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2011 Acura RL

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2011 Acura RL Review

KBB Editors' Overview

By KBB Editors - Updated Date: 4/1/2011


As the successor - in both market position and nomenclature - to Acura's Legend, the RL has large (albeit not legendary) shoes to fill. And with this current design iteration (at least at its 2005 model year launch) the RL did just that, providing a uniquely Honda take in its mid-premium segment. Sticking with a V6 powertrain may seem conservative, but in the context of today's Mideast unrest and $100/barrel oil, it has proven to look strategic. And while there are a host of all-wheel drive options now on the market, in its luxury niche' Acura was among the first - and certainly among the first to popularize the benefits of all-season traction with the promise of improved handling. What we have for this model year is a continuously improved platform and updated sheetmetal in almost (but not quite) desperate need of a thorough redesign.

You'll Like This Car If...

If, because of region or driving patterns, all-wheel drive proves to be a benefit, Acura's RL is a credible luxury take on that particular drivetrain. Audi has quattro, and both BMW and Mercedes employ some variant of all-wheel drive in most of their respective lineups, but Acura offers a simple way to buy and - equally important - a comparatively hassle-free ownership experience once you've written the check.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Without the availability of a V8/rear-wheel drive platform, Acura may never fully scale the top of the luxury automotive heap. However, with the escalating cost of fuel the world may be coming to Acura. Regardless of fuel prices, if you prefer to take your luxury in expressive doses, today's RL may go about its business entirely too quietly.

What's New for 2011

Outside, the 2011 Acura RL enjoys a revised front grille, power folding side mirrors and available back-up sensors. Inside, interior tweaks include a new interior color, Dark Burlwood textured trim and more noise damping insulation. A more substantive mod is the addition of an all-new 6-speed automatic backing up the RL's 3.7-liter V6.

Driving It Driving Impressions

A look at the RL spec sheet suggests a vehicle well-equipped to compete in the mid-luxury, mid-sized segment, despite the lack of an available V8. Its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive offers a distinct advantage in inclement weather and aggressive driving, its 3.7-liter V6 - at 300 horsepower - doesn't lack for power or usable torque, and its all-independent suspension provides a viable balance between responsive and comfortable. Again, the emphasis here is on smooth sedan rather than sport sedan; those with fantasies of racing a Touring Car - rather than simply touring in a car - will be happier elsewhere.

Favorite Features

Resonator Wheel Technology
A modification of the Acura wheel assembly - via a polypropylene Helmholtz resonator - significantly lowers middle frequency noise, allowing for a quieter cabin.

AcuraLink
Within the AcuraLink umbrella are real-time traffic updates, weather forecasting and up-to-the-minute info on traffic congestion. It's but one of several amenities that underscore Acura's commitment to useful - rather than superfluous - technology.

Vehicle Details Interior

Again, in the absence of a complete redesign no number of tweaks - and no amount of added technology - can disguise an interior now seven model years old. The tech, of course, is as new as tomorrow, with an Acura/Bose 10-speaker Surround Sound system, XM Radio, USB port connectivity, Active Sound noise cancellation and a GPS-linked, solar sensing automatic climate control system. Available packages - Technology and Advanced - add even more tech to the RL's almost nostalgic ambience.

Exterior   photo

Despite various updates over successive model years - including this one - there's no disguising one irrefutable fact: The basic architecture for this luxury sedan dates back to 2005. To its credit, the updates have been carefully integrated into what had gone before, but in model year 2011 an argument could be successfully made that - after 6+ years - it should all be gone. New 18-inch wheels help to keep the platform visually planted, and tweaks to the RL grille may temporarily quiet the blogs, but the overall impact is one of little impact. That is, of course, until you take note of the "blow-formed" aluminum hood, which we just did...

Notable Standard Equipment

Acura's marketing team is to be commended for its take on merchandising; they keep it simple. Unlike the Germans, where the MSRP can - in a heartbeat - be increased by some 20 percent, Acura prefers to build in a comprehensive list of standard equipment, supplemented by a thankfully short list of factory packages. Among the notable standard items are a Bose 10-speaker sound system, a comprehensive menu of airbags and - not incidentally - Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.

Notable Optional Equipment

As noted, the standard equipment menu is comprehensive. Above and beyond that is the Technology Package, which includes Acura Navigation, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic and Real-Time Weather, rearview camera system, rear parking sensors and Active Front Lighting System (AFS). The Advance Package takes all of Technology and adds Collison Mitigation Braking, Adaptive Cruise, a genuine wood instrument panel and power-folding side mirrors.

Under the Hood

The bump in displacement - from 3.5 to 3.7 liters - resulted in a bump in both horsepower (300) and torque (271). New for 2011 is a 6-speed Sequential SportShift automatic with paddle shifters, making it easy to wring out every one of the RL's 300 horses. Not only is the RL more responsive, but also more efficient, with EPA ratings of 17 (City) and 24 (Highway), roughly five percent better (city) and 10 percent better (hwy) than in 2010. Beyond the improved functionality is an under-the-hood cover which minimizes the visual distraction of plumbing and wiring, while allowing the aesthetically pleasing V6 to effectively hold center stage. This is a nice contrast to the propensity of other manufacturers to simply cover the whole engine area with generic plastic.

3.7-liter V6
300 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
271 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24

Pricing Notes

At price points between roughly $48,000 and - fully optioned - $56,000, the Acura continues to constitute a good buy when compared to its German ( Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6) and Japanese ( Lexus GS and Infiniti M) competition. Recently, however, Hyundai has entered the segment, with a V6 Genesis some $10K less expensive than Acura's RL, and a V8-powered top-of-the-line Genesis is almost identically priced. With that, Acura still enjoys the intangibles in the ownership process, and historically excellent resale values - fully competitive with the best in its segment. Be sure and check kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price for a reliable indicator of what consumers pay in your market area.

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