Acura, American Honda's luxury division, gives its top-of-the-line model a new skid-control system and DVD-based mapping for its optional navigation system as the major changes for 2000.
The front-drive 3.5RL comes in one fully equipped price level, with the $2,000 navigation system the only factory option. With the addition of DVD technology to the navigation system, the mapping database for the continental United States is now on a single disc. The dashboard-mounted touch screen gains a matte finish that reduces glare and a larger color LCD display.
The RL is nearly 197 inches long (about the same length as the Lexus LS400) and has a wheelbase of 114.6 inches, about 2 inches longer than the LS400's.
The conservatively styled RL makes its strongest statement at the front, where prominent hood creases, a large, horizontal-bar grille, Xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps and chrome accents impart an upscale look.
Though the long wheelbase helps increase interior room, the rear seat does not have acres of legroom for tall adults to stretch. Two tall passengers will have adequate space in the back. The trunk holds 14 cubic feet of cargo and has a pass-through section to the interior that allows carrying long items. As with other Honda-designed vehicles, the dashboard is attractively designed, intuitively laid out and user friendly. The touch screen for the optional navigation system is high in the center, where it is easy for either driver or passenger to reach (though hitting the right spot takes good aim).
Under the Hood
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 210 horsepower and a four-speed automatic transmission give the front-drive RL smooth, brisk acceleration. The engine, which mounts longitudinally instead of transversely (as in many front-drive cars), requires premium gas.
The new skid-control feature, called Vehicle Stability Assist System, works with the anti-lock brakes and traction control systems to prevent skids during cornering, acceleration and accident-avoidance maneuvers.
The RL's front passenger-side airbag is the dual-stage type that inflates with less force in low-speed collisions and greater force in higher-speed collisions. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard, and the one for the passenger will not deploy if sensors detect that a small child is in the seat.