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ACURA GETS REAL WITH THE RL

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Apr 18, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

ACURA GETS REAL WITH THE NEW RL By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Acura has been in the shadows ever since Lexus introduced the LS, and Nissan came out with the Q45. Even though Honda was the first major Japanese automaker to sell upscale Acura automobiles here, compared to Toyota's bigger and more powerful Lexus LS430 and Nissan's Infinity Q45, the Acura's were smaller, less powerful, and lacked many of the higher levels of luxury. With the introduction of the all-new 2005 RL, Acura's new flagship model, things at Honda's sister division have changed. The RL is styled with a more aggressive stance because it is shorter, wider and lower than last year's RL. On the other hand, it has more space inside than the old one. The all-new RL is also more powerful, has world-class handling characteristics, and comes with a sumptuous, state-of-the-art and high-safety factor interior. The RL showcases an assortment of Acura world premieres, including side window glass that is absolutely flush with the outside surface (completely eliminating any wind noise), and the groundbreaking all-wheel drive system that gives the RL the most precise handling in its class.

The Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD) is the first and only all-wheel-drive platform that distributes the optimum amount of torque not only between the front and rear wheels but also between the left and right rear wheels. During cruising and moderate cornering, up to 70 percent of torque is at the front wheels. During full throttle acceleration, and, or, spirited driving, up to 70 percent of the torque goes to the rear wheels for increased acceleration and enhanced cornering. In addition to varying the torque front to rear, SH-AWD varies the amount of torque to the left and right rear wheels. When cornering, this ground-braking technology overdrives the outer rear wheel, sending up to 100 percent of rear torque to that wheel to dramatically enhance the RL's cornering, steering feel, handling and stability. The result is class leading cornering performance and cornering stability as well as enhanced traction on dry or wet surfaces. Oversteer or understeer is cancelled out. The RL's sleek exterior styling reflects the abundant power under the hood. Over one inch wider, the new RL offers more interior space for driver and passengers. The new look starts with a dramatically sloping hood that leads down to an aggressive front fascia featuring Xenon high-intensity discharge active front lighting (that can swivel up to 20-degrees in either direction) behind clear lens, a centered Acura five-sided grille, and a wide lower air intake opening. From the side, the look is sleek, with a more aggressive wedge shape highlighted with steeply raked windshield pillars, flared fender arches, aero-styled power remote/heated/self-dimming side mirrors, lower side extensions, a dramatic full-length crease at the beltline, and a short, flat rear deck.

The rear fascia features new, large, wraparound tail/brake/backup LED lamps, and two, very large oval exhaust tips nicely cut into the bottom of the rear bumper. The all-new RL looks fast from any angle, and cuts through the air with a very low 0.29 coefficient of drag. The new, more rigid and torsional Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure features high-tensile steel unit construction, and has several aluminum components such as the engine/suspension sub-frames, suspension members, hood, trunk lid and front fenders. All other body panels are made of galvanized steel sheets. The RL's 3.5-liter, 24-valve, all-aluminum VTEC engine is the most powerful engine ever in an Acura, generating 300 hp at 6,200 rpm and 260 lb.ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm. The variable flow exhaust system helps to generate additional horsepower. The RL features a five-speed sequential sport-shift automatic transmission that enables you to shift gears from either the gearshift lever on the center console, or with paddle-shifters located on the steering wheel. The five-speed auto also includes Grade Logic Control when traveling up or down a steep hill, and wide gear ratios that are optimized for precise shifting, dynamic performance and superior fuel economy, 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The all-new SH-AWD system is hooked up to the race-bred, fully independent suspension, giving you remarkable handling capability. Up front is a double-wishbone setup with coil springs, a 1.14-inch stabilizer bar, and nitrogen filled telescopic shocks with progressive valve technology. The multi-link rear suspension features coil springs, a 0.67-inch stabilizer bar and nitrogen filled telescopic shocks with progressive valve technology. The Acura speed-sensitive power rack & pinion steering system is a perfect match with great on-center feel and quick reacting to your inputs. Straight-line double-digit cruising is rock solid while you feel like your up against a wall so easily turning hard at high speeds, the SH-AWD is seamless with no hint that it is working. The new RL stops quicker, with more driver control, than ever before. Large, four-wheel, vented discs do the trick. Up front are 12.60inch rotors clamped with Acura four piston calipers. The 12.2-inch rear rotor is clamped with a large, Acura single piston caliper. Braking control is enhanced with standard ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist. The RL is fitted with 17x18, five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels that are wrapped around 245/50R17 Michelin all-season radial tires that help to deliver a very linear cornering feel, optimum cornering traction, and a smooth ride.

Inside, the new RL is as luxurious as it is sporty. The interior features rich leather seating with perforated inserts, genuine burl walnut trim on the dashboard and doors, plus real brushed aluminum trim on the center stack. Inside is a hotbed of leading-edge technology, comfort and convenience. All four doors open wide and there are grab handles above each door to assist in entry or exit. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and very supportive for long trips or when in a spirited driving mood. The driver's seat is eight-way powered, heated, with power lumbar adjustments, while the passenger seat is four-way powered, heated, with power lumber adjustments. The driver's side has a two-driver memory system. The back seat is also comfortable and supportive with a pull-down center armrest and dual cupholders, airflow outlets behind the center console, ashtrays on the door armrests, and separate reading lamps. The driver's cockpit is very friendly beginning with the beautiful instrument cluster featuring a centered 160 mph speedometer, tachometer to the left and fuel/engine coolant temperature gauges to the right. Bright LED lights warn of system or safety failure, plus there is a readout on the bottom of the speedometer for all needed information about the RL. The backlighting on the cluster is a dramatic dark blue, which also lights the floor during nighttime driving.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel features power tilt and telescoping for the perfect angle. The center console features the chrome/leather wrapped shifter in an aluminum gate, dual-cupholders, and a two-tiered storage bin with padded top. All buttons, switches and dials are within easy reach. The center stack juts out for easy use and is the central command center of the new 'AcuraLink' satellite communication system with real time traffic reports. The center stack features Acura's first use of a large dial to interface with all system, similar to the dials found in BMW and Audi, that enable you to change options in the many systems now standard in the RL. For instance, controlling the GPS-linked, solar sensing, dual-zone, dual-mode, electronic climate control system. You have to use the dial for the new Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition. This system comprises a menu of 560 voice commands, an eight-inch display, 3-D graphics for freeway interchanges, on/off ramps, and turn-by-turn voice commands to get you to your destination. The RL also features a Bluetooth-based wireless phone interface standard. I'm not very fond of large dials that control too many systems. You have to take your eye off the road to use them. The steering wheel has buttons for cruise control, and buttons to make or receive telephone calls. The wheel also has buttons to control the fantastic sounding 10-speaker Acura/Bose 5.1 DVD-Audio system that uses electronic circuitry to deliver surround sound to all seating positions. The system also employs AudioPilot noise compensation technology which monitors cabin noise then raises or lowers the sound accordingly. An Acura Active Noise Cancellation system quiets the cabin even more. The RL is the first Acura equipped with the Keyless Access System allowing you to start the car without putting your key into the ignition switch. There is already a control-module in the switch and it turns the engine on whenever the keyfob is in the car. When you have the key in your pocket, you can open any door. If you leave your keys in the trunk, then lock it, it automatically opens the trunk. Amazing!

The all-new RL is also one of the safest vehicles on the road, with Acura's first daylight running lamps, advanced compatibility engineering 'ACE' body structure, 3-point safety belts for all five occupants, with pretensioners and load-limiters up front, dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, driver's and front passenger's side airbag with front passenger occupant position detection system, side-curtain airbags for the front and rear passengers, a vehicle stability assist system with traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, childproof rear door locks, and LATCH system for child seats. Other standard features include theater lighting, thick-cut carpeting with front/rear floor mats, all-four windows power express up/down, automatic door locks, trip computer, outside temperature readout/compass direction, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, power rear sunshade, manual side window sunshades, a large trunk, and a power moonroof. The all-new 2005 Acura RL is the closest that Acura has come to a real, world-class luxury performance sedan. The RL still needs more power, just braking into the 300hp club when the bar is already over 400hp. Other than that, the RL is truly world class in handling and interior comfort, luxury, high-tech features and safety. © All text and photos supra by Harvey Schwartz For more information on Acura products, go to www.acura.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SIDEBAR COMMENTS:

As Southern California experiences record rains this year, driving has become a nightmare of epic proportions. Acura has done everything possible in the new RL to provide some relief outside of installing a forward firing laser to eliminate all unwanted cars.

From the inside out, the plush interior is a combination of dark wood, leather and plastic. While plastic typically denotes a notch down from luxury, Acura use some of the best in tactile quality I have felt or seen. It just feels good. The painted plastic parts don't scream out cheap either.

Traffic being what it is, it's a good thing the interior is a friendly place to reside. Only the mildly complex control system is a slight bother, but it is a bit better than that of several other car manufacturers.

While the AcuraLink communication system with Real Time Traffic shows on the center mounted monitor what is coming down the road, it really only seems to confirm what I already know. Yes, there is traffic and I'm stuck in it, and there is no way around it. Oh well, at least this is a step in the right direction.

Acura does make being stuck in traffic a less annoying experience with a robust sound system. I wouldn't mind it if the audio system had a greater ability to contour the sound with more DSP (digital sound processing) options.

On the rare occasion that traffic chills out, the driving characteristics prove to be in the league with the big boys. Two cylinders shy of what most manufacturers choose to power their high-end models, Acura manages to push the envelope with just six. With 300 horses under the hood, this machine can deliver on the promise of performance. This is even more powerful than we saw in the near exotic Acura NSX when it came to market years ago.

Managing the power with Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive System (SH-AWD) is a no-brainer. The SH-AWD allows me to push this far harder without any trace of disaster. Even with the wet road conditions I can relax as this along with the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) makes this a machine not just able to carve up our local roads but can handle whatever Mother Nature can throw at it. Whether it's the Southern California rains of 2005, to the annual downpours in Portland.

Even die-hard European car owners will have a tough time not enjoying the driving experience with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifting and superb braking provided by the four-wheel disc with four piston calipers and ABS.

Driving the RL with SH-AWD is all fun, all the time. I am never looking for anything more out of the RL, with the exception of more time behind the wheel come rain or shine!

The RL may not have a bold look at me exterior shape, but it does have a look that will wear well over time and I find to be refined as opposed to some of the more garish big mouth bass styling we have come to see lately.

Like the rain which we curse later yields green hills and water for little things like drinking and agricultural uses, the somewhat smaller size of the RL allows for a sport sedan ability to navigate effectively from the canyons to grocery parking lots. A RL - L with another four or so inches grafted into the middle might please some who are in the plus size category.

Swallowing the 50 Gs to obtain this can make me choke a tad, but maybe that's what all the water is for? - John Grafman I just finished testing Acura's new RL sound system, which features a 10-speaker Acura/BOSE® DVD-Audio unit that uses Bose Cabin Surroundâ„¢ circuitry to deliver surround sound to all seating positions. The new system utilizes eight distinct channels (compared to two on a typical premium sound system) to deliver sound resolution a purported 500 times greater than CD. In addition, Centerpointë signal processing circuitry processes stereo recordings to five independent channels, to deliver simulated surround sound from conventional CDs. Road, wind and other intrusive noise is neutralized through the application of AudioPilot noise compensation technology, which monitors cabin noise and applies noise cancellation technology accordingly. The level of sonic articulation delivered by this system - particularly in the midrange and upper registers - is unequaled in factory car systems. It is a quantum step over and above even the TL, which was the first car to feature DVD Audio. The only sonic weakness (and it's a relatively minor one) is the lower bass - which lacks the weight and authority of the Volkswagen Phaeton 9VE system, for instance. All-in-all, this is one of the top factory sound systems I've heard. - Roy Nakano SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: 2005 Acura RL Price of vehicle: $49,470.00 Engine type: 3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC, all-aluminum, VTEC V6 Horsepower: 300 at 6,200 rpm Torque: 260 lb. ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/SH-AWD Transmission type: Five-speed electronically controlled automatic with sequential shifting from console shifter or steering wheel paddles, Grade Logic Control Front suspension: Independent, double-wishbone, coil springs, 1.14in. stabilizer bar, nitrogen filled telescopic shocks with progressive valve technology Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link with coil springs, 0.67-inch stabilizer bar, nitrogen filled telescopic shocks with progressive valve technology. Wheels/tires: 17x8 five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, 245/50R17 V-rated Michelin all-season, high-performance radials Brakes: Front: 12.6-inch vented rotors with four-piston calipers Rear: 12.2-inch vented rotors with single piston calipers ABS, EBD, BA Overall length: 193.6 inches Overall width: 72.7 inches Overall height: 57.1 inches Curb weight: 3,984 pounds EPA mileage estimates: 18 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway 0-60 mph: 6.9 seconds

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