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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Midsize near-luxury market — prior to a dozen years ago, this category did not really exist. With the exception of a few European models, all luxury sedans were big old land barges. Then, in 1986, Honda launched its Acura luxury division, along with its new flagship model, the Legend. In the decade since, almost every upscale manufacturer has seen the need for an entry-level midsize luxury model as the demand for upscale products continues to expand.
Aided by the solid stock market and inexpensive leases, Americans are looking for greater variety and want midsize models with more power, more comfort, more accessories, and more frills. Completely forgotten are the lean and thrifty compacts and bare-bones midsize models that prevailed after the gas shortages of the 1970s.
The key outgrowth of concerns over better fuel economy is the excellent crop of thrifty six-cylinder engines that power all the vehicles in this category; two decades ago, buyers would have demanded V-8s. At the same time, manual transmissions have almost disappeared. Automatics have become smoother, with extra gears to ease the shift points and keep the engines economical yet powerful.
Made in America
Designed in Honda R&D studios in Torrance, Calif., and manufactured at the Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio, the 1999 TL debuts as the second Acura model (after the CL) to be completely designed, engineered and manufactured in the United States. The only people that are likely to be dissatisfied with the ’99 TL are those who paid full price for the ’98 version, since Acura has adjusted the price downward by almost $3,000.
"The TL has undergone such a significant transformation, it completely redefines the near-luxury category," said Rich Thomas, Acura's executive vice president and general manager. By incorporating some of the excellent Accord components into the TL, Acura gets the benefit of all the ride and interior comfort features of Honda’s best-selling car. Longer overall, with a wider track and more interior room, the TL’s front-drive platform features significant advances in torsional and bending rigidity.