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The first third-generation Acura TL rolled off the assembly line on September 30, 2003. On October 6, 2003, the third generation Acura TL (the 3.2 moniker was dropped) was released for sale in North America. Developed mainly in the United States by a team led by Erik Berkman with bodywork by American Honda designer Jon Ikeda, the new TL was built in Marysville, Ohio, and was derived from the 7th generation US-market Honda Accord.
Starting with this generation, this model was not sold in Japan, with the Honda Inspire holding the position of entry level luxury sedan below the Honda Legend in Japan. The Inspire of this era was instead sold as the seventh generation North American spec Honda Accord. The Third-Generation TL was a little smaller than the model it replaced.
It is powered by a 270 hp (201 kW); later revised to 258 hp (192 kW), based on the new SAE measurement standard for horsepower and 233 lb·ft (316 N·m) of torque, 3.2 L 24 valve SOHC VTEC V6 engine mated to either a 5-speed automatic with SportShift or 6-speed manual. Manual transmission models featured Brembo 4-Piston front brake calipers, a Torsen-type limited slip differential, stiffer anti-roll bars front and rear and performance tires at no additional cost.
As of March 2004, Honda offers to the public a factory-sanctioned "tuner package" version of the TL called the TL A-SPEC. This version features a suspension tuned by Makoto Tamamura, an indication of the TL A-SPEC's aggressive engineering. In addition, an underbody kit, spoiler, limited edition A-SPEC steering wheel, "A-SPEC" badge on the back, and 18-inch (460 mm) wheels are standard issue on the A-SPEC package. When installed at purchase, the car's 4 year/ 50,000 miles (80,000 km) warranty applies to the package as well.
The third generation TL was also the first car in the American market to include a 6-disc DVD-Audio system, output through an 8-speaker 225-watt system, engineered by Panasonic and tuned by Grammy-award winning Elliot Scheiner. The system also plays back regular audio CDs as well as DTS audio discs, CD-Audio, CD-Rs and CD-RWs but not MP3s. In the United States, all models were also equipped with a Bluetooth HandsFree Link (HFL) system, integrated with the audio system, to allow for hands-free usage of one's cell phone (provided the phone also supports Bluetooth and is compatible with the HFL's hands-free profile). In Canada, the HFL feature was not available on the base model (standard with A-Spec, Technology, and Navigation packages), though the 2005 model year saw HFL becoming standard in all Canadian models. With the built-in XM Radio tuner, owners can elect to pay a monthly subscription after the complimentary 3 months subscription expires from Acura for XM radio, which provides over 100 digital channels via satellite.
Sporting an Alpine-designed navigation system, the third generation TL also accepts voice commands like "find nearest police station" or "go home." The navigation system features an 8-inch (200 mm) touchscreen LCD, which allows for easy viewing of the road ahead.
The JDM Honda Inspire debuted around four and a half months earlier (on June 11, 2003) and marked the branching out of the TL line from the Inspire. The Inspire is basically a seventh-generation US-market Honda Accord V6 with minor trim changes, and the addition of Variable Cylinder Management, which shuts off half of the engine when not needed to boost fuel economy. The Saber was discontinued and the new Inspire is being sold at Clio, Primo, and Verno dealerships.
The TL became Acura's best-selling luxury sedan in 2004 with more than 79,000 sold that year.
The IIHS found the Acura TL had the second lowest fatality rates among midsize luxury cars
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