Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2003 Acura RL Overview
Luxury Without Fanfare
The 3.5 RL is Acura's flagship sedan. Though it is getting on in years, its basic design is still solid. Where other manufacturers use a lot of flash and gadgetry to impress potential customers, Acura maintains that a solid build, impeccable reliability and reserved luxury is what keeps RL buyers returning to the showroom year after year.
For 2003, the RL receives some subtle yet significant upgrades. Three new colors grace the RL's palate, joined by a new alloy wheel design and revised rear taillights. There is also a new interior color, Slate, and three new wood trims from which to choose.
The heart and soul of the RL lies beneath its hood and floorboards. A 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 225 horsepower has the task of moving the RL. While this engine is competent for the Acura's size and weight, it has to rev a little higher and growl a bit louder to achieve the same results as the big V8s found in almost every other luxury car. Better engine breathing and a revised transmission shift pattern helps the RL move a bit quicker and pass with confidence. After you drive the RL for while, it becomes clear that the RL is so much more than just horsepower and leather; it is an agile athlete, with a suspension tuned for running.
The RL's front-wheel drive configuration provides excellent traction and Acura's double-wishbone suspension and firm steering control all but eliminate the understeer normally associated with front-drive cars. On the open road, the RL does an outstanding job connecting the driver to the road, though the price paid is more tire and road noise than one would expect inside the cabin. This year, Acura has firmed up the suspension and recalibrated some of the suspension's settings, resulting in improved turn in and less bounce. Acura's Vehicle Stability Assist (traction control) does an excellent job of eliminating unwanted wheel slippage. The system works by applying pressure to both the front and rear brakes, as well as controlling the throttle whenever it senses the vehicle is moving off its intended course. We think you'll agree that for a big car the RL handles like a much lighter sports sedan.
The electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth, effortless shifts and works well in almost all situations. Acura's Grade Logic Control system actually "thinks" about the car's situation and adapts accordingly. For example, if you are accelerating up a steep hill, the transmission will hold-off upshifting in order to maintain a high rpm and thus maximize power; the system is also designed to stop the transmission from hunting for the right gear. We found in almost all situations the RL's transmission met the promises made by Acura, but we did notice that if you hit the accelerator hard, the transmission pauses for a split second before kicking down.
In addition to advanced engineering, a good luxury car must also know how to pamper its owners and the RL does not disappoint here either. Though it is sophisticated, the RL forgoes many of the high-tech toys that appear in so many highline sedans. If you are of the mind that you'd rather concentrate more on driving than trying to figure out how to change the radio station or turn down the air conditioning, you'll appreciate the RL's straightforward instrumentation. Audio and ventilation controls are still of the analog variety which most of us understand how to work without the need for consulting the owners manual. The wide front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, and the rear seat provides its occupants ample legroom. If you are tall, you may find that the RL offers only marginal headroom, even with the power seat at its lowest position. Our taller test drivers also commented on how the steering wheel rim can cut off the top of the gauges when set low.
Additional interior appointments include leather seats with driver-side memory function and power passenger seat, electric tilt/telescoping steering wheel, electric sunroof, heated front seats, Bose stereo, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a power glass moon roof. On the safety front, the RL is equipped with standard front side-impact airbags, ABS, traction control and for an added measure of reassurance, the OnStar communication system. So complete is the RL's equipment list that the car offers only one option: a DVD-based navigation system.