The Truth About Cars » Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:13:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Mega-Mileage Acura RLs of eBay http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-mega-mileage-acura-rls-of-ebay/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-mega-mileage-acura-rls-of-ebay/#comments Sun, 03 Nov 2013 15:30:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=640953 It’s been a long time since the Acura Legend or its successors had much mojo. The second-generation model, most notably the six-speed manual-shifted coupe, had a certain amount of street presence and enthusiast credibility, but the two generations that came after that didn’t impress anyone. The current car is perceived by the public as a […]

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It’s been a long time since the Acura Legend or its successors had much mojo. The second-generation model, most notably the six-speed manual-shifted coupe, had a certain amount of street presence and enthusiast credibility, but the two generations that came after that didn’t impress anyone. The current car is perceived by the public as a bigger TL, even if it isn’t one, not totally.

It’s probably safe to say that most buyers in the segment don’t even consider an RL when they’re shopping. But the ones who do like the RL tend to put some serious mileage on them. How serious? Well…


A quick trawl through eBay showed that, of the thirty-five RLs listed, eleven of them had over 100,000 miles, with five boasting odometer readings over 150K. Our cover-shot car has 221,000 miles. More interesting than that, virtually all of the high-mileage cars are of the second-gen (2005-2012) variety.

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This surprisingly decent-looking example has 225,000 listed on the odometer. As a comparison, there are sixty-nine Lexus GS350s listed on the ‘Bay. Two of them have over 100,000 miles, with the highest-mileage one for sale showing just 111,600. We won’t bother to discuss the equivalent BMW Funfers, of course; those cars tend to be as disposable as cheap prophylactics.

So. There are a lot of people driving the wheels off the biggest Honda. The question is: why? I’d suggest that it’s a combination of engineering and expectations. The RL has a fairly well-proven, low-stress engine. It’s conservatively designed and (if you care) built in Japan. The people at Honda take a lot of pride in the Legend and RL and have typically taken pains to ensure that the cars are thoroughly worked out prior to going on sale.

With that said, the second-generation RL was not trouble-free and if you take a look through the owners’ forums you can see that they occasionally have expensive issues. That’s where expectations come it. The typical RL buyer is a Honda lifer, often an older person who started with an Accord in the Seventies or Eighties and often fairly successful in his career. He or she expects to keep his Honda a long time and he’s willing to spend a fair amount of money to make that happen. This is how Mercedes-Benz gained a reputation for reliability: because the owners were affluent and the cars had a reputation for lasting forever, the kind of major repairs that would send most cars to the junkyard or the buy-here-pay-here lot were simply completed without much regard for cost and next thing you know you have a 300,000-mile grey-market 230E rolling around.

Thirty years ago, you wouldn’t need me to tell you about the RL’s mile-eating abilities; there would already be advertisements putting the message out. Honda used to make the reliability and durability of its cars the front-and-center message. This is what we get nowadays:

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“Intuition, unleashed by the will of the driver.” What does that even mean? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to junk that worthless headline and replace it with “The quarter-million-mile luxury car”? Maybe not. Honda wants Acura to be relentlessly upscale, and what’s so upscale about building a long-lasting, high-quality product, unless you live in a world much saner than this one?

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Review: 2014 Acura RLX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/#comments Sat, 17 Aug 2013 02:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498841 Breaking into the Luxury market isn’t easy. Toyota has arguably had the most success with Lexus, the only full-line luxury marque sold in America that isn’t German. Infiniti gave up on trying to go head-to-head with the S-Class and 7-Series when they ditched the Q, and Cadillac has yet to have a complete and coherent […]

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2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Breaking into the Luxury market isn’t easy. Toyota has arguably had the most success with Lexus, the only full-line luxury marque sold in America that isn’t German. Infiniti gave up on trying to go head-to-head with the S-Class and 7-Series when they ditched the Q, and Cadillac has yet to have a complete and coherent strategy. Meanwhile Acura started off strong with the Legend, created a competent E/5 competitor with the all-wheel-drive RL, and then things started to fall apart. Can the RLX bring the brand back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why do I bring up Germans in a review of a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan? Because some folks [not everyone mind you] at Acura and plenty of fan boys would like to think the brand runs with the big dogs. In truth Acura has always been a “near-luxury” brand because they lack a full-size competitor to play in the S-Class/7-Series/A8 pool.

Competition

In order to look at the RLX through the right lens, we need to nail down the competition. Acura would like you to believe the front-wheel-drive RLX should be pitted against the rear-wheel-drive BMW 528/535, Mercedes E350 and Lexus GS350. I think this comparison has a few problems. First, the RLX isn’t as dynamic as a RWD sedan. Second, Acura’s brand position is a problem. What say our readers? Should the brand matter in comparisons? Should this all be priced based? In my mind the RLX’s drivetrain and the brand’s near-luxury image put the Acura in direct competition with the Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80. What about the FWD/AWD A6? Perhaps, but Audi’s brand is a solid BMW/Mercedes competitor these days.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009

Exterior

Acura’s flagship has always worn elegant and restrained sheetmetal and that continues with the RLX. Up front we get a more muted and better integrated version of Acura’s signature “beak” flanked by multi-beam LED headlamps. The LED high and low beams are standard on every RLX and strike a unique pose as identifiable as BMW’s “angel eyes.”

The RLX’s rump is probably the best looking in Acura’s current product portfolio. I’ve never cared for the jumble of shapes on the TL’s back side, thankfully none of them are along for the ride. In an interesting twist, Acura put the RLX’s quad exhaust tips behind the bumper where you can’t see them instead of integrating them into the bumper cover as in the smaller TL. Looking at the RLX from the side it’s obvious this car has grown. The rear doors give the Acura a more luxurious look than the old RL which had a decidedly Accord-like silhouette. A long front overhang advertises the transverse engine layout in the RLX, but that’s not really a problem with our pre-defined competition since the two Americans and the Swede are all FWD platforms as well.

In my opinion, the RLX’s exterior ranks second behind the 2014 Volvo S80’s clean lines. Yes the Volvo is getting old, but frequent refreshed have helped it age well. I like Caddy’s art-and-science design theme on every Caddy except the XTS where I find the proportions to be awkward. However Awkward trumps the ginormous and bizarre schnoz on the Lincoln MKS.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RLX’s interior is one place where I can not only compare the Acura to the Germans, it’s an area where Acura excels. You won’t find a full-on stitched leather dash like the Volvo S80 or the Mercedes E350 with the “designo” package, but you can “option up” a band of stitched leather running across the cabin. Anyway you order your RLX, perfect seams and a tasteful amount of metallic trim are standard. You’ll also find perfect seams and fit and finish quality that would make Lexus blush. What you won’t find is real tree. The choice of fake wood on upper trim levels perplexes me when all the RLX competitors slather the cabin in acres of burl. (Base RLX models get faux-metal trim.) When it comes to interior styling and quality, I rank the RLX above the E350, 528i, S80, MKS, XTS, GS350, and yes, even the A6.

Front seat comfort ranks second in this quartet behind Volvo’s large and supportive thrones. Enlarging the pool only drops the Acura to third place above the BMW 5-series’ standard seats but behind the optional million-way sport buckets. Oddly however, those seats aren’t covered in leather in base RLX models. Want real moo? That’ll be $6,000 more than the RLX’s base $48,450. This may be in line with Lexus’ recent move in the GS, but the RLX’s closest competition comes with real leather standard.

Rear passengers have notably more room than the outgoing RL with legroom and headroom in line with everyone else. While Lincoln and Cadillac cut corners in the back, Acura delivers rich plastics and an attention to detail that places it first in thus class and certainly on par with BMW’s 5.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
If one screen is good, two must be better, right? My short answer is: sometimes. The standard two-screen system first debuted in the new Accord and is tweaked for luxury duty donning the AcuraLink name. The concept as explained to me is: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My beef with the system is: you still need to use the upper screen to navigate your media device as the lower screen simply selects sources and changes tracks somewhat defeating the purpose of splitting the screens. Because of this split personality, and the fact that you have to use the touchscreen, and the knob/dial controller, and the button-bank to navigate the system, AcuraLink comes across as “not fully baked.”

Since my first experience with AcuraLink, the system has grown on me, and in the RLX the dual screens are very well integrated into the dashboard rather than looking like an afterthought as in the Honda. AcuraLink is without question snappier than MyLincoln Touch or Cadillac’s buggy CUE system. I find Volvo’s Sensus interface more intuitive, but you need binoculars to use the microscopic LCD.

Two screens might be standard on the $48,450 base model, but navigation is not. Want maps? That bumps the price to $50,950. For $54,450 Acura will bump the speaker count from 10 to 14, watts from 404 to 588, add sound deadening side glass, rain sense wipers, and folding side mirrors. If you want the Krell audio and all the electronic goodies like radar cruise, lane keep assist, parking sensors, dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats that bumps the price of the RLX to an eye watering $60,450. Ouch.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Acura’s only engine for 2014 is a direct-injected 310HP 3.5L V6 that cranks out 272lb-ft of torque. In typical Acura fashion peak power comes at 6,500 RPM, torque comes to a boil at a lofty 4,500 RPM and the six-pot is smooth as butter at every RPM. 310 ponies used to be something to brag about, unfortunately this is 2014 and the RLX’s mill only leads when you compare it to base engines in the competition. The problem is everyone but Acura offers a more powerful engine option. If you think nobody options up, let’s look at the numbers. Lincoln says over 30% of MKS shoppers opt for their twin-turbo V6 which puts down 19% more power and 30% more torque. My local Volvo dealer says the take rate on the twin-scroll turbo S80 with AWD (300 horsepower and 325lb-ft, 20% more twist) is nearly 80% and I’m not in the snow belt. It remains to be seen how many of the fire-breathing twin-turbo 410 horse V6s Cadillac ships in the XTS, but judging by the competition I expect them to shift a few. The Germans? Their twin-turbo V8s are in a different performance ballpark but the 443 horsepower 550i starts just $3,500 more than the top-end RLX.

Power isn’t the only area where the RLX is at a competitive disadvantage, Acura also dropped their Super Handling AWD system from their flagship. Acura’s torque vectoring AWD, capable of continually varying the FWD/RWD bias, set the old RL apart (and ahead) from the pack. Yes, there will be a hybrid AWD RLX soon we are told, but with a maximum of around 60 horsepower at the rear wheels the 370HP RLX hybrid is likely to retain a strong FWD bias. (The system will not have a mechanical connection between the engine and rear wheels. Instead there will be a ~40HP motor/generator between the engine and transaxle and an approximately 28HP motor at each rear wheel.) The less sophisticated AWD systems found in the MKS, XTS and S80 are suddenly the choice for driving enthusiasts.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The lack of AWD has a huge impact in the way the RLX drives compared to its predecessor. The old RL was a hoot and a half on winding mountain roads. In comparison, the RLX is three-quarters of a hoot. The old RL was capable of sending the majority of the engine’s power to the outside rear wheel making it corner with precision and confidence. When pushed to its limits, the front-heavy RL understeered predictably. The RLX on the other hand is probably one of the most capable front drivers on the market, easily more capable than the FWD Lincoln, Cadillac or Volvo but slots behind AWD versions of the same.

Acura’s “Precision All Wheel Steer” system (dubbed P-AWS) is the reason for the RLX’s crisp handling. P-AWS differs from other systems on the market in that it can rotate the rear wheels independently of one another allowing the car to toe both wheels in when braking. That might sound odd, but doing so keeps the RLX’s rear end from feeling “squirely” under hard braking, something usually associated with nose-heavy sedans. P-AWS is tuned to “mimic” oversteer as much as possible in corners leading to a peculiar combination of slight torque steer, [very] mild oversteer and a hint of wheel hop all at the same time. This is a confluence of personalities you will find only in the RLX. Helping out is an always-active stability control system. Unlike the stability control on most cars which only intervene when things go pear-shaped, this system is always playing with the brakes trying to “improve” the handling characteristics of the RLX. Paired with electric power steering these systems make the RLX the best handling, but the most artificial large FWD sedan I have ever driven.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010

Our RLX was equipped with Acura’s “Lane Keep Assist” system which uses the electric power steering system to help keep you in your lane. Unlike all the other systems on the market, on a freeway the LKA system is almost always providing some level of steering assistance. Acura likens the aid to a ball riding in a “U” shaped trough, the closer you get to the lane lines, the more the system assists. I don’t know if I have formed an opinion on the system yet, but it did work as advertised and can be turned off completely.

If you’ve been keeping score, I found the RLX to be the second most attractive on the outside, have the best interior, second most comfortable seats, best infotainment system, best handling numbers, a middling engine and questionable behind-the-wheel-feel. One might assume this puts the RLX towards the top of the quartet, and perhaps a viable alternative to the Germans. One would be wrong. The RLX is unquestionably a good car, but it’s $3,200 more than a similarly configured FWD XTS, $8,275 more than the  FWD Volvo S80 and $9,990 more than the FWD MKS. Things get worse when you load up the Lincoln and Volvo with the more powerful S80 T6 AWD still $5,000 cheaper and the 365HP MKS Ecoboost AWD $3,000 less expensive. Only Cadillac’s 410HP XTS VSport is more expensive ranging from $62,000-$72,000. The news is just as grim when pitted against the luxury competition with the RLX being $1,300 more than the Lexus GS350, $1,200 less than the Infiniti M37, and only a $3,000 discount compared to the E350 and BMW 535i. The result is the RLX has no “value” proposition to counter the middling engine numbers, FWD bias, road feel and most importantly: the brand image. Sadly I fear the RLX is about $10,000 away from being a great car and $15,000 away from being a game changer. Until Acura realigns their flagship’s capabilities (or shrinks the price tag) the RLX is destined to be the car everyone likes but nobody buys.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.28 Seconds @ 99 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 781 miles

 

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-001 2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-003 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-004 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-005 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-006 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-007 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-008 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-011 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-012 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior 2014 Acura RLX Interior-001 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-003 2014 Acura RLX Interior-004 2014 Acura RLX Interior-005 2014 Acura RLX Interior-006 2014 Acura RLX Interior-007 2014 Acura RLX Interior-008 2014 Acura RLX Interior-009 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-011 2014 Acura RLX Interior-012 2014 Acura RLX Interior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior-014 2014 Acura RLX Interior-015 2014 Acura RLX Interior-016 2014 Acura RLX Interior-017 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-019 2014 Acura RLX 2014 Acura RLX-001

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Honda Shows Off New Tech In Old Wrappers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/honda-shows-off-new-tech-in-old-wrappers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/honda-shows-off-new-tech-in-old-wrappers/#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2012 17:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466632 Apparently, Honda invited some journalists to Japan so they could go check out new technology carefully packaged into existing cars, lest anyone reveal super-secret things like what the next Acura RL looks like. No matter, we’ve got everything below. The 2014 Honda Fit will get a new EarthDreams/CVT combo. Only a few specs were released, […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Apparently, Honda invited some journalists to Japan so they could go check out new technology carefully packaged into existing cars, lest anyone reveal super-secret things like what the next Acura RL looks like. No matter, we’ve got everything below.

  1. The 2014 Honda Fit will get a new EarthDreams/CVT combo. Only a few specs were released, but we do know that it’s good for a 6 percent bump in torque and a 10 percent boost in fuel economy. The proof will be in the pudding, since 112 lb-ft of torque doesn’t sound like much of an improvement over the current Fit’s wheezy engine.
  2. Another Fit mule was outfitted (hehe) with Honda’s next-gen hybrid system; a 1.5L gasoline 4-cylinder with an electric motor and a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. The new system is said to deliver a 30 percent gain in fuel economy. Maximum EV-only range is 3 km, with top speed in electric mode coming in at 70 km/h.
  3. The next-generation Acura RLX will come in front or all-wheel drive. The AWD version will use Honda’s new hybrid system to power the rear wheels, with a gasoline engine at the front. The FWD version will get 4-wheel steering, just like the Preludes of yesterday. Apparently, this technology might filter down to other cars as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll see the return of digital dashboards and motorized seat belts.

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September 2012’s Sales Losers: Mitsubishi i-MiEV Outsells Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/september-2012s-sales-losers-mitsubishi-i-miev-outsells-acura-rl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/september-2012s-sales-losers-mitsubishi-i-miev-outsells-acura-rl/#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2012 16:25:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462782 Independent sales analyst Tim Cain has released his Worst Selling Vehicles list for September 2012, with not just one but three measures of poor performance. While sales of the Mazda3 were up 57 percent, every other Mazda was in the dumps; the CX-9 was down for its 8th consecutive month, while the Mazda5 performed dismally […]

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Independent sales analyst Tim Cain has released his Worst Selling Vehicles list for September 2012, with not just one but three measures of poor performance.

While sales of the Mazda3 were up 57 percent, every other Mazda was in the dumps; the CX-9 was down for its 8th consecutive month, while the Mazda5 performed dismally in a Chrysler-dominated minivan market.

The Acura RL is suffered its most ignominious defeat this month, being outsold by the Suzuki Grand Vitara by a 10:1 ratio, while also being bested by the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in the monthly sales tally. Also worthy of being singled out for poor performance; the Porsche Cayman. Sales of the baby P-car fell 84 percent in September 2012, with just 15 units sold.

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Next Acura RL Debuting At Los Angeles Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/next-acura-rl-debuting-at-los-angeles-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/next-acura-rl-debuting-at-los-angeles-auto-show/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 19:59:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461221 The next Acura RL will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Here’s what it won’t have; Rear-wheel drive, a V8 engine, non-derivative styling, an endorsement from Harrison Ford and the gyroscope-based navigation system that debuted on the first generation car. Here’s what it will have.

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Click here to view the embedded video.

The next Acura RL will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Here’s what it won’t have; Rear-wheel drive, a V8 engine, non-derivative styling, an endorsement from Harrison Ford and the gyroscope-based navigation system that debuted on the first generation car. Here’s what it will have.

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Review: 2012 Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441436 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 […]

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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.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, SH-AWD badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, beak, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment screen, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Next Acura RL Will Not Have Electric SH-AWD As Standard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/next-acura-rl-will-not-have-electric-sh-awd-as-standard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/next-acura-rl-will-not-have-electric-sh-awd-as-standard/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2012 21:50:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427938 Today, TTAC was treated to what might be the first look at Acura’s newest flagship. While we saw renderings of the new car, we weren’t allowed to take photographs – but none of the information released was embargoed. The look of the next RL can best be described as a current TL mated with a […]

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Today, TTAC was treated to what might be the first look at Acura’s newest flagship. While we saw renderings of the new car, we weren’t allowed to take photographs – but none of the information released was embargoed.

The look of the next RL can best be described as a current TL mated with a Hyundai Genesis. The overall design is still distinctly Acura, though the rear of the car has a very strong Hoffmeister kink and an overall profile similar to the Genesis or Equus, including a very short rear deck. The taillights echo the Buick Lacrosse – while it sounds unappealing on paper, the design as a whole is not unattractive, just extremely conservative.

The new car is said to be about the size of a 5-Series but with the interior space of a 7-Series. Powertrain details didn’t go much further beyond a V6 of undisclosed displacement, a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox and Acura’s SH-AWD system (previewed on the Accord prototype seen in the above photograph) that uses two electric motors in the rear rather than a mechanical linkage to deliver power to the rear wheels and vector torque amongst the left and right rear sides. Acura officials said that the system would not be standard on the new flagship, even though the new technology will be a showpiece for Acura’s new direction as a brand.

Unless Acura has some new super-secret RWD architecture that nobody knows about, the new flagship will have to have an FWD variant. Acura officials wouldn’t comment on the matter, so we’ll have to wait until April’s New York Auto Show for the definitive answer.

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90s Japanese Luxury Car Purchase Dilemma: Q45, LS 400, or RL? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/90s-japanese-luxury-car-purchase-dilemma-q45-ls-400-or-rl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/90s-japanese-luxury-car-purchase-dilemma-q45-ls-400-or-rl/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411405 Since my daily-driver ’92 Civic is about to become a much less civilized car (plus it’s finally made the transition from “somewhat rough” to “total beater,” I need to start shopping for another DD very soon. Since I’ve developed a fascination with Japanese luxury cars of the 1990s (the era before the Japanese Big Three […]

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Since my daily-driver ’92 Civic is about to become a much less civilized car (plus it’s finally made the transition from “somewhat rough” to “total beater,” I need to start shopping for another DD very soon. Since I’ve developed a fascination with Japanese luxury cars of the 1990s (the era before the Japanese Big Three de-Yakuza-ized the souls of their American flagships and started out-German-ing the Germans), I’ve decided it’s time I owned one. The question is: which one?

Ah, the LS 400. Plenty of them were eaten by The Crusher during the Cash For Clunkers era, but most of these big, dignified V8 sedans are still on the road today. It’s easy to picture a mid-level Nagoya loanshark making his rounds in a discreet gunmetal-gray Celsior, maybe with a couple of kneecap-busting heavies riding in the very comfortable back seat. You might not need to send your muscle out of the car to encourage timely payments from your clients, but the understated menace of the Celsior lets everyone know the option is there. Sadly, Toyota must have ditched their Yakuza consultants from their focus groups by 2000, because the LS 430 and successors were just very comfortable appliances. You can pick up a very nice LS 400 for about five grand, though it costs a bit more if you need to go VIP style with one.

The Infiniti Q45 is a much goofier car than the LS 400. Its V8 has about 40 horses over the early LS 400’s engine and Q45 buyers got variable valve timing, active suspension, and four-wheel steering. The reliability wasn’t quite up to LS 400 standards (watch out for those timing chain guide failures!) but there’s a huge helping of that Japanese love of technology for its own sake that’s sadly lacking in most of this century’s Japanese vehicles. The average age of a Q45 owner tends to be much lower than that of LS 400 owners, and the Q45 didn’t hold its value quite as well, which means most of them have had the crap beaten out of them by now. In addition, I must have a 1990-1993 model, with the strange grille-less face. I might not be able to find a low-mile, solid example, but we’ll see. I’m also tempted by the J30, but it’s just not as extreme as the early Q45.

The Acura Legend/RL of the 1990s lacks both a V8 and rear-wheel-drive, but I like Hondas enough to be able to overlook those glaring problems. Well, maybe. The early Legends were a bit tainted by their Sterling/Rover connections, and they just aren’t radical enough to be interesting to me, but the 3.5 RLs of the late 1990s have a bit of the old Soichiro Honda look about them. I’ll consider a nice RL for my daily driver… but then (if I’m willing to ditch the V8) I might have to take a look at the Mazda 929 or maybe even the Millenia (non-Miller Cycle version, of course). The Mitsubishi Diamante is out of the question, it should go without saying. Not that I’m completely anti-Mitsubishi; if I could find some way to get a Debonair registered in Colorado…

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