The front-drive 3.5RL is the flagship sedan at Acura, Hondas luxury division, and it sees no significant changes for 2001. When a new RL arrives in a year or two, Acura may switch to rear-wheel drive and V-8 power to match rivals from Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others in the premium sedan market.
The RL is nearly 197 inches long about the same length as the Lexus LS 430 and has a wheelbase of 114.6 inches, slightly shorter than the LS 430s wheelbase.
The conservatively styled RL makes its strongest statement at the front, where crisp hood creases, a large, horizontal-bar grille, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlamps and chrome accents impart an upscale look.
Though the long wheelbase should increase interior room, the rear seat does not have acres of legroom for tall adults to stretch. Two 6-footers 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 easy to use.
The only factory option is a satellite-linked, DVD-based navigation system that covers the entire continental United States on a single disc. A touch screen to operate the navigation system is high in the center of the dashboard and easy to reach by both the driver and front passenger, though hitting the right spot takes good aim.
Under the Hood
A 210-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission give the front-drive RL smooth, brisk acceleration. The engine mounts longitudinally instead of transversely as in many front-drive cars and requires premium gas.
A standard skid-control feature called Vehicle Stability Assist works with the antilock brakes and traction control systems to prevent skids during cornering, acceleration and accident-avoidance maneuvers.
The RLs front passenger airbag is the dual-stage type that inflates with less force in low-speed collisions and greater force in higher-speed crashes. 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.