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2005 Acura RL Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Acura

MODEL:  Acura RL
ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  300 hp @ 6,200 rpm/260 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic with sequential sport shift
WHEELBASE: 110.2 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT:  193.6 x 72.7 x 57.1 in.
TIRES:  P245/50R17 all-season
TRUNK: 13.1 cu.  ft.
ECONOMY:  18 mpg city/26 mpg highway
PRICE:  $49,470

Acura may have been one of the first Japanese luxury car nameplates, but it has never gained the reputation for super-luxury that the Lexus LS or Infiniti Q have. Yet, with a smaller 3.5-liter V6 engine compared to the V8 engines of the competition, the Acura RL doesn't lack for performance or luxury.

The RL's first impression is a neat one. There's no key, as is the fashion with many cars these days. Just keep the key fob with you and sensors in the car will recognize it and unlock the doors when you approach. You also don't need a key to fire up the engine, nor is there one of those annoying "engine start" buttons. You turn the ignition switch as you would if you had a key, but there isn't one.

The 3.5-literSOHC V6 engine is quiet, yet it offers a load of power. Delivering 300 horsepower, there's nothing this engine can't do. It can get you to illegal speeds quickly, and can get you through any winding road you choose to look for.

Power reaches the wheels through a 5-speed automatic transmission with a sequential shifter. With the sequential shifter, you can use either the shift lever or paddles located behind the steering wheel. The right one's for upshifts, the left for downshifts. I shifted to manual mode for a nice trip on a favorite winding road that is best with a manual. I didn't tell my wife. When we reached the end of the section, I mentioned that I was shifting manually. She admitted she didn't notice, which is a compliment since my shifting normally isn't the smoothest around. The paddles are also quicker than pushing or pulling the lever.

The RL has permanent all-wheel drive, much like the Lexus GS. This doesn't make the RL an off-road car, but the AWD system aids in handling and can make driving on snow or wet roads that much easier. The AWD eliminates any tire chirp on hard acceleration, but I'll trade the chirp for security.

Besides the paddles behind the wheel, the RL had audio controls on the left of the steering wheel and cruise control switches on the right. There's also an information switch inset on the right, as well as the switch for voice controls.

In the center of the dash is the navigation screen. This also gives information on the audio - what station you're listening to, what the CD is, what the tune is on XM satellite radio. If you don't hit the "okay, I promise not to be distracted" button, the screen goes black and is less of a distraction.

All the screen functions are controlled by a master joy knob on the console, similar to BMW's I Drive. Maybe I'm becoming more used to these master joy knobs, but the RL's seemed more intuitive than some others I've used. It had to be intuitive, there was no owner's manual in the car. As a luxury car should have, the Acura RL has a tasteful dash, with white numbers on black backgrounds for the instruments, and red pointers. At night there is a faint blue light that is much less annoying than Volkswagen's more garish blue instrument lighting. There is tasteful wood trim on the dash console that added a feeling of luxury.

Seats were perforated leather and the front seats were heated. The HVAC system was automatic and dual zone. Rear seats offered very good leg room and excellent comfort. The RL has a rather long 110-inch wheelbase that is used to create the leg room in the rear. The rear side windows have manual shades to eliminate sun glare (or gain privacy if you're a movie star). There's a shade for the rear window as well that is controlled from the dash.

Among the other features I found useful were the turn signal lights on the outside rear mirrors. There are assist handles over all four doors to aid in entry. And under the hood all the dipsticks and fillers are clearly marked.

While the Acura RL hasn't gained a super-luxury reputation, I feel it's still among the best. It's also smaller and sprightlier, or at least it feels so. It's also less expensive, and that's a good thing.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate