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2002 Acura RL Photo
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by Dan Carney You review the '02 Acura RL If Lexus has been charged with imitating Mercedes-Benz in... Read more »
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by Dan Carney

You review the '02 Acura RL

If Lexus has been charged with imitating Mercedes-Benz in building its high-end LS430, the Acura 3.5 RL might be seen as being more similar to a Cadillac Seville.

The comparison may seem odd, but the driving dynamics of the cars are very similar, especially with the RL’s suspension changes for 2002, which improve its handling. There was a time long ago when comparing a Cadillac and a Honda — Acura’s parent company — would have seemed like an insult to the American icon. More recently, such comparisons would have seemed equally absurd, as Honda occupied the high end of the quality scale and Cadillac seemed camped at the low end.

We have reached equilibrium with the current generation of products from the two companies. In terms of price, quality, paint finish, comfort, ride, and handling, the Acura and the Cadillac are closely matched. Both cars even feature GM’s vaunted OnStar service.

Flagship divergence

The RL is not likely to be cross-shopped against rear-wheel- drive sport sedans, such as the BMW 5-Series or Lexus GS430, but might be matched against Mercedes E-class, Jaguar S-Type, and Audi A6 competitors. The Acura’s front-wheel-drive layout is a strong point among customers who worry about slippery conditions, but the configuration handicaps the car — at least in the view of some enthusiast customers — in its competition against competitors’ V-8, rear-wheel-drive flagships.

The current generation of the RL was introduced in 1996, and was refreshed in 1999, so it is due for replacement in the not-too-distant future (though Acura is not yet saying when). It will be interesting to see the direction the company takes the car, and if it moves to rear-wheel drive as has been rumored.

2002 Acura 3.5RL

2002 Acura 3.5RL

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For 2002, Acura bumped up the RL’s horsepower to 225 (it was 210 previously). The aforementioned suspension tweaks included new shocks and springs designed to make the handle more taut. Finally, a one-touch up feature on the driver’s window and sporty 16-inch alloy wheels (an inch larger than before) are available. Too, the RL’s lustrous metallic silver paint would look right at home on cars that cost twice as much.

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