Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

First Drive

It's Acura to Say the 3.2TL Is a Lot of Car

October 15, 1998|PAUL DEAN

The bottom line on Acura's 1999 3.2TL is most certainly its bottom line. Which is $28,514.

Lower your rising gorge. Lift those hopes. Tote that barge.

These days, the average sticker on a new car from afar is $20,000 and climbing. Upgrade its cheesy seat fabrics, add air conditioning, ashtrays and a cargo net, plus several inches of fine print that can cost as much as a sport-handling package, and you'll be financing pretty close to $20K for a subcompact Hyundai Elantra. With a four-cylinder engine that would run like clockwork if only it came with a key.

The 3.2TL, however, is delivered with a VTEC V-6 shoving out 225 horsepower. That's more than the Lexus LS300, Infiniti I30, Mazda Millenia, BMW 328i and other members of the suddenly tremulous luxury mid-size competition.

Acura's bottom line also includes leather upholstery, automatic air conditioning, a Bose sound system with CD, heated front seats, four-speed automatic plus grade logic control, a sequential shifter for playing actual-reality Formula 1, anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, power moon roof, cruise control and three-button HomeLinksystem.

Pause for breath. Also driver and passenger power seats, adjustable lumbar support for those seats, theft-deterrent system with immobilizer, illuminated center console with sliding armrest, sunglasses storage, key-less entry and 16-inch machined alloy wheels.

Take a coffee break. Also heated side mirrors, power windows, auto-off headlights, speed-sensing wipers, tinted and heat-resistant glass, micron filters on the air conditioning, pass-through trunk and audio controls on the steering wheel.

Don't doze off. Also a 24-hour roadside assistance program, concierge service, five-year warranties, auto-dimming rearview mirror and speed-rated Michelin tires.

All for $28,514. Including destination and handling charges. Also California emission costs. In fact, the only options in the lot are floor mats--which, one day, some philanthropic car builder might toss in for free. Until then, they cost $109.

Sitting down?

And the 3.2TL's relatively paltry bottom line is about $5,000 less than last year's car that had an indecisive automatic transmission, unexceptional performance and uninspired styling.

Those errors have been repaired in the '99 iteration (entering showrooms as we write, and based on the Accord platform from parent Honda), although styling will still appeal only to those who find excitement in Evian and boiled rice. Except for snazzy, split-spoke wheels and a sharp edge here and there, no celebratory lunches should be planned for designers at Honda R&D studios in Torrance. As with so many of their peers, they seem to believe American car buyers prefer generics over dramatics.

*

Overall, the 3.2TL is pretty much a flawless car. It underprices everything in its league, and as far as precise handling and grabby maneuvering are concerned, its only rival in power and precision is the BMW 328i. But the Bimmer costs $10,000 more.

Fittings and fixtures are of premium metals, real woods and glove leathers, and their heft and look are four-star. Acceleration, from rest and in mid-ranges, is only a split second behind that of the BMW 328i, and gas consumption has been improved a sip to 19 miles per gallon city, 27 highway.

This is a roomy, comfortable mid-size sedan that is quite happy when tossed around. It also contains an enviable, reassuring, rare presence: No matter traffic conditions, no matter the weather, your fatigue level or length of the road ahead, getting there in this car guarantees the pleasure will be all yours.

Clearly the penultimate bottom line.

Times automotive writer Paul Dean can be reached via e-mail at paul .dean@latimes.com.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|