Life with the Acura TL

Since Smoove asked …

I”ve had my TL for a month and a day now and have put about 2,500 miles on it (road trips), so some initial impressions: – Interior feel: Excellent. Acura does a great job of making the TL feel a lot more expensive than it is. Great leather seats, great fit and finish, overall just really nice. The cockpit feel is pretty much perfect for me (6″4″). It feels roomy but not big. As I mentioned before, the TL had an advantage for me over the Infiniti G35 because the G cockpit is just slightly tighter; feeling more like a BMW 3 Series, while the TL feels more like a 5.

- On the road: Fantastic. Quiet and calm on the highway, a quick slap of the manual shift pulls out the fury. It”s not the 286 horses of the 2007 Type-S, but 258 does just fine. Makes my little game of losing cars that want to draft on my speed much, much more fun.

- Navigation system: A topic of constant thought and discussion for me. The POI data, as I mentioned, is not great. And I”ve come to realize that the route calculations are pretty slow in comparison to the TomTom / Bluetooth system I have for my Treo. I”m not sure how that happens (it could be because the Treo system only has sections of the US loaded in at any one time), but it”s only slightly annoying. The experience of always having a large map sitting in front of you is a real plus, though. I”d only pull out the Treo system when I specifically needed a route, but having always-on navigation comes in real handy. If I”m stuck in a line of unusual traffic, for example, I can do a quick “what if I turned right here” check on the map instantly. Despite some flaws and room for improvement, the benefit of always-there navigation is huge and makes built-in navigation a big win.

- Audio system: I haven”t really tested it out much, but it seems quite capable. For me, sound quality ranks second to source availability, so I”m just waiting for some free time to install my Sirius kit. There”s no deep iPod integration (deep would be having iPod data show on the radio display and being able to control the iPod through standard audio controls), and the 2006 lacks the auxiliary input jack that comes with the 2007, but that”s not a big deal in my mind. I”ll probably start off the Sirius with its built-in FM transmitter and maybe move it to a hard-wired modulator. And I really don”t care too much about iPod in the car (when I get my Sirius in, that is. Right now I”d kill for some decent music – which XM doesn”t give me). A Griffin FM transmitter will do me just fine there.

- XM: Still sucks. On our trip to Louisiana last weekend, we tried to listen to their music stations, and they simply suck. The “Fred” channel (deeper classic alternative, I think) is about the best we found. But there”s no viable alternative when The Cure comes on there. XM”s “decades” channels blow big-time – especially the 80s channel. The only saving grace there is that they play Casey Kasem”s American Top 40s from the 80s on the weekend. That was amusing. Then there”s the issue of the artist/song display. I”m starting to get the sense that XM actually limits the characters (16, I think) that it broadcasts. The XM display on the navigation screen has room for probably 10 more characters, but there”s nothing there. And in what may be one of XM”s worst offenses against music, they tend to remove “The” from the name of bands in order to cut off fewer band names with their short display. Displaying “Beatles” or “Cure” or “Replacements” as a band name is downright wrong. And what happens when “The The” comes on (props to the wife for that one)? So not only is the programming much worse than Sirius, but the user experience on a built-in, large-screen display is far inferior to what I get on my Sirius aftermarket device. XM blows.

- Nice touches: I love having the ability to define behavior of some of the car systems. I have the TL set to lock the doors when I hit 10 mph, unlock them when the car goes into park, unlock all doors on the first press of the fob, chirp when I lock from the fob, etc. There”s about 10 or so settings I”m able to define that are tied to my Driver 1 fob. The wife has her own settings (ladies might not want doors to unlock automatically and such) tied to her Driver 2 fob. Along with Driver 1 and 2 memory settings for seats, mirrors, etc., that”s great functionality. Gets rid of having to adjust to the behaviors the car manufacturer decided to build in. Interior storage is also well thought-out, with two separate trays under the navigation display and separated shallow and deep compartments in the center console – with a DC outlet in the center console for chargers. The storage bins in the door hinge out for easy access to things (like sunglasses in the built-in glasses sleeve there – nice).

- Issues: I have no idea why Acura included totally superfluous door-lock sticks in the driver and passenger doors. Maybe it”s for visual confirmation that doors are locked/unlocked? If so, there are much better ways to do that. And as a guy who rides with the seat way back, I kept hitting my elbow on it … so the driver”s stick is now gone. And along those lines, the arm rest in the door sits way too low for me (OK for average-height people?), so the top of the door is my armrest. That would be fine except Acura didn”t build the padding there for that, so I”m already creating a dimple in the pad up there. An adjustable armrest in the door would be nice. Otherwise, there are really tiny things I”ve noticed like no audible notification when you”re low on gas (seems obvious – freaking beep or something), but overall I dig the ride quite a bit.

Next up in my TL”s evolution is getting my Sirius unit in there. I want a clean install, which will require some disassembly of interior parts and the like. More on that later.

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