Few cars work as hard as the Acura RL to be all things to all people. And while the company sold fewer than 3,500 copies of the RL in the United States the first six months of 2007 -- down more than 2,000 from the same period in 2006 -- it isn't the car's fault.
Likely dragging the RL down a bit is the 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V-6 engine. There's nothing wrong with it -- not in the least -- but many of the cars it competes against in this $50,000 price range have either V-8s or more powerful V-6s. Never did I long for more power, but for shoppers who make their decisions based on bang for the buck, well, the RL needs a little more bang.
And that, pretty much, is the end of the complaints. Assuming you like the RL's styling, the rest of the car is on par or better than anything in the class. It's roomy, has a particularly driver-friendly cockpit -- Honda and Acura have been among the best at designing easy-to-use navigation systems, and this one is voice-controlled -- and comes standard with most everything you want.
In fact, Acura pioneered this practice of simply loading the car up with standard features to the point where there is very little optional. With the RL, you can add a "technology package" that gets you a rear-view camera, adaptive headlights that turn with the steering wheel, that aforementioned nav system, plus a radar-operated cruise control that adjusts the space between you and the car in front of you. That package, and run-flat tires (they maintain their shape even when there's no air pressure) are the only options. The test car had the tech package and run-flat tires, which brought the list price to $53,900.
While I like all that optional stuff, the base RL, with shipping, lists for $46,480, and that's a pretty appealing car for the money. You still get the leather upholstery, side and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, wood interior trim, heated power seats, xenon headlights, a power sunroof and a wonderful 10-speaker Bose stereo with XM satellite radio.
And you get all-wheel-drive, with what Acura calls its "Super Handling" suspension that finds a nice medium between comfort and sportiness. There are few cars I'd choose over the RL for a long-distance drive -- we did an effortless 300 miles in one night and could think of nothing that would have made the trip less-stressful, except for Mercedes-Benz's near-sinful seat massagers.
There are no genuinely subpar $50,000 cars, which is good for deep-pocketed consumers, bad for a manufacturer trying to make its $50,000 car stand out from the crowd. There is really no one thing that boosts the Acura RL over the top, but the sum of its parts combine to make a very satisfying package.