New Car/Review

1997 Acura 3.5RL

by Larkin Hill

acura

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

The sight was exquisite, its rounded curves and smooth lines could satisfy the most discriminating enthusiasts. The remote keyless entry system chirped alive, whereupon we slid into the haven of luxury. Elegant and smooth, the interior was equally as inviting as the exterior. I was in heaven!

Two years after replacing the ever-popular Legend the 1997, larger Acura 3.5RL is the ultimate understated luxury automobile. Its smooth body is refined, yet strong. It looks like a combination of every other luxury car on the market, yet maintains a uniquely sleek appearance that's distinguished and rich. The 3.5RL upholds every quality of a luxury car, it has style, it has grace, it has size! The uniquely simple Acura symbol is subtle enough to be stylish and appealing to the eye; therefore, wherever it appears on the car it's not intrusive or overbearing.

The "silver" exterior (that looked pretty gold in some lights) was fitted with a "parchment" interior that blended flawlessly. I found the combination to be pleasingly neutral, just what I like in a luxury automobile. Others found it boring, it's all changeable so no worries. The accessories were unmistakably spare. We were lucky to get the ultra new navigation system that used up a significant amount of space. It about used up the same amount of space as the radio and air conditioner combined. It makes me wonder what Acura does with the room if you decide not to take the $2,000 optional Satellite-Linked Navigation System. Other than that, the interior was well equipped with Burled walnut trim, Leather-Trimmed Interior, and many other extras that are characteristic for a luxury vehicle. The space test passed with flying colors when my modelesque friend comfortably relaxed (O.K, fell asleep) in the back seat. I was also impressed with the visibility of the 3.5RL. There were few blind spots, a definite plus that's often overlooked these days with larger cars. Overall, the interior was spacious, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.

The driving pleasure was immense. From the moment you slid into the power seat with the steering wheel gliding down to snugly greet you, to the silent whirl of the engine, the experience was sheer paradise. The 3.5RL felt like pure luxury, with its solid stance and smooth ride the 3.5RL glides along the road. The RL is heavier than the previous Legend and it's slightly apparent as soon as you move, but the feel is significantly more luxurious and is clearly stronger. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine only comes in a 4-speed automatic transmission, which packs, in a cool 210HP. As typical in premium sedans the engine is hushed and barely audible until made to accelerate, upon which it emits a strong healthy growl of unmitigated force. The overall acceleration is hearty and fulfilling but not as powerful as the competition. The actual ride was as smooth as silk, gliding over potholes, gravel, and other obstacles. The steering was sharp, acute and quite agile for a large sedan. On the whole, the ride was firm and comfortable.

Overall, I am in love. Acura has an excellent record for luxury, safety and reliability. On top of that it will most likely hold its value. It has everything a luxury automobile requires, looks, a name, comfort, and a powerhouse worthy of any hungry appetite. In perspective the Acura 3.5RL competes with the Mercedes-Benz E class. While this comparison may be tempting the Acura is intelligently designed and very rewarding to drive, with more American luxury that's often equated with a premium vehicle. A definite test-drive!

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