Real-time traffic information and all-wheel drive topped the list of notable new features on the latest generation of Acura's luxury performance sedan, which debuted for 2005. Working in conjunction with XM Satellite Radio, the real-time traffic monitoring system uses XM NavTraffic data. An 8-inch screen displays current traffic details, including flow, accidents and freeway construction. Drivers can then select the least-congested route. In addition, AcuraLink can relay maintenance and diagnostic information.
Though the previous RL had front-wheel drive, the new version got Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. The system can apply as much as 100 percent of rear torque to the outer rear wheel in curves in order to enhance cornering and stability attributes and dry- and wet-weather traction. Up to 70 percent of engine torque goes to the rear wheels under full-throttle acceleration.
The 2005 RL got the most powerful engine ever installed in an Acura; new Society of Automotive Engineers testing standards have that engine's output at 290 horsepower. A newly optional Technology Package includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control and Michelin PAX run-flat tires.
Acura says the RL has a "wide, muscular stance" and that the "dramatically sloping hood leads down to an aggressive front fascia with angular headlight treatments." Aluminum is used for the hood, front fenders, deck lid, subframe and suspension. Riding a 110.2-inch wheelbase, the RL is 193.6 inches long overall, 72.7 inches wide and 57.1 inches tall. Alloy wheels hold 17-inch tires.
The five-occupant RL has an interior trimmed with wood and leather. A 10-speaker Acura/Bose DVD Audio system, XM Satellite Radio and an OnStar communication system are installed.
Acura's Keyless Access System does away with a traditional key for starting, locking and unlocking. To better illuminate road curves, adaptive headlights swivel up to 20 degrees left or right depending on speed and steering input.
Under the Hood
Acura's 3.5-liter V-6 generates 290 hp and 256 pounds-feet of torque and drives a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission with paddle-style shifters on the steering wheel. All RLs have the SH-AWD system.
Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags and Vehicle Stability Assist are standard. All-disc antilock brakes are installed.
The previous RL was an excellent road car with a solid, heavy feel. That's still the case, but it's augmented by even stronger performance. A shortage of power is never a concern, and the automatic transmission shifts easily and promptly.
The ride is fine on smooth surfaces, but this sedan gets jittery on harsher pavement. Steering is firm and positive. The RL is extra-quiet but not eerily silent.
Space in the comfortable, supportive front seats is abundant, and snug bolstering holds occupants in place. Backseat space is less appealing, with marginal headroom and fair legroom and foot room. Trunk space is modest, but visibility is very good.
The RL's rich-looking dashboard sports instruments that are large and easy to read. Some controls, however, are cryptic or hard to find.
Real-time traffic information is a valuable feature, but trying to spot traffic indications on the video map screen is somewhat difficult. The map also washes out in sunlight and is excessively reflective.