Acura's TL touts cutting-edge audio

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Listen up, audiophiles.

Acura is putting eight-speaker, six-channel, Surround Sound on wheels with its industry-first, standard DVD audio system. Available initially in its redone 2004 TL performance sports sedan, the system can play DVDs, digital theater-sound-enabled CDs, regular CDs, cassettes, AM-FM or XM satellite radio. American Honda Motor Co.'s premiere brand worked with Grammy-winning music producer Elliott Scheiner to develop the leading-edge system.

In addition to a traditional TV launch, arriving tonight on national broadcast and cable network TV, Acura will show off TL's sound system and the car's other cool technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, including TL's standard Bluetooth voice-activated phone system, which it calls the Hands Free Link. TL is the official automobile of the show.

"We've never had this kind of technological edge before," said Rob Alen, advertising manager at Acura. The audio system and voice-activated phone bring another dimension to the TL and allow the automaker to broaden its reach, he said.

The TL's standard new gizmos "really push Acura to a technology standpoint in the marketplace" that has been the territory of pricier European offerings, said Wes Brown, an analyst with consultant Iceology. The TL's new standard features will help separate Acura as a tech leader, especially at a value price, he said. "For a brand that's been looking for a path, they may have finally found it."

The techno-enhanced 2004 TL will be priced at $33,000, slightly higher than last year's model, at $28,980.

Acura is targeting the 2004 model at buyers with a median age of 42-five to seven years younger than owners of predecessor TLs, Mr. Alen said. The car's engine provides 270 horsepower, more than the outgoing TL and more aggressive styling. Acura expects to sell 65,000 TLs annually.


The TL, Acura's best-selling car, will receive the bulk of the brand's ad spending through the fourth quarter. Mr. Alen said TL's multimedia buy is comparable to Acura's MDX sport utility launch in 2000, which was supported with $40.5 million in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., created three 30-second TV launch spots. "Be there first ... where no sports sedan has been before ... A higher form of performance" the narrator says in the spot, which shows the car creating a new road as it winds through a landscape. The agency also created a slew of magazine ads.

Interactive will also be used. Banner ads on AOL Time Warner's America Online will promote a TL-tied sweepstakes to win a Bluetooth-enabled Nokia. Gen X, Culver City, Calif., handled that effort.

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