2008 Acura RL


2006 Acura RL

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Sensible, technically impressive and handsome luxury/sports sedan.
  • Fast
  • Advanced new technology package
  • All-wheel drive
  • No V8
  • Gimmicky starting feature
  • Notchy gear shifter

The 2006 RL luxury/sports sedan from Honda's upscale Acura division is an easy ride, with sharp styling and solid all-around competence.

Honda could have made a larger, flashier, rear-wheel-drive RL with a V8, but that automaker's habitual restraint has led it to make a sensible, technically impressive, well-integrated V6 luxury/sports sedan.

Early Arrival
Acura arrived here in 1986, or four years before cars from Nissan's Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus luxury divisions debuted in this country. Acura thus was initially scoffed at by American automakers. They felt car buyers here just thought of Japanese cars as mainly economy vehicles—surely not as luxury/sports models. Acura soon proved that wasn't the case.

Acura pulled ahead of Infiniti in the first 11 months of 2005, but both automakers still trailed Lexus by a wide margin. But nevermind because, as this is written, total Acura sales rose to nearly 200,000 vehicles in the first 11 months of 2005 from 178,773 units in the same year-earlier period and should finish the year in fine style.

Doubling RL Sales
Importantly, sales of the midsize RL, which is Acura's flagship sedan, more than doubled in the 11 months to 16,294 cars.

The RL was revamped for 2005. It got sexier styling, considerably more power from its V6, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, stronger new body structure and lots of extra equipment. It was given so much comfort, convenience and safety items that no factory options were offered.

Very Well Equipped
The same is true for the solidly built 2006 RL. Besides having nearly every comfort and convenience feature you may think of and an outstanding stereo system, safety items include front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.

Also standard are anti-lock brakes, an anti-skid system and steering-linked swiveling headlights, which are particularly handy when taking curves at night in dark areas.

Gimmicky Features
I could do without the gimmicky keyless entry and ignition system, but the voice-activated satellite navigation system is one of the best. Acura has a fairly long history of offering user-friendly navigation systems.

One may wonder how well the RL might have done if Honda had given the car a V8. However, it insists that six cylinders are enough. Actually, the RL rivals in the car's price class from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, whom also have six-cylinder engines.

New Technology Package
The new RL lists at $49,300 and costs $53,100 with a new technology package that combines run-flat tires with Acura's new Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS).

A set following distance is maintained by the radar-activated ACC by applying brakes and adjusting the throttle. Radar signals are used by CMBS to provide audio-visual warnings via a dashboard light and beeping sound when approaching obstacles within a 330-foot range.

If CMBS finds that a collision is unavoidable, it applies the brakes to slow the car to 10 mph and tightens front seatbelts.

New Horsepower Rating
The 130-mph RL is fairly heavy at about 4,000 pounds, but its stout 3.5-liter V6 generates 290-horsepower. This is the same engine used by the 2005 RL and delivers the same performance (0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds). But the horsepower figure has been lowered from 300 because of a more realistic rating system from the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The engine is generally smooth, but sounds thrashed when revved hard. It works with a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission that can be left in drive mode or manually shifted with steering column paddles. However, the paddles are too small for comfortable use, and the console gear shifter is notchy.

Fuel economy remains the same: an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on highways. Premium fuel is recommended.

The RL luxury/sports sedan long suffered because it had front-wheel drive and European rivals had rear-wheel drive for more balanced weight distribution and thus sharper handling. However, the 2005 RL's advanced Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system largely solved that problem, although the rival BMW 5-Series luxury/sports sedan still feels sportier on dry roads.

Advanced All-Wheel Drive
Weight and complexity are added by any all-wheel-drive system. But the RL has the first and only such system to distribute the optimum amount of engine torque between front and rear wheels—and also between left and right rear wheels.

All that enhances steering feel, handling, cornering and stability during hard driving. The car handles curves as if it is on rails with the traction-enhancing SH-AWD system.

During regular driving, 70 percent of torque is at the front wheels. During hard driving, up to 70 percent of it goes to the rear wheels. If necessary, all torque is transferred to the outside rear wheel in turns to help "rotate" the car around a corner. The system was huge in traction in snowy, slippery Chicago winter weather.

Good Roadability
Roadability gets high marks. Steering is precise, but could use more on-center feel, and the car has a wide curb-to-curb turning diameter. The brakes are strong, and the ride is supple.

Large door handles facilitate quickly entering the eerily quiet, elegant, wood-and-leather interior, which easily swallows four 6-footers. Front seats are supportive and illuminated gauges can be quickly read. But it takes time and patience to sort out the numerous controls in the center of the dashboard, which has a large screen displaying information such as radio station selection.

While the trunk is spacious, the rear seatback doesn't fold forward for more cargo space and has a small pass-through area. Also, the trunk has a rather high opening, and its lid has space-eating sickle-shaped hinges instead of compact strut-type hinges.

The RL shows that Honda and its Acura division are becoming more adventuresome. The result can only be more exciting cars.


Search local listings

powered by:

Recently Viewed Cars

View favorites
BB04 - 9/19/2014 9:09:21 PM