An unexpected update to Acura's flagship sedan
What it Is
2009 Acura RL – Chicago Auto Show: Acura has officially unveiled the 2009 RL sedan, representing a thorough revisiting of its flagship sedan. The RL hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since its introduction in 2005, namely for its overly subdued styling. Acura kicked it up a notch with an MDX-inspired grille, new headlights and taillights, more power and torque and a rethinking or reworking of virtually every component and system in the vehicle. The new look is certainly aggressive, and with a bigger engine it has the chops to back it up.Why it Matters
The Acura RL is a nice car, but one that brings a knife to the luxury sedan gunfight in a number of ways. The car’s V-6 engine has plenty of power, and the Super Handling All Wheel Drive does a great job of getting it all to the ground. Still, more power, better handling and more distinctive styling should help Acura’s flagship sedan. The 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, enhanced SH-AWD, and extensively reworked exterior should give it a leg up, as it presents a much more distinctive face to the wind now than in previous years.
What’s Under the Hood
Acura bumped engine displacement from 3.5-liters to 3.7-liters, with a commensurate increase in horsepower from 290 hp to an even 300 hp. Torque bumps up from 256 lb.-ft to 271 lb.-ft. All this extra power is routed through an upgraded five-speed automatic transmission, now with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. The RL’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive is also upgraded to react faster to road conditions. The RL’s suspension has been altered with stiffer springs, thick anti-roll bars and stiffer subframe mounts to take advantage of the new, larger 18-inch standard wheels and tires. We’ll have to get behind the wheel to find out how the reconfigured steering mechanism feels.
What It Looks Like
Get used to this grille treatment because, as one Acura rep said, this “power plenum” is the bold new look of Acura. We admit that the MDX-inspired grille treatment works well here. There’s only one large metal panel, and it loses the dimples on the big crossover for a cleaner look. The rest of the changes work well too, considering how little can actually be changed in mid-cycle refreshes. The taillights, rear end cap, trunk lid, lower rocker panels and new aluminum hood are all redesigned; only the door skins and roof are carryover. The RL still isn’t the most stunning sedan on the road, but the changes definitely give it some much needed visual pizzazz.
The RL’s interior styling is generally the same, but there are several new technologies packed within. Foremost among them is active weather forecasting through the navigation system screen. Real time weather conditions combine with the pre-existing traffic updates (known as Real Time Traffic) and navigation system so that you should be able to navigate around any accidents, tornadoes, or tornado-induced accidents along your preferred route. Other nifty features include enhanced heated and cooled seats, improved climate controls, upgraded Active Sound Control noise cancellation and more sound deadening and luxury upgrades.
What Acura Says
Although outsold handily by the TL, the RL is Acura’s flagship, with plenty of supporting rhetoric. “RL represents the very best we have to offer in terms of engineering, technology, performance, luxury and safety,” said Dick Colliver, executive vice president, sales. “It’s designed for a new generation of performance-luxury buyers looking to travel more quickly, more efficiently and more connected to the world around them.”
What We Think
It’s a welcome upgrade from the previous car, which was successful only in relation to the previous 3.5 RL. We like the current-generation RL though, even though we have to add our voices to the din that says it should be bigger, needs rear-drive, and needs a V-8. As a stopgap, the 2009 RL definitely upgrades the vehicle to the point where it has some much needed road presence, and the extra horsepower and other goodies certainly don’t hurt. We’re still Here’s hoping for even bigger and better things in a few years, when an all-new RL will bow, but for now, this looks good.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Acura