After nearly three months of driving vehicles with an automatic transmission, I was a little rusty when it came to driving a clutch.

All I really needed was a few miles to get back in sync, but I still should have gone for a solo refamiliarization spin before I offered to drive Gaylord to lunch.

But the driver had just dropped off the keys when Gaylord Hanes walked in the door and I couldn’t resist showing him the Acura TL Type-S — one of the few models that earned Consumer Reports’ highest “Recommended” rating as well as the organization’s top marks for reliability, owner satisfaction and low depreciation.

I just wish I was a little smoother on the clutch when we were going to lunch. By the time we headed back to the office I was driving like an old pro. Still, I had to apologize as we cruised through town on the way to the restaurant.

I don’t know whether I adopted Gaylord or Gaylord adopted me, but we’ve become pretty good friends over the years and I really look forward to our weekly lunch dates.

One of the highlights is getting to drive him around in whatever car I happen to be testing — this week it was the Acura TL Type-S.

The TL is Acura’s mid-size, front-wheel sedan based on the Honda Accord platform.

Upscale, sporty and nicely equipped at a very reasonable price, the TL has garnered tons of industry awards in addition to a loyal following from its satisfied owners.

For the 2007 model year, new features for the TL include revised interior styling, an improved navigation system with AcuraLink satellite communication system with real-time traffic and — this is the best part — the re-introduction of the performance-oriented Type-S.

Before we get into the Type-S, I have to talk about the Acura navigation system, which is undeniably the best automotive navigation system on the market.


Sure, it does everything all the other navigation systems do — it allows you to program destinations and provide audio turn commands as well as map guidance on the screen.

But this system works in conjunction with XM Satellite Radio to provide real-time traffic conditions in all the major North American markets. Updated every minute, the system tells you how fast the traffic is moving on a particular freeway, if there is an accident or if road construction is going on — providing the driver the opportunity to “see ahead” and take an alternative route.

It even features HandsFreeLink Bluetooth technology that allows you to sync your cell phone and address book with the car.

My buddy Gaylord — whose grandfather crossed the Oklahoma Territory in a covered wagon to stake out a homestead claim — loves new technology.

While he has a nav system in his pickup, I got the feeling he was a little envious of what all the Acura system could do.

“That’s absolutely fantastic,” Gaylord said. “With this, you’d never have to sit in traffic again.”

Back to the TL Type-S, which is powered by a spirited 3.5-liter V-6 engine boosting horsepower to 286 over the TL’s 3.2-liter engine producing 258 horsepower.

It also includes a lot more amenities, like premium sound system, sport seats, performance suspension and special design accents.

For consumers in the market for a premium mid-size sedan, the TL and TL Type-S is a must test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at