescapable invitations to experiment with yoga; anyone taller than five feet will find themselves craning for comfort. I can’t imagine that many RSX buyers are overly concerned about cargo, but with seats up, the Acura can stash more stuff than a Mitsubishi Eclipse or Scion tC.

A suave demeanor and a thick Russian accent masked the enthusiasm of my Acura guide, Serguei. But his love for the coupe became evident the moment he hurled the RSX through a cloverleaf interchange. (He may not have many RSX left to sell, but sell them he does.) Once we made the changeover, the RSX’ thick steering wheel inspired immediate confidence. The variable power assist rack-and-pinion steering is razor sharp, delivering precise information on the front hoops, and outstanding control of same.

The coupe’s light curb weight (2734 pounds) and sport-tuned suspension (McPherson struts in front, double wishbone at the back) give the RSX superb flickabilty. The car stays flat through the corners, yielding moderate and predictable understeer when pushed. Yet the progressive-rate rear shocks float over small bumps without harshness, with the all-season 16’s delivering daily driver compliant comfort.

That said, there is no question whatsoever that this is the high-strung member of the Acura family. To wit, the RSX’ 2.0-liter engine produces 155hp @ 6500rpm. That may be as nothing to the Type-S’ sky-high 8100rpm redline, but caning the RSX involves regular forays to the iVTEC powerplant’s penthouse. Meanwhile, torque steer is virtually non-existent; there’s not enough torque to pull the helm sideways. In other respects, the RSX' smooth-spinning mill is impressive in the typical Honda fashion, achieving Low-Emissions Vehicle (LEV-2) standards while traveling 27 miles per gallon in the city and 34mpg on the highway.

The RSX’ brakes are its biggest disappointment. The four-wheel disk ABS-controlled binders tell the right story on paper. In practice, they struggle to get the job done. Under emergency stops, the left and right ABS channels do not appear to be synchronized, creating a disconcerting Jitterbug vibration. Pistonheads would be well advised to factor-in the price of a major brake upgrade when considering an RSX.

As is, the RSX is the perfect car for a driver that wants a sports car without a lot of horsepower (e.g. unmarried people that gravitate to careers that involve chalk and erasers, white shoes or telephone headsets). Rumor has it that the RSX may not be the last Acura to dabble in the sub-$30k segment. Although nothing has been officially announced, only a couple of model years are likely pass before Acura produces another small coupe. Acura is sure to festoon any new model with a raft of techno-baubles that blight the TL, which were artfully absent in the RSX. Until then, RSX RIP.


By P.J. McCombs
April 6, 2007 - 89,311 Views

Badge engineering is the bane of the pistonhead’s existence. Or is it? Actually, bad badge engineering is the pistonhead’s pariah. Most adventures in grille-swapping produce soulless cash grabs like the Mercury Monterey and Chrysler Aspen. But some automakers “leverage synergies” in such a way as to respect– dare I say advance– the identities of the brands involved, and produce a genuine bargain. Case in point: the Acura TSX.

The Acura TSX is nothing more than a Euro-market Honda Accord Type-S with the Acura calipers affixed to its grille, trunk lid and steering wheel hub. It’s badgineering at its best/worst. But as I threaded my test TSX through the Oakland hills, snicking its six-speed with thumb-and-forefinger flicks, teasing the magnificent motor’s 7100 rpm redline, the car’s quiet urgency quelled any bitching about bloodlines.

Stylistically, the TSX is all Acura. Parked next to its step-up siblings, the Japanese uber brand’s family resemblance is unmistakable. The TSX stares you down with the same squinty, clenched visage as the TL. It sports similarly crisp, wedgy bodywork. Compare this sensual sheetmetal sleight of hand to Mercury’s efforts, where the products wear varying expressions of surprise (Montego), malice (Milan), and torpidity (Grand Marquis), loosely united by their splashy waterfall grilles.

Most badge jobs stumble fatally at the second hurdle; they try to cover their trailer trash genetics with miserly applications of upmarket switchgear and gussied up dashboards. The TSX’ Euro Accord’s cabin shares virtually nothing with its cheaper, chubbier U.S.-spec cousin. Thanks to the TSX’ shorter wheelbase and narrower track, it offers a far cozier and more intimate workspace than the Accord.

Perched atop hip-hugging seats, TSX pilots survey a lean, understated instrument panel rendered in pliable polymers. A narrow ribbon of aluminum highlights its contours, flowing seductively from one door panel to the other. The TSX’ cabin appeals to both Type A and B personalities; anal retentives will marvel at the budget luxury ($28k msrp) while slackers will get off on the svelte surface grains and subtle switch clicks.

Bargain pricing relieves the TSX of any obligation to drive as well as a BMW 3-Series. Which is just as well, as it doesn’t. Without turning a wheel, the TSX’ front wheel-drive configuration cedes the dynamic game to BMW. Speed demons would also do well to remember that the TSX is built on an Accord Type-S, not a Type-R.

That said, the TSX’ road manners are not without merit or, shall we say, "fun." Most Hondas and Acuras are “low-fat” cars: poised, light on their feet, breezily responsive to control inputs. The TSX expresses these familial genes. But it also turns the screws down just a bit tighter, while dialing up refinement. The result is more reassuring than it is involving, but the TSX’s switchback savvy is undeniable.

Much of the TSX’ confident nature stems from its steering. While it can’t match the 3-Series’ pointiness or tactility, the TSX’ tiller is quick and expertly-weighted with virtually no slop through the bends. There’s also no torque steer to challenge directional stability. Why should there be, with no torque?

Gutless, rev-happy fours are another Acura hallmark, established by two decades of Integratude and RSXedness. The TSX’ 2.4-liter mill is muffled and refined to anonymity at everyday revs. Less wonderfully, it never feels as strong as its 7.2 second zero to 60mph time suggests. Some adrenal adventurers will enjoy reaching for the 7000 rpm power peak; others will wonder why they didn’t try to swing the payments on a V6 TL.

Never mind. Who needs torque when you’ve got the sweetest shifter this side of a Honda S2000? The TSX’ interface’s action is as oily as a Buick salesman and as precise as a Leicaflex. No rival– front-wheel-drive or otherwise– plays snick-or-treat like this transplanted Honda. (Anyone opting for the optional automatic should know that the little “D” stands for “dull”).

And speaking of sensible, the TSX’ lineage guarantees a bounty of prosaic pleasures. Spacious, well-lined trunk? Check. Prudent fuel economy? Check. Reliability? Red dot at the ready. Talk about a peace [of mind] Accord…

Fortunately for Acura, the company's badgineers enjoy a unique advantage over Detroit’s denizens: you can’t diss the heritage of a brand that doesn’t have any. That said, while Acura may not struggle with the historical baggage weighing down Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Saturn and other platform pimpmeisters, it still lives or dies by its products’ inherent appeal. Accord or no, the TSX ticks all the right mass-market boxes.

So, Detroit boffins and beancounters, repeat after Acura: “I will only capitalize on overseas products IF I can maintain stylistic and tactile continuity to the brand for which it stands. I will not seek solely to enlarge my brand’s lineup, but to enrich it.” In other words, the TSX is proof positive that badge engineering needn’t be a bilious bean counting bonanza. Hey, who knew?


By Robert Farago
January 3, 2005 - 18,850 Views

After a foot of fresh snow fell on New England, I was ready to take the Acura RL out for an action traction thrash. Unfortunately, the RL is a keyless wonder. When you twist the ignition knob into the off position, it's not really off– it's in accessory mode. You have to depress the plastic do-hickey and twist it another notch. Who knew? OK, there was an electronic warning. But modern cars bong more than Hawaiian dope smokers. I'd checked that the RL's lights were off the previous night and called it good.

Anyway, I wasn't the only car hack to flatten the battery. And the thing is, the $50k RL can't afford such a basic misstep. Acura's "I-swear-I'm-not-a-bling-Honda" is competing deep inside Caddy, Merc, Bimmer, Audi and Lexus territory. As BMW learned with its iDrive You Nuts debacle, any luxury car that makes you think too much starts from the back of the pack. A car that won't start, well…

After a quick defibrillation, I hit the slopes. The slippery stuff couldn't flummox the Acura's Super Handling [if they don't say so themselves] All-Wheel Drive. The system sends power from back to front or left to right, depending on which wheel or wheels need traction. In other words, an RL has an arrow-like ability to keep heading where you point it. Unless, of course, you head for some ice, boot it and throw the steering wheel hard over; at which point the RL will drift sideways with the best of them.

That's big fun, but it's beside the point. The RL is made for imperious wafters. Or is it? The design doesn't say luxury car to me. While the rear angle and side profile are reassuringly sedate, the car's nose is a disaster. It's too small for the RL's frame, poorly positioned, badly angled and over-creased. What's more, the car's squinting headlights and lower grill make it look like it's sniggering at someone who just fell down. Empathetic Europhiles need not apply.

From inside, the RL's ugly snout isn't much of a problem; the windscreen is so steeply raked you can't see the hood. For those who find this TV screen driving perspective disconcerting, the digital 5.1 surround sound audio system provides ample distraction. On the other hand, maybe it's best to keep your eyes on the road. The RL's multi-layered dashboard is an unsightly farrago of curves, angles, materials, textures, displays, typestyles and switchgear. The steering wheel's thin rim is a particularly egregious example of the RL's failure to pass the 50G taste and tactility test.

On the positive side, the Acura's cabin seats four large adults in reasonable comfort, and comes equipped with every toy known to carkind: sat nav, real-time traffic info, voice recognition, Bluetooth compatibility, heated memory seats and dual-zone climate control that automatically adjusts the fan speed according to the sun's position (determined by optical sensors and the onboard GPS positioning system). You can even press a button, call OnStar and ask them how it works.

What the Acura doesn't have is a V8 engine. The RL's V6 churns out 300hp– enough oomph to push the two-ton sedan from zero to 60mph in an entirely useful 6.7 seconds. You can switch to semi-auto mode and use the wheel-mounted paddle shifts to hold the gears for extended urge. Even so, the RL's sweet-spinning six is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. At this price point, customers expect the unruffled progress provided by a powerplant with two more cylinders. If nothing else, the RL sounds unduly stressed at anything more than partial throttle– even though it isn't.

In fact, you can hustle an RL without breaking a sweat. The hard-riding suspension will go all floaty-drifty if pushed, but there's enough body control to accommodate an enthusiast in a hurry. By the same token, the RL's brakes lack feel, but slow the car with real conviction. The rack and pinion steering is over-assisted, but still manages to keep you abreast of handling events as they occur. And that Super-Handling stuff really is the biz, facilitating some seriously squirrelly maneuvers.

Taken as a whole, the RL is an aesthetically-challenged gizmo-lover's Honda with admirable road manners– unless you drive it at night. Then, suddenly, it all comes together. The RL beckons with gently glowing door handles, welcomes with blue light in the foot wells and cossets with leather and air. The active noise cancellation creates a hushed atmosphere, the switchgear stops shouting and the car's well-sorted dynamics offer perfect poise. Gliding through the gloaming, the RL is its own man: cool, calm, collected and… debonair.

With a V8 engine, a nose job and an interior makeover, the Acura RL would give BMW's 5-Series a decent run for the money. Meanwhile, fixing the key slot would make a good start.


By William C Montgomery
September 28, 2006 - 78,182 Views

After Germany’s unconditional surrender to Allied forces in 1945, the allies stripped the country of all its patents. Germany’s former Axis ally, Japan, eventually exploited this situation by plagiarizing and mass-producing legendary German cameras and lenses. Today, Japanese manufacturers continue to look to Germany for “inspiration.” Case in point: the 2007 Acura RDX. It couldn’t look more like a BMW X3 if it tried, and by God, it did.

The RDX Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) is one inch longer and a fraction wider and shorter than its German inspiration. Stylistically, the RDX is only a nip-tuck away from the baby Bimmer. The RDX’ steeply raked windshield, blackened B and C-pillars and tailgate spoiler all say BMW– and signal the Acura’s shared distaste for the rough stuff. The RDX is, in fact, another deeply metrosexual machine: a handsome manly form attired in delicate garments, whose manicured toes are meant for polished wingtips, not hiking boots. If you know what I mean.

Inside, Toto, I get the feeling we’re not in Bavaria anymore. The RDX’ cabin offers the all hushed minimalism we’ve come to expect from Honda’s upmarket homonyms. In fact, the CUV’s attention to tactility– from the meaty steering wheel bulges at the ten and two positions to the sensually shaped leather shift knob– takes us deep into Audi territory. That said, you can take the Acura out of Japan, but you can’t take the Japanese out of the Acura. The RDX’ three-ring gauges’ red-on-blue lighting strikes just the wrong note of Japanese spizzarkle. And the RDX’ climate control/media center shares Infiniti’s predilection for a high and mighty backwards tilting dash position.

The RDX’s traffic aversive satellite navigation system is voice controllable– which is just as well. The widescreen display is difficult to read in daylight, especially when the future's so bright you're wearing shades. The nav system and on-board computer are controlled by a distinctly phallic nubbin protruding through the center of the dash. Despite the gizmo’s indelicacy, its intuitive ergonomics put BMW’s iDrive to shame (as if it needed any help in that regard). As is the norm for this “so not an SUV” genre, cargo storage space is sacrificed on the altar of passenger comfort. Drivers with longer legs will find lots of room for their stems in either the front or rear seats, which provide much-needed lateral support.

The RDX is propelled by a turbo-charged 2.3-liter four-cylinder powerplant producing 240hp @ 6000rpm and 260 lbs-ft of torque @ 4500rpm. The much ballyhooed variable flow turbos keep the engine spinning at low revs, but it’s still not enough. The engine must climb above 3500rpms before it can get its boogie on. Fortunately, like all the best Honda power plants, this baby loves to twirl, redlining at 6800rpms. To keep the mill in the grunt zone, the RDX’ brushed-aluminum accented steering wheel (all the rage this year) sports F1-style paddle shifters. Unfortunately, the steering is a little slow; cornering tends to put the paddles out of reach.

Should you be so churlish as to engage in a little stoplight sprinting, the RDX makes the zero to 60 dash in a shade less than eight seconds. That’s respectable acceleration for a vehicle that weighs one Labrador retriever less than two tons and stands nearly 5’5” tall, but you’ll pay the price at the pump, diminishing the official 19/24 EPA mpg by a considerable margin. Worse yet, the new RAV4 V6 will best the RDX to 60 by more than a second.

A mid-day tear through the winding hills of Irving, Texas proved that Acura’s taut front strut / rear multilink suspension makes their cute ute feel light and tight– until you come to a corner. There’s no masking the leaning tower of SUV effect, or the vehicle’s tendency to nose-dive during hard braking. Acura’s Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), Vehicle Stability Assist and ABS systems conspire to keep the RDX’ wheels firmly gripped to the pavement, despite all the leans, pitches, rolls and yaws. For what it’s worth, the RDX is the best handling Crossover in its class.

The RDX goes head-to-head against the similarly sized and priced fraternal twins, the Nissan Murano and Infiniti FX35, and the aforementioned BMW and RAV4. The RDX out-luxuriates the Nissan and Toyota, but still seems a little austere compared to the BMW and Infiniti. It straightens corners better than the others but has the least amount of straight line oomph.

Thanks to its superb build quality and [optional] mind-blowing surround sound, mp3-compatible stereo, I can’t imagine anyone sitting in an RDX, regretting purchasing Acura’s X3 knock-off instead of the “real deal.” Still, as I walked away from the RDX, I was left longing for a vehicle that holstered that sweet-spinning turbo four in something shorter, lower and lighter. Something like the Acura RL. Sometimes it’s best to just copy yourself, and call it good.


The Acura NSX answers the question "What if a big company took engineering seriously?"

Most big companies have engineers, to be sure, but that doesn't mean they are valued. Think about it: if a big company is losing money, the president will never say "I wish we had engineers like those guys at Toyota who figured out how to make cars that don't break." No, it is always "we need better advertising, better marketing, fancier financing, higher salaries for executives", i.e., "we need more MBAs just like me."

Honda simply has better engineers than most other car companies, which is how they went from zero to moderately huge in just two decades. The Accord and Civic are the benchmarks in their respective categories. A few years after they entered Formula One racing, Honda dominated the sport. The NSX is basically the street car built by the Formula One folks.

The NSX removes almost all barriers to heroic driving. Late for an appointment and need to go 80 mph around mountain curves? You won't hear the tires squeal. Getting a call on your cell phone? Nudge the transmission into full auto and the car will shift for you, smooth as a Lexus. Don't want to downshift while descending the Sierra mountains? Good luck getting the ventilated foot-diameter rotors to heat up enough to make the brakes fade. Worried that your $85,000 car and cell phone aren't enough to attract a partner and anxious to get a tan? Take the top off your NSX-T and store it in the ingenious spot above the engine that doesn't rob you of any luggage space.

I wish I could be like one of those studs from Car & Driver magazine and tell you that "the NSX accelerates nicely up to 155 mph when the limiter kicks in harshly" or "the NSX steers neutrally until 0.95 g but then starts to oversteer slightly." But I can't. I'm too old. I'm 32 and believe that I'm going to die one day and I hope it won't be soon. I drove the NSX from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back, about 1000 miles total. Adjusted for the twisty roads along the coast and in the Sierra, I drove faster than I've ever gone in my life. I never came close to any limit imposed by the NSX. I would be scared to test the limits of this car on a public road.

The first thing you notice when you get into the NSX is the comfort. This is not a Porsche or a Ferrari. Nothing is weird, there is no penalty for all the extra capability. After ten minutes, the controls feel as natural as on a car you drive every day. Visibility is superb in all directions and the low cowl prevents claustrophobia. Considering that the engine is about a foot from your ear, the car is reasonably quiet; wind noise is unobtrusive (at least up to 100 mph). Set the temperature you'd like and the automatic climate control system delivers it (I've always hated these systems, but the NSX's works).

The second thing you notice is the balance. If you haven't driven a mid-engined car, then you owe it to yourself. Whether it is an old Lotus Europa, a Toyota MR2, or the NSX, they all share a delightfully neutral feel. A big part of it is the low polar moment of inertia. Porsches and Corvettes manage to achieve a balanced weight, more or less, by putting heavy stuff on both ends of the car. However, with all that weight so far from the center of mass, the car ends up with a high polar moment of inertia and will resist twisting. Mid-engined cars keep the weight in the middle and are much easier to guide through twisty sections of road.

The third thing you notice is that they got everything right. The factory alarm turned itself off when you unlocked the car with the key (and didn't go off in the middle of the night every night, like my old Clifford). The headlights are clearer and sharper than any you've ever been behind. Your passenger is marveling at the craftsmanship of the leather stitching.

You can get the NSX with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed Formula One-type automatic tranmission. My testosterone-poisoned psyche yearned for a manual transmission, but rationally I knew that all race cars these days have "semi-automatic" transmissions. The console-mounted shifter in my automatic NSX-T had four settings: 4, 3/M, 2, 1. In "4", the car behaves like any other with an automatic transmission: it chooses the best gear from 1 through 4. Shifting into 3/M from a stop, the car starts in first gear. You can accelerate until just before redline and the transmission will not shift. All control has moved into a little stalk by your right index finger. Tip it up and the car will instantly shift into second gear. Another tip up and you're in third gear. Tip it down and the car will shift back to second, assuming that won't result in overrevving the engine.

Over 10 days, I grew to love this transmission. No matter how powerful the car, automatics never felt really powerful to me. If you want to move, you have to mash the accelerator to the floor and wait a split second for the kick-down switch to engage and the transmission to downshift. I always miss the instant throttle response of a manual. With the NSX, you can quickly tip the car down into second or third gear. With the revs kept high, the throttle response is every bit as good as any manual.

My one complaint with the system is that downshifts are rather harsh and involve some engine braking and weight transfer. This will never be mistaken for a skillfully executed double-clutched downshift. It doesn't seem to keep Formula One drivers from winning, though, so I guess this isn't a serious complaint. Nonetheless, it sticks out like a mustache on the Mona Lisa in a car so otherwise smooth.

While other car companies whined that the new California emissions standards were impossible, Honda figured out how to meet them with minor valve timing and induction system tweaks. The same kind of engineering brilliance was applied to the NSX's all-aluminum 3.0-liter V-6. It produces 270 hp and 210 lbs-ft of torque, which is ample considering that the car only weighs 3100 lbs.

The sample I drove had 20,000 miles on it and nothing was broken. Nor did anything seem ready to break. When you design a car to handle competently at 180 mph, you end up with a remarkably solid-feeling car at 70 mph.
The BOSE sound system was a disappointment. For the first couple of days, I thought it was great. Voices and music were intelligible above the roar of the engine and the wind, even with the top off on the freeway. Then I noticed that the sound was all midrange and "one-note bass". The high frequencies were missing (I never did find any tweeters in the car) and all kinds of low-frequency sounds were homogenized into a general-purpose quasi-low note. The "one-note" bass is characteristic of ducted woofer systems, which have the advantages of low cost, small size, and light weight, but are not really audiophile material.

"If you don't get laid every day that you're in Los Angeles with that car, I'll never have any respect for you," a physicist friend of mine said. I can't say that I made a serious effort to win his respect, but I did notice in 10 days that men were far more interested in the car than women. This would be the ideal car for a single woman.

Luggage space is advertised as "5.0 cubic feet." Acura helpfully translates that into "two golf bags" for their target market. I managed to get my enormous camera backpack, a Macintosh PowerBook, books, and clothes for a week into the trunk.

I try not to covet material things. I try not to be envious of rich people. When I've gotten expensive cars for a few days to take pictures, I've always been relieved to give them back. $85,000 of sheet metal is a burden. But if I had $85,000 to spare, I would rush out and buy an NSX-T. It is a bargain. I never thought I would say that about an $85,000 car, but it is.
"What's an NSX?" all of my New York friends asked. "It's like a Ferrari, but engineered by people who went to college."


Effectively blending high performance and personal luxury is a genuine automotive art form, one that Acura has shown an amazing talent for doing, and doing well. The arrival of its latest CL 3.2 Type-S proves that Honda's luxury division still has the magic touch. When it stormed onto the scene for 2002, the original Type-S boasted a host of meaningful powertrain and suspension upgrades in its formidable resume, including a trick SportShift sequential 5-speed automatic transmission. For '03, this understated overachiever adds several new touches to make it an even more appealing ride to the purists.

Visually, the new Type-S gets minor tweaks to its front and rear fascias, revamped wheels and bolder looking exhaust tips. However, the real news is the arrival of the 6-speed, close-ratio, manual transmission. Opting for this do-it-yourself cog-changer also brings a new helical-gear limited-slip differential in place of the stability system and traction control found in its autoshifted counterpart.

Those with higher-profile predilections are likely to find that even with the exterior changes, the CL's remarkably understated styling remains a bit too subtle for its own good. But that tastefully drawn sheetmetal—devoid of wings, flaps, flares and all other types of paste-on appendages—makes the CL Type-S a near-perfect street-sleeper. That's a good thing, because this new 6-speed variant is even more willing than its predecessor to accommodate those with a natural inclination to regularly roam in the supra-legal speed range.

The additional gearbox exactly doubles the number of "option" choices that face a potential Type-S buyer. Like the standard CL 3.2—which is still only available with the SportShift transmission—save for a yea/nay vote on the $2,150 Navigation package (now fitted with OnStar), this coupe comes fully equipped. It commands $30,550 plus $500 in destination fees regardless of transmission.

That tariff brings leather upholstery, automatic climate-control air conditioning, a gaggle of power assists, moonroof, Bose AM/FM/cassette stereo with 6-disc in-dash changer, power/heated seats, HomeLink programmable garage-door opener, dual 12V powerpoints, tilt steering column, steering-wheel-mounted audio/cruise controls and remote keyless for starters. Those comfort/convenience features are backed by dual front/front-side smart airbags, 3-point seatbelts with pretensioners/force limiters, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, HID Xenon headlamps, anti-theft/immobilizer system and rear LATCH anchors for child seats on the safety/security front.


By Robert Farago

Front wheel drive sucks. Case in point: the Acura TL. Here's a perfectly good car ruined by the simple fact that its front wheels have to steer and propel at the same time. Give the TL's gas pedal a shove, feed the engine some revs, unleash a bit of torque and, well, it's all a bit too much for the front tires. Traction takes a powder, taking with it any chance of giving the TL a proper thrashing. In fact, you can't even give the TL a mild slap on the wrist without a dramatic loss of steering control.

What a shame. While Toyota's Lexus has firmly established itself as a distinct and worthy competitor to Germany's finest, Acura is still trying to convince the world that an Acura is more than a Honda with a slightly bigger engine, leather, wood and a few toys. Which, in this case, it is. Anyway, given Honda's impeccable engineering and build quality, there's nothing particularly wrong with this "Acura as a posh Honda" product perception. But there's nothing particularly right with it either—especially when cachet (a.k.a. "snob value") sells cars in this segment.

The TL's exterior highlights Honda's struggle to raise Acura's game. Its designers have done everything possible to separate the Acura TL from its donor DNA: narrowed headlights, split front spoiler, indented swage line, raised side skirts, five-spoke alloys, rear lip spoiler, dual exhausts and sharper rear lights. The end result is… a Honda Accord with a bit of Alfa Romeo 156 thrown in. It's not a displeasing design, but it isn't terribly classy or, um, bling.

The TL's interior, by contrast, is both. High end materials have Cinderella-ed the Accord's cabin into a comfort zone as sharp as a Chanel suit— worn by Missy Elliott. Check out those hooded, backlit blue dials and glowing key slot. Safe! And if that's not massive enough, pop in a DVD-A and crank up the 5.1 Surround Sound. Yes, the new format means you have to buy all your favorite music again. But the TL's eight-channel audio attack easily justifies the re-re-re-investment. Until BOSE unleashes its own DVD-A system (with better bass response), Acura's boom box is about as good as it gets. If not better.

I wish I could say the same about the TL's driving dynamics. The trouble began the moment I slotted the test car's five-speed auto box into Drive. Er, Neutral. Wow! Who would have thought that Honda - sorry, Acura - could come up with a shift gate that rivals BMW's iDrive for counter-intuitive complexity? Once I figured out why I was going nowhere fast, I was free to explore the TL's heart and soul: its engine.

Honda makes some of the world's best engines: smooth, powerful, tractable, free-revving, frugal and clean. The TL's V6 powerplant is typical of the breed. Although the 3.2-liter engine stumps up only 30 more horses than the Accord's [optional] six, it's noticeably punchier throughout the rev range. The TL's two hundred and seventy horses (fed on Variable Valve Timing) fling the car from zero to sixty in a fraction under seven seconds– provided you can find a way to coax and baby the go pedal at the same time. Otherwise, you're right back where we started: Wheel Spin City.

To its credit, Acura's boffins have attempted to mitigate the problem with Vehicle Stability Assist and an electronic traction control system. No dice. In a straight line, the TL's nose squirm is annoying. Around corners, it's positively alarming. The defining handling characteristic of this pretender to the mid-sized sports sedan throne is neither understeer nor oversteer; it's no steer. Press-on drivers will need both sensitive hands and nerves of steel.

Bummer. Everything else about the TL's set-up is superb. The double wishbone front and rear suspension allows just the right amount of road feel, without a hint of discomfort. Four-way disc brakes combine consummate linear control with serious stopping power. (The six-speed manual adds Brembo brake calipers up front.) Overall body control is exemplary. Granted, the TL is not a focused sports sedan in the 3-Series sense of the term. But if Acura had bitten the bullet and built a rear-wheel-drive TL, I reckon it could have given Munich's medium-sized meisterwerk a decent run for the money.

Ah yes, money. For value-driven buyers, the fully equipped Acura TL is a steal. It offers quality, reliability and every conceivable luxury for thousands less than anything else in its class, and much above. For the rest of us, the TL is maddeningly close to greatness. Luckily, it's only a matter of time before Honda/Acura follows Detroit's lead and converts its premium products to rear wheel drive. When that glorious day arrives, Acura will prove once and for all that it's ready to play with the big boys.


Reviewed by: Mike Markovich
Edited by: Wayne Cunningham

Reviewed on: 09/01/2005 Honda's latest intelligent i-VTEC system makes the engine in the 2006 Acura RSX Type-S feel as though it conjures power out of nowhere. With its ability to optimize many engine operations across a wide range of engine speeds, i-VTEC takes an otherwise pleasant car and makes it a treat to drive. This performance doesn't come at the cost of comfort, however, since the RSX Type-S retains the light controls, the supportive seating, and the good visibility of its predecessors.
The aggressive aspects of this sportiest RSX's exterior styling are not overdone, and the tasteful restraint continues inside, with de rigueur metallic accents among the quality materials. The details are well executed throughout, and while the RSX Type-S's entry-level status means a lack of gadgets, its tenure as a darling of the small-displacement tuner set ensures that performance will always come first. Given that the price of entry for the Type-S is just $23,845, few drivers will feel shortchanged.

When you're sitting in the perforated-leather racing-style seats of the 2006 Acura RSX Type-S, there's little question as to the car's intended purpose. Clean black-on-white main gauges with zeroes in the six-o'clock position, a meaty leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with inviting bulges on the rim, and an aluminum shift knob on the six-speed stick mark the RSX as a driver's car. The secondary controls are simple to operate, and the central area housing them cants toward the driver just enough for this welcome detail to be noticeable.
Sadly, the six-CD in-dash changer stereo mounted in the center console is notable only for its dated inclusion of a motorized player for something called a cassette tape. Its best use now would be for an MP3 player with a cassette adapter, since the stereo provides no auxiliary audio input. The mostly useless rear seats, which appear to be one of the few items carried over from the original 1986 Integra nearly intact, might make a nice delete option. The moonroof and cruise-control switches, also reminiscent of the first-generation Integra in their look and placement to the left of the steering column, can stay. The Type-S neatly packages its standard subwoofer in the center of the space-saver spare wheel.

Outside, the Acura projects a somewhat less provocative message, but it doesn't hide its sporting pretensions. Especially with the 17-inch alloys standard on the Type-S (16 inches on the base car), the RSX has an eager stance and a look of chunky muscularity. Acura has gradually rounded off the first-generation RSX/Integra's squared-off corners and sharp creases, but it maintains the suggestion of a wedge in the latest model by steadily raising the body-contour line front to rear. Body-colored rocker-panel inserts and a small rear spoiler provide further subtle but suggestive cues.

Handling is taut and precise, and while the RSX will follow road imperfections under acceleration, it is among the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars we've driven. A beefy front strut-tower brace aids an already stiff chassis, and the nicely weighted variable-assist steering puts the RSX right where you want it. The RSX feels right at home on undulating and twisting roads, and running the i-VTEC motor through its 8,000rpm paces between corners never gets old.

The heart and soul of the 2006 Acura RSX Type-S are its engine and transmission. The i-VTEC system with Variable Timing Control (VTC) manipulates valve timing and lift via a regular VTEC two-stage camshaft; it also regulates oil pressure and allows variable camshaft position for a range of adjustability.

All this computing power produces motive power in a way few road-car engines can match. It wrings 201 horsepower (hp) from two liters of displacement without the aid of forced-air induction, for a most impressive specific output of more than 100hp per liter. In practice, the motor provides a tempting and self-reinforcing combination of low-inertia revviness and the reward of a nice shove in the back for exploiting it. This and the precise shift action make keeping up the power flow a pleasure. Adding an aftermarket performance computer would be a good way to see if you can shave a few tenths of a second off your commute or your favorite weekend drive.

But even given its penchant for redline-reaching antics, i-VTEC helps the RSX Type-S return a LEV-2 emissions rating and EPA fuel-mileage ratings of 23mpg city and 31mpg highway. Our test car got 24.4mpg over five days of spirited driving, mostly on secondary roads.

The Acura RSX Type-S offers front and side air bags with passenger-side detection. ABS comes standard on the four-wheel disc brakes, and the Type-S's 11.8-inch front rotors are larger than the standard RSX's 10.3-inch fronts. Halogen headlights brightly illuminate the road at night, and front and rear crumple zones bolster the car's crashworthiness.
Acura's vehicle warranty provides four years or 50,000 miles of coverage, with six years or 70,000 miles of coverage for the power train. The i-VTEC engine requires its first major tune-up at 110,000 miles.