2005 Acura RL

This excellent vehicle offers driving capabilities that put it at the top of performance and safety lists

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Strong Points: Interior comfort; Drivetrain performance; Handling; Steering; Brakes; GPS

Weak Points: Climate/audio controls; Price

Mfr.'s Suggested Retail Price: $49,470

Acura's top-of-the-line RL has for some years been a sort of "sleeper" car -- a very fine sedan at a good price that not many people talk about. For 2005, an all-new RL debuts with superb driving dynamics and great comfort and convenience features. There are just a couple of niggling faults.

The new RL features keyless entry and starting. With the remote in your pocket, two pulls on the door handle and you're in. And no need to insert the key in the ignition to start the engine: Just rotate the ignition switch. In turning off the engine, however, you must push in the switch and then rotate it another half-turn. It's all too easy to leave the ignition on, only to find a dead battery on your return.

This shortcoming aside, the RL's interior is a wonderfully comfortable space, with soft leather seats, a neatly arranged dashboard and an excellent audio system (with optional satellite radio). Other luxury touches include sunscreens for the rear side windows and rear glass.

A unique GPS navigation system, standard on the RL, is programmed using a rotary knob. A soft voice confirms your settings. Unfortunately, the climate and audio controls are linked to the same GPS display screen/joystick combination, making it unnecessarily complicated to access those features.

But it's on the road where the RL really shines. A new all-wheel-drive system coupled with electronic stability control produces an amazing level of control and stability. Acura ads have touted the AWD

system's ability to send power to individual wheels to maintain control, while a special feature adds extra power to the outside rear wheel on curves. Indeed, we were able to make sharp, evasive maneuvers with ease.

The RL is a car that practically begs to be driven hard and under difficult conditions: The more you push it, the better it responds. When a torrential rain storm hit during our test period, we felt sure the car had met its match. Not so. Accelerating hard from a stop yielded no detectable wheel spin, just unrelenting forward thrust. Even more aggressive driving, conducted on wet pavement in an empty parking lot, produced no slides or spins.

Cars that accelerate well should stop well, and in this the RL doesn't disappoint. The car comes to a quick stop and stays straight when braking at high speeds.This car is at the top of the list of what we would want for a long trip, rain or shine.

The big RL uses a V-6 engine in a league dominated by V-8s. Using high revs and precise fuel metering, the relatively small engine puts out 300 horses. But the engine is short on torque, so acceleration from a standing start is slightly off the mark.

While not inexpensive, the Acura RL is one superfine car whose driving capabilities put it at the top of the performance and safety lists.


Engine: 3.5L V6

Horsepower: 300 @ 6,000 rpm

Acceleration: 0-60 mph 7.5 sec.

Braking: 60-0 mph 132 ft.

EPA city/highway: 18/26 mpg


Bumper-to-bumper: 4/50,000

Powertrain: 4/50,000

Rust-through: 5/Unlimited

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