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Acura 3.5RL (2001)

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 42,000
     Price As Tested                                    $ 44,480
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 212 cid/3474 cc
     Horsepower                                   225 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               231 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  114.6"/71.6"/196.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4044 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           225/55R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/24/21
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  17.0 @ 95.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - When Honda unveiled its upscale Acura division in the mid-1980's, it triggered a rush by Asian automakers to challenge the then-dominant European prestige lines in the luxury segment. The Continentals are still strong, but Acura is now among the leaders of both luxury and performance. Its mission-statement is clearly defined in this week's test car, the 2001 3.5RL. It's the company's flagship sedan, powered by a potent 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 aluminum engine that pumps out 225 horsepower and 231 pound-feet of torque. It's a large cruiser that really scoots and is a low emissions vehicle to boot. We liked the smoothness of its four-speed automatic transmission, and it handles e as well as thee highly-touted European cars. It rides on an independent double-wishbone suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bars front and rear. It wasn't sport-sedan nimble in the turns and body roll was fairly pronounced.

MIKELE - I loved the RL, and if Acura would make a 3.5 wagon, it would be a big seller. Maybe Honda will notice the "wagon boom" and produce one. One of the more practical things thing I liked about the car is that it has no scheduled tune-ups for 100,000 miles. Major services mean major money. Our RL rolled along on speed-rated P225/55R16 Michelin all-season tires. A high-speed rating and a name brand tire make lots of difference in handling and safety. Inside, the RL features a load of "goodies," like its DVD-based Satellite Navigation System. It works by touch-screen controls that let you find detailed mapping of the entire United States, and it uses only one disc.

BRENDAN - This 3.5RL would be a great car for touring. Maybe we can take a few months off and tour all the ballparks and stadiums someday - but then maybe I'll win the lottery too. The Bose sound system was pretty awesome with eight speakers, an AM/FM stereo and cassette player and a trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer. An in-dash CD unit would be more to my liking, but I can't fault the sound. The cruise control was great on long trips, but the ignition switch was a little hard to find, and the eight-way power driver's seat controls were blocked by the driver's armrest. Inside is pure comfort with leather-trimmed seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and even the passenger seat is electronically adjustable. And to top off the luxury, a bit of burled wood accents the RL's swanky interior.

MIKELE - There are some other things I like about the interior on the RL - like the front and rear dual cupholders and the electric tilt and telescoping steering column with 2-position memory function. The air conditioning worked flawlessly and silently as expected, and so did the power windows and door locks. The driver's window has a one-touch up and down feature and the power moonroof tilts and has a sliding shade. We used it a lot since our weather has been cooperating lately. There's an overhead storage compartment for sunglasses and we find this on lots of cars in all price ranges. I misplace mine all the time, so I'm appreciative of cars that accommodate forgetful folks like me.

BRENDAN - The exterior features classic Acura styling that stays true to its "less is more" corporate attitude. It's not too flashy, but definitely shows enough luxury to set it apart from a Honda Accord. Heated door mirrors are a bonus, and so are the fog lights, body-colored front and rear bumpers, and green-tinted, heat-reflecting glass.

MIKELE - The 3.5RL is a safe car too. It comes with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, driver and front passenger air bags, and side-impact air bags as well. Automatic seat belt pre-tensioners work with the three-point rear seat belts, and the cabin is protected by dual side-impact door beams. Rear child seat tether-anchors and childproof rear door locks make it as safe as possible for kids.

BRENDAN - I think an RL and a cross-country ballpark tour may be on our horizon.

MIKELE - Only if you really do win the lottery, dear.