A more powerful V-6 engine went into the 3.5 RL, Acuras flagship luxury sedan, for the 2002 model year. Details on changes for 2003 have not yet been released, but modifications will likely be minor.
A next-generation RL sedan is thought to be waiting in the wings, possibly equipped with a V-8 engine and a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) chassis rather than the current front-wheel-drive layout. That would make it directly comparable to premium-sedan rivals from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Acura is Hondas luxury division. The 3.5 RL is built in Japan and comes in a single trim level. The RL may be equipped with or without a satellite-based navigation system. The company produces only one other sedan the American-built compact A4. Competitors include the BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS 300/430 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
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 installed for 2002 has firmer spring and damping rates, larger stabilizer bars and firmer front bushings. Standard tires are P225/55R16. 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 more expensive, RWD Lexus LS 430.
The RL offers space for five occupants and features soft leather seating surfaces and burled camphor wood trim. Standard equipment includes heated front seats and outside mirrors, a power sliding and tilting moonroof, an eight-speaker Acura/Bose music system with a cassette player and trunk-mounted six-CD changer, automatic climate control and a HomeLink remote control system. The driver gets an eight-way power seat, while the front passenger seat has a four-way adjustment feature. A security/immobilizer system helps to protect against theft.
GMs OnStar communication system is standard, which results from an agreement between Acura/Honda and General Motors. Acuras optional satellite-based navigation system uses a 7-inch LCD screen. The RLs trunk capacity is 14 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
Acuras 225-horsepower, 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The gearbox 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 (LEV).
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-safety seat tether anchors are also standard. Vehicle Stability Assist, Acuras electronic stability system, helps with both traction control and stability assistance.