A more powerful V-6 engine goes into the 2002 3.5 RL, Acuras flagship luxury sedan. Other technical improvements include a firmer, more enthusiast-oriented suspension, and the front-drive sedans speed-sensitive power steering has been retuned for an improved feel. Insulation has been added to the engine compartment and under the dashboard to reduce noise and vibration. A new dual-diaphragm master cylinder aims to reduce brake-pedal effort while increasing braking force.
Subtle appearance enhancements for 2002 include new body-color lower side sills, splash guards and roof-molding pieces. Buyers also get GMs OnStar communication system, courtesy of a recent agreement between Acura, Honda and General Motors.
A next-generation RL sedan is thought to be waiting in the wings, possibly with a V-8 engine and a rear-drive chassis, which would make it directly comparable to premium-sedan rivals from BMW,Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Produced in Japan and marketed in one trim level, the 2002 RL goes on sale in spring 2001. Its rivals include the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q45, and Lexus GS 300 and LS 430.
Since its first appearance in 1996, the RL has not changed dramatically and was slightly modified for the 1999 model year. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are standard. The new suspension has firmer spring and damping rates, larger stabilizer bars and firmer front suspension bushings. Wider wheels hold lower-profile P225/55R16 tires. With an overall length of 196.6 inches and a 114.6-inch wheelbase, the 3.5 RL is about the same size as the rear-drive Lexus LS 430.
Offering space for five occupants, the RL features soft leather seating surfaces and burled camphor wood trim. Standard equipment includes heated front seats and outside mirrors, a power slide/tilt moonroof, an eight-speaker Acura/Bose music system with a trunk-mounted six-CD changer, automatic climate control and a HomeLink remote control system. A security/immobilizer system helps to protect against theft. An optional satellite-based navigation system uses a 7-inch LCD screen.
GMs OnStar communication system is newly standard, which results from a recent agreement between Acura/Honda and General Motors. Acuras optional satellite-based navigation system uses a 7-inch LCD screen.
Under the Hood
A 225-horsepower, 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. With a new variable silencer system this year, the V-6 makes 15 hp more than before. The transmission incorporates Acura/Hondas Grade Logic Control, which reduces gear hunting when traveling uphill and helps engine braking while moving downhill. The EPA certifies the 3.5 RL as a Low Emissions Vehicle.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags that have occupant height and position sensors in the front passenger seat are standard. Front seat belt pretensioners, antilock brakes and rear child-seat tether anchors also are standard. Vehicle Stability Assist, an electronic stability system, helps with both traction control and stability assistance.