By on May 13, 2012

Despite debuting over seven years ago, extensively refreshed in 2009 and nip/tucked again in 2011, the Acura RL remains a mystery. Flagship products usually sell in small numbers, but the RL is one of the rarest sedans in America. This isn’t exactly been a badge of honor for Acura. Overlooked by shoppers who flock to the cheaper Acura TL and largely forgotten by the automotive press (after all these years, TTAC has never fully reviewed the RL) With a full replacement due next year in the form of the RLX concept, I hit Acura up for an RL for a week to see how a flagship product from a major brand could manage to sell just 56 vehicles in Canada and 1,096 in the USA in 2011. For those who like statistics, the TL outsold the RL by 2,850%. Ouch.

YouTube Preview Image

Exterior

Like Audi, Acura believes in the “same sausage, different lengths” school of design. The RL’s form combines an angular nose with slab sides, a rounded rear and thankfully, (new for 2011) the most demure Acura beak available. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I find the RL more attractive than the TL (even with the TL’s beak-reduction.) There is a problem however: the RL is only 1.7 inches longer than the TL and rides on a wheelbase that is only .9 inches longer. These identical proportions are only the beginning of the sibling rivalry. Nearly identical proportions aside, the RL has aged well and still strikes an elegant pose that is decidedly more exciting than the sedate Volvo S80.

Interior

Once you sit inside the RL, you begin to understand why the TL gets all the attention. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the RL, it’s just not as flashy. While the TL borrows from the European play book with an interior that could have been carved out of a single piece of black plastic, the RL goes for a more elegant two-tone approach. The only real feature differentiation between the RL and TL can be found in the optional real-wood trim and radar cruise control neither of which are available in the “smaller”  Acura.

Not all is peachy-keen inside however. Automotive interiors age faster than a powder-blue tux and the RL is no exception. Aside from the lack of stitched-dash-love, the fact that faux-tree is standard when even Lincoln gets their trim from the forest is a problem. Acura’s well-known love affair with buttons results in no less than 65 buttons (not including toggle or the joystick controller) within easy reach of the driver. Is that good or bad? I’m torn. Tell us what you think the comment section.

Infotainment

As a statement of how “ahead of the curve” Acura was in 2005, the RL’s 8-inch infotainment system provides all the features a luxury shopper could ask for, from voice control to full USB, Bluetooth and iPod integration. The problem isn’t the functionality, it’s the aesthetics. It’s like un-boxing a new PC only to discover it has Windows XP. It might be  just as fast as a model with Windows 7, and it will do everything you need - it just won’t look as snazzy while it’s doing it.

On the audio front, the Bose system is absolutely top-notch with a very natural balance, crisp highs and a wide dynamic range. Acura continues to push the rare DVD-Audio format in all Acura models. DVD Audio’s discrete 5.1 channel recordings do sound fantastic on the RL, but unlike some of the other luxury systems you can’t play video DVDs on the system at all. Good luck finding DVD-A discs as well. The RL uses Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology to cut cabin noise, while it wasn’t really possible to disable the system, the RL’s cabin is very quiet.

Drivetrain

Beating “sideways” under the hood of the RL is Acura’s ubiquitous 3.7L V6, good for 300HP and 271lb-ft of twist at a lofty 5,000RPM. 300HP may have been a selling point back in 2005, but in today’s luxury market, 300 is where things start, not end. The 3.7′s 271lb-ft is practically meager when pitted against the 350lb-ft cranked out by Lincoln’s Ecoboost V6, not to mention BMW’s twin turbo V8. Rubbing some salt on the wound, the TL’s optional 3.7L engine cranks out 5 more ponies. Ouch. Still, the MKS Ecoboost and S80 T6 are on the high-end of the competition’s scale which, more realistically, includes the GS350 AWD and the Cadillac XTS.

For 2011 Acura updated the RL with a new 6-speed transmission. The extra cog cut the RL’s dash to 60 by almost a full half second vs the 2010 model (5.9 as tested.) Mercedes may advertise a 7-speed automatic and BMW and Audi tout their ZF 8-speed, but let’s be honest here – the E350, 535xi or A6 3.0T don’t compete head-on with the RL. When you scale back the competition to the more natural competitors of the S80, MKS,  GS350 and XTS, the right number of gears for this crowd is six. The 2012 RL is now rated for 17/24MPG (City/Highway) which is 1MPG better than before. Over our 745 miles with the RL we averaged a middling 19MPG. In comparison, Cadillac’s XTS promises to be the most efficient AWD sedan in this size class at 17/28MPG.

Drive

It’s not the acceleration that makes the RL an interesting companion on the road, it’s the handling. Oddly enough, the nearly 4,100lb RL is a willing companion on the twisties thanks to Acura’s “Super Handling All Wheel Drive” system. The AWD system used by Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz employs a traditional RWD transmission with a transfer case sending power to the front. In the GS350 AWD, the end result is massive understeer, excessive for even a large rear-drive luxury car. The XTS, MKS and S80 use a Haldex system, with an open differential in the front and rear and none in the center. Instead of a center diff, there is a clutch pack that can vary the mechanical connection to the rear. When fully engaged, the input shaft of the front and rear differentials are mechanically tied together. Acura’s SH-AWD system on the other hand is far more complicated. By making the rear wheels spin up to 5.8% faster than the front wheels, SH-AWD can essentially shift 70% of the power to the rear, and direct 100% of that rear-bound power to one wheel. If you want to know more about that, check out our video link.

The system’s ability to “overdrive”  the outside rear wheel in a corner makes the RL feel strangely neutral even when pressed hard. While SH-AWD is as close to a miracle worker as Acura can get, sales indicate that the snazzier AWD system isn’t a good reason to spend $6,000 more over the cost of a comparably equipped TL. What a pity.

The RL is perhaps one of the most forgotten and misunderstood vehicles of our time. Looking at the sales numbers, you’d think there was something horribly wrong with the RL. In 2011 only 1,096 RLs found a home meaning even the unloved Volvo S80 outsold it nearly 5:1 and the MKS bested it by 12:1. However, the problem with the RL isn’t that the Volvo, Lexus and Lincoln competition is more modern. The problem is the new TL with SH-AWD. With a thoroughly modern interior and electronics, the TL might have a less capable AWD system, but with a lower price tag it is no wonder it outsells the RL 31:1. Still, if you’re shopping for a $50,000 luxury sedan, the RL isn’t a bad choice, but the new RL couldn’t come any sooner.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.31 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.4 Seconds @ 97 MPH

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

78 Comments on “Review: 2012 Acura RL...”


  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Too many buttons and, revised beak or not, that front end is nasty. It looks like a parrot wearing glasses that have been discolored with age. Don’t get too close or it’ll bite.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      Agreed, I think actually may have made the beak look even more hideous than the old one.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      Agreed, I think they actually may have made the beak look even more hideous than the old one.

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      Yup, it’s got Accord-style buttonitis, and the beak is still there thanks to the Hondocracy’s circle-the-wagons, never-admit-a-mistake cultural disease. When I was at the Honda dealer a few weeks ago, the only interior I really liked was the Fit — three big, simple knobs and nothing weird (like the Civic dash bulging up to reduce forward visibility to a slit).

      In years gone by I always liked the RL, and thought at times I might buy one. But now there’s much more choice, and the possibility rarely comes to mind. If I ever get one, it won’t be this model.

    • 0 avatar

      I have such a hard time actually getting a good look at these cause they keep disappearing in my rear view mirror.

      For what Acura demands for a TL and RL, I’d never consider buying one over a Mercedes or BMW. Even an Audi.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    I considered a 2012 RL before leasing a 2012 TL SH-AWD, but the TL’s value, better satnav and instruments swayed me, even though I wanted the RL’s superior headlights and quietness. For a luxury car, the RL’s small cabin and small trunk are disappointing. I do regard the RL as far more attractive than the TL. Comparably equipped the TL is more entertaining to drive than the RL. Both cars are powerful enough for normal human beings driving on the road.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So looking at fueleconomy.gov to find interior room statistics for the RL and TL… the “flagship” has a whole one more cubic foot of interior room and one more cubic foot of trunk space. I know that that’s not the whole story but combine that with 5 mpg LESS in EPA highway fuel economy (2wd) and I can tell Honda why their not selling any RLs.

    The fuel economy could be forgiven IF the car was substantially bigger than it’s sibling.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      A 4,100 lbs Honda that geta 19 mpg? Is this an Americanized Japanese car or what?

      No premiums car technology from Honda as they getting left behind.

  • avatar
    carguy

    “Still, if you’re shopping for a $50,000 luxury sedan, the RL isn’t a bad choice, but the new RL couldn’t come any sooner.”

    Actually, that quote should have been:

    “If you’re looking for a used luxury sedan under $30K, the RL is a great choice thanks to cliff-face depreciation and solid reliability.”

    • 0 avatar

      I wish. I’ve been watching used RL values…they don’t seem to be going anywhere fast. No body wants to pay $50k new for one, but many are willing to pay high used values for a premium, reliable, sophisticated Japanese AWD sedan. This is one of the downsides of buying used…it corrects for vehicles that aren’t priced accordingly to market demands, so demand for them used is just fiiine.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        People aren’t letting these go all that easily, either – they like their RLs and tend to keep them.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        It maybe your area. There are 4 in my neighborhood, all under $25K

        http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=33602&endYear=2013&modelCode1=RL&showcaseOwnerId=56078731&startYear=2004&makeCode1=ACURA&searchRadius=25&listingId=316776038&Log=0

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I own an ’06 (bought used, he hastened to add; I’m neither rich nor insane), and God is in the details with this car. What’s great about the RL is not that all the features are there; it’s how well engineered and integrated they are.

      Yeah, other cars have AWD, but SH-AWD really is all that. Others have active noise cancellation, but the RL’s doesn’t boom like Infiniti M’s or cause subtle fatigue like some others. The RL’s joystick looks like iDrive, but Acura’s version works, as well as having backup buttons (hence the buttons) AND redundant voice commands. It lets you do what you want, how you’re comfortable doing it.

      As for size: I’ve driven both, and the comparison to the TL is misbegotten. They’re the same size, but they’re not the same car. The TL is faster, cheaper and cruder. The RL is a luxury sedan for two. The RL’s problem from the start was less a car problem than a target marketing problem; people with $50 large expected a prestige badge, a big back seat and trunk, and a V8 driving the rear wheels. The RL delivered the goods when you drove it, but most buyers in this class never showed up to find out.

      At this point, the car has gotten old. We all know the 2009 nose job was horribly botched. And removing the glorious real dashboard wood from the standard equipment list, while adding cheesy plood to the console, was a stupid mistake. But when you live with the RL on a daily basis, it earns your love like a very elegant, capable, comfortable, all-weather sheepdog. I intend to keep mine until the wheels fall off — and at this rate, I don’t expect them to fall off for 20 years.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    This is just an awful looking car from any angle. Acura would have been better off killing the RL nameplate than releasing this to the public.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    It’s ugly, small, expensive, dated and barely on par with the other forgotten faux luxury brand: Lincoln. I can’t see why these things aren’t flying off of the lots.

    Everything in the car screams of apology for not being up to par with the competition, the current decade, or even the current century. Reminds of me when Mazda had the nerve to charge 30-40 grand for the Millenia.

    I can’t see how they found 1000 idiots to part with 50 grand worth of hard earned cash for this car, but then again, what do I know…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      We can’t all have the taste, judgement, and sophistication to buy cars with transmissions that don’t work smoothly on the test drive. This is one of two cars in its class that are keepers instead of a rentals.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        CJ, are you referring to Lexus GS as the other?

        I might include Infiniti M in that group too, if one stays away from the high-end electronic nannies – it sounds from C/D’s long-term test as if they haven’t perfected them yet.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Not everyone needs a four-wheel penis extender – sometimes all one wants is a capable, comfortable, and extremely high quality car that doesn’t shout anything. Have you driven these RLs? Sounds like you haven’t. I have – they’re great to drive. Not many people have bought them but those that do end up loving them.

      • 0 avatar
        Liger

        The interior looks to be of very high quality, and I read another review or comment that this car is the last “old Honda” that Honda still makes. This car will probably last forever, yet the gas mileage is unacceptable.

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        For 50,000 dollars I don’t just want my penis extended, I want it attended to in every imaginable way–and with a courteous demeanor. This car is ugly, down on power, and has dated electronics. I could care less how great it drives or how long it will last because you’ve lost me on the parrotfish styling alone. Once you spend that much money on a car it no longer becomes a rational decision and I’d rather have the impression that I “deserve” it somehow and let Merc or Bimmer fluff me while I drive down the road.

        I’ll let you in on a secret, Acura is making a luxury top end sedan for 25 years ago. The Genesis V8 sedan is understated and reliable, and boring as well, and a much better car… But I can’t imagine parting with over 30 grand to sit on dead cows all day long and endure the Japanese definition of luxury. I’ll just buy an Avalon or the equally ugly Lexus ES. I can guarantee you that I won’t tell the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        That’s OK – it’s a matter of priorities. Some people value gingerbread and impressing the neighbors rather than quality and driving dynamics. Some people also like jumping to conclusions based on superficial impressions rather than actual experience.

  • avatar
    tced2

    This is another example of the poor (confused?) product planning going on at Acura. We have the TSX becoming the TL (added size, V6). The V6 TSX (a poor seller) costs similar to the TL. Then we have the TL becoming the RL (similar sizes). The RL is an expensive TL. The elephant in the room is the fact that the TSX and RL are made in Japan which puts the pricing at a disadvantage (yen to dollar conversion). The ILX fixes the currency problem since it is produced in the US. The TL is already produced in the US.

    In my “perfect” Acura world, there would be a 4-cylinder (TSX or ILX), 6-cylinder (TL) and 8-cylinder (RL) models. Clear differentiation. The 4- and 6- cylinder models could be based on Honda models, the 8-cylinder would be distinctive from a Honda chassis – higher price points would justify the unique chassis.

    “same sausage, different lengths” worked for you-know-who for years.

    DVD-A was a fringe audio format in its heyday. Maybe they should offer SACD (another marginal format).

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I never paid attention to the RL because it seemed like a retiree kind of car. Yet, the advanced SH-AWD would suggest otherwise, which sows more confusion. Certainly, the SH-AWD belongs on the upcoming NSX, but the RL? Why?

      Instead of TL and RL, Acura would be no worse off had they named their lineup Kal-El and Jor-El. :) (See Superman family tree)

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree with you point about clear differentiation, but personally buying a Japanese car becomes moot for me when its not made in Japan. If I’m going to lay down 50 large for an Acura it had better be made in Japan, otherwise whats the point? I can have a German made Benz for that price, to be that was always the point of buying “foreign”.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Honda has never made a v8. General point is well taken though.

      • 0 avatar
        tced2

        They “make” a V8 for the Indycars – admittedly it’s very low numbers. But the experience is there and could be applied to an exclusive car – a top-of-the-line Acura.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    It looks too much like an Accord sedan, especially from the front. I honestly feel it looks more like the Accord than the TL does, and it’s the TL and Accord that are built in the same facility!

    This car and the ZDX both should cease to exist. Acura needs diversification, and not multiple lines that compete with themselves for the same buyers.

    Hell, Honda should sell this with a manual. Not like it’s going to hurt its already nonexistent sales! :P

  • avatar
    rentonben

    CGA graphics navigation system? Can you play Pooyan on it?

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Hey it has a joystick, a rotary knob, and no shortage of buttons…

      Honda’s nav is mostly good, even if unappealing. The #1 thing I hate is that it doesn’t remember anything when it comes to avoiding streets. You can’t program streets to avoid always, and when you tell it to dodge a street in-route, if it recalculates for any reason, it will put you right back on the street you just told it to avoid. Definitely needs an update in that department.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      OMG, Pooyan reference. Nice!

  • avatar

    Get rid of the chrome beak !

  • avatar
    david42

    My dad just traded his 2006 RL for a new G37x. Aside from burning a bit of oil, and a few creaks/rattles (which only my comparatively young ears could hear), it ran like a champ with 150k miles. I always liked driving it: if you could accept the less-than-stellar (but still pretty good) steering, the SH-AWD would let you do all sorts of stupid stuff.

    I also like the interior aesthetic MUCH more than any Acura product ever except the NSX. (This was back in the day when all RLs had standard real wood trim.) It felt open and spacious, and the material quality was excellent in most places.

    Of course, I’d never pay $50k of my own for such a cramped vehicle (no complaints about the driver’s seat, though). And I’m afraid that the SH-AWD system was lost on most potential buyers of a plush, reliable luxury sedan. Too bad they couldn’t sell it for $40k, or put that system in a TSX.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    “The problem is the new TL with SH-AWD. With a thoroughly modern interior and electronics, the TL might have a less capable AWD system, but with a lower price tag it is no wonder it outsells the RL 31:1.”

    How is SH-AWD different in the TL compared to the RL?

    For 2013 the Acura RDX no longer has SH-AWD, but uses an inferior system similar to the Honda CR-V.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    I like the proportions from the A-pillar rearward, but the front end always seemed too wide and mousey to me, with the nose tucked downward and the hood rising to flow into the A-pillar. I like the previous RL (1996-2004) better, especially its front end: long, low and relatively flat on top. The previous RL had more presence!

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Buttons are okay with me. They provide fast direct access, whereas dials and layers of menus offer slower sequential access. Of course, this is for drivers who have sufficient button memory bandwidth in their heads.

    Buttons, along with Acura’s reliability and low maintenance, suggests this car wants a long term relationship with the driver rather than a one night stand.

    Alex, nice review and video.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m also totally OK with buttons, if they’re logically laid out. A button has physical feedback that a flat glass plate does not. You can feel a button’s style, heft and position without taking your eyes off the road so much (or at all.)

      Personally I believe this move towards touch screens in cars and on phones has led to more distracted driving issues. I can dial a number without looking at it on my old feature phone; not so with my “smart” phone. Even accessing the voice command requires touching the screen with no real physical feedback beyond a little “tut” of the haptic feedback feature. I have to physically take my eyes off the road to look at it, which is dangerous.

      Buttons may be old fashioned, but they are smarter, safer and if done right, no less useful than a screen.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I was going to write all the steps involved with dialing a number from the address book on my Honda (probably the same on Acura), but I’ll just let it suffice it to say that it is indeed ridiculously buried beneath dials and menus.

      It is magnitudes easier (and even less distracting) to look up the number in my contacts on the phone itself and dial it, then talk through Bluetooth. That is a serious design failure. There should be a Phone Book button on the wheel or dash.

      And don’t get me started on how you can only pair your first phone with the buttons, but HAVE to use deeply-layered voice commands for every subsequent phone…

      • 0 avatar

        Let me write the steps for you.

        1. Push phone button that is at your fingertip when driving (Hear beep).
        2. Say “Call or Dial Wife”. Wife can be replaced by saying the digits.
        3. Hear “Would you like to call “Wife”.
        4. Push phone button (hear beep)
        5. Say “Yes”
        6. Ring Ring
        7. Talk
        8. Hangup or let the call drop as the cell phone auto drops.

        2005 TL

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    “the RL has aged well and still strikes an elegant pose that is decidedly more exciting than the sedate Volvo S80″
    Dude seriously this thing was old when it was introduced. It has not aged well at all. It just now looks like an 10 year old Accord. I am convinced that the only reason this thing cost so much is due to it not sharing platforms with any other Honda product. Just take the TL and stretch it if thats the case. Yes I have driven one,several times (thanks lil bro). It drives ok, but not worth the 50plus you would spend on it new.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I see absolutely no reason to buy this whatsoever when the A6 is the same price.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Driving a stealthy RL instead of a leased(no one in their right mind would buy) 2012 Audi A6 would mean that I wouldn’t have to put up with trash approaching me in parking lots and telling me what sort of ‘rims’ my ‘ride’ needs to ‘set it off.’

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Driving a stealthy RL instead of a leased(no one in their right mind would buy) 2012 Audi A6 would mean that I wouldn’t have to put up with trash approaching me in parking lots and telling me what sort of ‘rims’ my ‘ride’ needs to ‘set it off.’”

        With just a slight change in affiliation, you could be a moderator for the Saabs United website.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Audi shares driveway space with a Honda I bought brand new for cash. There are two more at my other home. If Saab really had people like me in their camp, they’d have a business instead of a cult.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “If Saab really had people like me in their camp, they’d have a business instead of a cult.”

        Oh, I’m pretty sure that many of those diehards who adored their Saabs also owned one or two of them.

        What you call “stealthy” is what the automaker would refer to as “money loser.” A current model car that is both unpopular and is selling for well under six figures isn’t anything for an automaker to brag about. Ferraris are meant to be exclusive and carry a price tag to match; Acura sedans, not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      At least until 40k miles when the repairs bills start rolling in for the A6….

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The market for $50,000+ uber-Accords is decidedly small.

    Honda appears to be utterly incapable of understanding luxury branding and the level of differentiation that is required in order to move upmarket. Over the long run, this will prove to be a problem.

    If Honda has a legacy cost to bear, it’s in its apparent inability to build on its roots as a maker of four-cylinder engines. That limitation simply isn’t going to cut it if it is to ever take on the Germans.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      HMC = Saab

      No turbo or supercharger, direct injection, multispeed transmission…

      They can’t build a truck worth it’s weight let alone a full size one since they don’t have a V8. I know the Ridgeline guys that tow they 90′s Civic to auto crosses and turn on their Honda generators would want to upgrade too. Even the hybrid Insight is a joke today comparing fuel economy is ajoke compared to a late model Civic when comparing price.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Saabs have just been trim packages on GM junk with one rebadged Subaru exception for over 20 years. During Saab’s time as an independent car company, they produced a reverse-engineered DKW knock-off and one platform that they then developed for their last 20 years in operation. Everything else they had was a rebadged FIAT, like the 9000 and 600. Even their engines were bought from Ford, copied from DKW, or developed by Triumph. Comparing Saab to Honda is like comparing the Bahamas to Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Get ready, folks, it’s time for today’s installment of “Clash of the Fanbois!”

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I must be the only person who likes the pre-beaked RL. I thought it the nose as it originally was was elegant for the car and much more timeless. Audi’s and Mercedes are austere and haughty… I don’t get why people don’t think Acura should be anything different.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      No, you’re far from the only one. The car sold much, much better before the changeover. I’m a regular visitor to the RL owners’ website, and the revulsion toward the 2009+ beak is virtually unanimous — even among some of the few who own the newer one.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    For the kind of money Acura is apparently plowing into the RLX’ drivetrain one would think it would be cheaper and more market-acceptable to design and produce a proper rear wheel drive luxury car, and name it the Legend.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Gardiner, many of us RL owners passionately agree that the new car should be called the Legend, that this one should have been, and that Acura should ditch the alphabet soup approach up and down the lineup. Just as with the beak, they’re not listening to anyone.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I test drove a new 2005 RL. It was probably the worst riding vehicle I’ve ever been in. In fact I stopped the test drive to check the tire pressures. They were correct and the ride was like an ox cart. The salesmen kept repeating to me that “this one is made in Japan” like it was some kind of sales mantra. It didn’t even offer back up sensors let alone a V8.

    In the end I gave it a fair shake – but I took my money elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Strange – I thought that the RL I drove had a pretty compliant ride that was anything but an ox-cart. In fact, Car and Driver complained that the ride of the 2005 RL might have been a little too soft.

      Then I saw your avatar and that apparently explains your dislike. No, the RL does not ride like a ’75 Sedan deVille. I consider that a good thing.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Others also thought the car was too soft. That’s why they stiffened up the base suspension for ’09.

        In fact, I was one of them, which is why I swapped in Honda’s aftermarket A-Spec springs and dampers.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    These were rather population 5-6 years ago in the tech-Austin area. It seems Audi has really made inroads with the tech crowd.

    Personally I find it a beautiful car – calmly seductive. Ok except for the grill. But not $50k worth.

    With all the technology today, there is no reason a luxury maker (or even near-luxury) HAS to offer an 8-cylinder or even larger. Exactly when will you use that power?

    • 0 avatar
      Aqua225

      Most luxury car owners disagree with you, so I am not too worried.

      But what a V8 is about is quiet, effortless horsepower. This means lots of torque at the low range so that the shaft horsepower is still reasonably high before you even reach 2KRPM.

      True luxury car buyers like cars that are completely sedate, and can ooze into the triple digits (legal or not) without effort or considerable noise.

      If you want to compare, go drive a Lexus 4xx whatever they are now, and plant your right foot in the accelerator and count to 15. Also, realize you just did NOT hear any engine noise. It was effortless, other than the speed-o, fast moving scenery, and you hair squished, nothing really happened.

      Now, go punch down on a MKZ or whatever the lincoln turbo sedan is. Yes, you may be going even faster than the big L, but you know it from the whipped rats going for broke under the hood.

      If you are just looking leather and a soft ride, with just enough power to get around but sounds like a wailing banshee, go for a camry 4 banger with leather seats.

  • avatar

    “Good luck finding DVD-A discs”

    Ridiculous. Honda is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Honda is so clueless. This car was overpriced by $10k and undersized by 10 inches.

    It’s almost as if they have a bit of the Cadillac/Lincoln syndrome… not understanding what constitutes a proper flagship. That usually comes from overly conservative product planning.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Little Mermaid soundtrack, eh?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I agree with others’ negative comments on the beak, the buttons, the price, and Honda’s cluelessness.

    But that awful interior color combination reminds me of a two-tone 75 Grenada; it was hard to look at the photos.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Acura finally caught up to Buick.

  • avatar
    Bushwack

    Back in 2007, It was between the RL and Lexus GS350 of which car I would lease. The RL was quite good but the GS did almost everything a little better. What swayed me towards the GS were four things: The leather was nicer in the GS, the IP/dash was easier to navigate, the RL came only with 17″ wheels (18″ wheels was $2,000 more) and finally, the Acura was $2,300 more out the door then a comparable GS350. Five years later and I bought my trouble free GS350 off from the lease and haven’t looked back.

  • avatar
    dancote

    I owned Acuras when they had real names like Legend and looked attractive. Sigh.

  • avatar
    tailgate1234

    A few RL features not mentioned in the review: it has a spare tire, it has protective side moldings and it has 5 mph bumpers. 5 mph bumpers? How many cars made the last 10 years have these?

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Don’t worry, the genius generation of stylist will for sure lose all of these things in the re-design and it will look as bland and ugly as everything else. And it will have a ton of technology that most of it’s older operators will never use or know how to use.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    6000 SUX

  • avatar
    aunt_slappy

    I bought a new RL in 2005, and it now has about 100K miles. I think the review was in general agreement with my own experiences with my car, to the extent that valid comparisons can be made between the ’05 and ’12 models. I agree that the newer Acuras are hideous, even when partially de-beaked. The concept RL looks like the front was styled by one committee and the rear by another. How depressing. That said, I love my RL, it is stone reliable and a joy to drive. With mostly highway mileage I get about 23-24 MPG and my husband around 27. I’m cruising at between 70 and 80 when traffic allows. I hope that Acura restyles their cars before I’m ready to buy new. I’ll probably keep mine for a few more years unless the new model is good looking.

  • avatar
    SP

    “Despite debuting over seven years ago…”

    Yes, 1996 *is* over seven years ago.

    I guess the takeaway is that:

    If automotive journalists can’t quite remember in which of the last 3 decades your product debuted …

    Then you may be doing something wrong.

    Take notes, Acura.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Take notes, SP.

      The 2005 RL was an entirely new car which shared next to nothing with the first-generation 1996-2004 RL. You may be doing something wrong yourself.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The only Acura I would even consider sans the terrible meat clever grille and the land-o-plastic engine bay.

  • avatar
    johnhayd

    I actually did own a 2006 acura rl with the technology package: adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system and run flat tires.
    as other have said, compared to a tl, it is less sporty but has much higher quality of materials. the multiple buttons work fine: they are different shapes so you can know which button to push by touch. the shawd really helped the car handle well. My car was totalled this fall, so I have to replace it with a new car. I still miss it.I thought about buying another one to replacce it but decided to get a lincoln mkz hybrid due to the need for higher gas mileage.

  • avatar
    PeugeotHound

    I echo the other RL owners, especially TonyCD, in this discussion. I own an ’08 that I bought used in March of ’09 for $36k with 5,000 miles on it. I consider it the deal of the century. I lusted after this car for all the reasons most people avoided it: understatement and interesting engineering vs. penis extension. I’ve owned a Peugeot and an Alfa, so I must have a defective gene that steers me toward unloved, overlooked cars. I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy (no pun intended) of this review. This car is all about artful subtlety. Acura managed to build a comfortable luxury sedan with sufficient power and a smooth ride that also handles like it’s on rails. They accomplished this without ratcheting down the suspension or installing low profile tires. The credit goes to the SW-AWD, which creates a handling experience that, as the reviewer observed, sits somewhere between FWD push and RWD oversteer with the added twist of being able to pivot around corners by adding power. Throw in other quiet engineering grace notes like a carbon fiber drive shaft, dual-stage exhausts, aerodynamic flaps on the underbody, absolutely flush side glass and precisely balanced doors that close with the touch of a finger and you get a car whose attributes are not immediately apparent on the showroom floor. What don’t I like about this car? It’s still not as good in the snow as the quattro in my previous Audi. And, it lacks some euro-specific touches like the radio RDS, rear fog lights and bank vault solidity felt in German cars. Despite those drawbacks, for me this car as a keeper. It should come as no surprise, therefor, that few of these can be found on used car lots.

  • avatar

    The RL strikes me as the perfect car for a 55-year-old structural engineer who just retired and is now shopping for a new home in Palm Springs. Unfortunately, the market pool of well-heeled structural engineers is a bit thin.

    I get what people are saying about understated luxury and all, but if I’m going to spend $50k on a conservative luxury vehicle, what’s there to stop me from buying a Lexus ES instead? Better still, I could spend $35k on a Toyota Avalon and pocket the difference.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India