Premium midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,500 – $3,200*

1996 Acura 2.5TL

1996 Acura 3.2TL

1996 Acura 2.5TL

1997 Acura 3.2TL

1997 Acura TL interior

  • Acceleration (3.2TL)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Instruments/controls
  • Steering/handling
  • Visibility
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Engine noise (2.5TL)
  • Rear-seat room
  • Road noise (3.2TL)

Although these TL sedans are well-constructed, pleasant, and better than the previous Vigor in every way, they still fail to overshadow the competition in the midluxury league.


Redesigning of the in-between sedan (previously called Vigor) from Honda’s luxury division brought slightly larger dimensions and also something new: an available V6 engine. At 191.5 inches overall, the TL fits right in between the older Vigor and the Legend sedan. Dual airbags were standard, along with antilock brakes, automatic climate control, cassette and CD players, and power windows and door locks. Leather seating was standard in the more costly 3.2TL with its V6 engine and optional in the five-cylinder 2.5TL. A firmer suspension went into the 2.5TL, which was marketed as the sportier of the two. The 2.5TL went on sale in spring of 1995, but the 3.2TL was delayed until fall of that year, due to a trade dispute with Japan.

Yearly Updates

1997 TL
The V6-powered 3.2TL gained a standard power moonroof for 1997, and all models got variable-speed intermittent wipers. The 5-cylinder 2.5TL added new alloy wheels.
1998 TL
Little changed for 1998 except for the addition of some standard equipment to the 2.5TL. This car was completely redesigned for 1999, and production shifted from Japan to the United States.


longitudinal front-engine/front-wheel drive

The base 2.5TL sedan carries the previous Vigor’s 2.5 liter inline 5-cylinder engine (with four valves per cylinder), developing 176 horsepower. Beneath the upscale 3.2TL’s hood sits a 24-valve 3.2-liter, 200-horsepower V6, borrowed from the larger Legend L/LS. Both engines connect to an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission with “Grade Logic” control and a gated gearshift lever. No manual-shift models have been produced.

ohc I5
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 176
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 170
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/196
Engine HP 200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 210
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

Superior in road behavior, both versions of the TL handle well and inspire confidence, helped by precise, neatly assisted steering with ample feedback, plus fine high-speed braking. Front-drive cornering is predictable, with modest body lean and good grip. With less weight up front, the 2.5TL tends to corner with a crisper feel and slightly less understeer. Each model rides well, the fully independent suspension delivering solid comfort and taut control while smoothing out the rough spots with ease. Road noise is most prominent in the 3.2TL.

The automatic transmission is slow to kick down for passing. Also, its “Grade Logic” feature sometimes drops down a gear or two, whether you want it to or not. Though generally smooth, the 5-cylinder engine gets noisy when worked hard, emitting a coarse, throaty growl. Though not a slouch, it delivers only adequate pickup. Acceleration off-the-line is a bit lethargic, but the 2.5TL passes and merges quite quickly. Somewhat lumpy at idle, it’s not as smooth as the silky, quiet V6 in the 3.2TL, which promises greater performance.

Gas mileage is close to average for this league. In a mix of city, suburban, and highway driving, we managed 19.2 mpg with a 2.5TL and 18.3 mpg from the 3.2TL. Both engines demand premium gasoline, however.

Interior space overall ranks as adequate rather than generous–unexceptional for the car’s size, partly as a result of the typical Acura low profile. Head room is just adequate for 6-footers. The same is true of rear leg space, though it’s five inches larger than in the prior Vigor. Not every driver and passenger might be delighted with seat comfort–especially the occupant of the center rear position, who must endure a hard seat and straddle a tall tunnel. Despite the low-slung styling, a glassy greenhouse with thin pillars produces easy viewing all around. Entry/exit is easy and the driving position is accommodating, facing fine instruments and controls.


Model Tested: 1998 Acura TL Type-S

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 7


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 8

Total: 61


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.8 191.5 70.3 55.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.1 17.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.1 36.9 43.7 35.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 TL 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 95
Injury 76
Theft 28

Trouble Spots

Audio system
Description: Radio interference is caused by the ignition coils. (1996-97)
Audio system
Description: The grille cloth pulls loose from the tweeter (speaker). (1996)
Steering problems
Description: Power-steering pump leaks because the pump shaft was not machined properly causing the seal to wear. (1996)
Vehicle noise
Description: Wind noise from the moonroof. (1996)

Recall History

1996-98 3.2
Description: Bolt can loosen and fall out, allowing transmission to disengage from differential. Not only would the vehicle lose power to drive wheels without warning, but shifting into “Park” would not lock the wheels.
Description: Ball joints on certain cars could wear out prematurely and, in worst case, separate and cause front suspension to collapse.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.