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Acura 3.5RL Navigation

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


ENGINE: 3.5-liter SOHC V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 210 hp @ 5,200 rpm/224 lbs-ft @ 2,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 21.7 mpg test
WHEELBASE: 114.6 in.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,693 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY: 18.0 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 14.0 cu. ft.
TIRES: 215/60R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, digital clock, navigation system.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power sunroof, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and remote CD changer, anti-lock braking, dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE: $38,000 (est.)

Acura's new 3.5 RL doesn't look unlike a Mercedes-Benz. And it drives and rides like a Lexus. But in between, we had one of the most unique driving experiences we've ever had.

The difference was Acura's navigation system.

Let's get down to the basics first. The 3.5Rl is the new top-of-the-line Acura, replacing the Legend. It is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers 210 horsepower. The engine drives the front wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox with a shifter that is gated very much like a Mercedes-Benz shifter.

It has extremely quiet performance, much in the same way as a Lexus LS400. In fact, the 3.5Rl can compete very well with the Lexus both in the silence and quality side. Among the instruments is a tachometer that is necessary, even with the automatic gearbox. It is possible to enter the car with the engine running and try to start it again, simply because you can't hear it.

The speedometer goes up to 160 mph and we feel pretty certain you can get near it. We didn't even hit triple digits during our run, but everything was loafing at the time. We could have tried it, I suppose, but that wasn't the type of driving we were interested in.

The driver sits behind a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with horn buttons out near the rim. This obviates the need to punch the air bag holder while you're trying to find the horn. The 3.5Rl also had audio and cruise controls on the wheel hub. the audio controls are volume and station change. It doesn't try to be all things to all people.

Since this is the top-of-the-line Acura we had power windows, power seats, power mirrors and power just about everything else. It was pre-wired for cruise control.

I had a few complaints about the sound system. The volume control was all the way over on the right, and if I forgot to use the controls on the wheel, I had to reach all the way over to change the volume. Normally, a car will have a clock readout where the station readout of the radio is. However, with the navigation system there's a small digital clock in the lower right corner of that screen, so I always had to look twice for the time.

The Acura 3.5RL is very much like the cars it competes against. However, it has something none of these cars have and that's the Acura navigation system. The Acura navigation system is a GPS-based system that can either tell you where you are on a moving map or direct you from one location to another.

For example, we picked up the 3.5RL in Washington, DC. I set the destination for as close as possible to our house because my street wasn't programmed into the system. After some "discussions" with the computer over which route to take (I've taken this route so many times I know which is the quickest), it led me straight home. When I left the major highway for a coffee break, it told me to make a U-turn as soon as possible and get back on course.

That wasn't too difficult because I knew exactly where I was going and knew the best way to get there. On the weekend, we had to visit a nephew in upstate New York whose daughter was having a16th birthday party. We had visited this house a couple of times, but I wasn't sure how to get there. The street and town were on Acura's program. So I said "okay lady (there's a female voice inside the computer), take us to the party." We programmed in the destination and off we went. There were no discussions about the route because we weren't sure how to go. The computer led us right to the street. It was up to us to find the number, but that was the easy part.

Coming back we had a slight disagreement with our lady friend, but once again, she understood what we wanted to do after a few false turns and she led us straight home.

The Acura navigation system would be ideal for people visiting relatives they don't visit often, salesmen who travel to different destinations all the time, and other frequent travelers. The programming was for the northeast in our computer, but options will exist later. The accuracy of the navigation system is very good. there is a slight flaw when road names change and the system doesn't know, but no system is perfect. It's probably the best navigation system on the road, with the exception of OnStar, where someone holds you by the hand.