2008 Acura RL Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 Acura RL is a fine luxury sedan, but others offer V-8 power and more distinct styling.

The luxury-car fans at TheCarConnection.com read reviews of the 2008 Acura RL from around the Web and compiled this conclusive profile of the RL from that research. Experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the Acura RL on several different occasions, then added opinions and impressions where they help you make a better buying decision.

Truth be told, the Acura RL needs to be replaced. Are the experts at TheCarConnection.com cruel and going out on a limb to proclaim this? Nope. Acura told us so. Company officials already showed the 2009 Acura RL to the world at the Chicago auto show in February 2008. With the new car waiting in the wings, it's kind of hard to get excited about the 2008 Acura RL, which has a nondescript look and doesn't seem to excel in any single field, though it's competent in nearly every way.

Acura's flagship sedan was last redesigned in 2006. Then it became the larger and more luxurious all-wheel-drive sport-tourer that we recognize today. While a rumored V-8 never materialized, the 2008 Acura RL's standard 3.5-liter VTEC V-6 engine delivers a respectable 290 horsepower. It comes mated to a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic that can be taken through the gears manually, via either a console shifter or steering-wheel-mounted, F1-style paddle controls. It's a silky powertrain--it's just not a V-8. Handling is fine with the Acura RL, and it feels much smaller than cars like the Mercedes E-Class and has standard all-wheel drive. An A-Spec performance package includes a track-tuned suspension package that lowers the car by nearly three-quarters of an inch, as well as 18-inch wheels.

Interior room is actually fairly good, but the RL's swoopy interior style puts the emphasis on the driver and the front passenger. It's a more techno-friendly package than anything from Germany, but it's also pretty and well built, with fine materials. It's not much larger than the mid-size Acura TL, though.

Review continues below

Other standard features include a keyless access/starting system, as well as a Bose audio system with DVD-Audio. Options include a cutting-edge Technology Package, which features Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System. Radar sensors in the car's front end detect approaching obstacles and apply some braking, to lessen the potential impact with the obstacle ahead. Active Front Lighting, Adaptive Cruise Control, and the navigation system are bundled with the Technology Package.

The RL's optional satellite navigation system includes a real-time traffic-monitoring function for major U.S. cities that can warn the driver of road delays ahead and suggest alternate routes.

7

2008 Acura RL

Styling

The 2008 Acura RL’s glam interior makes up for its forgettable exterior shape.

The 2008 Acura RL sports clean but not compelling lines framing an interior that’s much more visually interesting.

Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com find Acura RL 2008 styling too understated for its own good. Edmunds, in fact, calls it “anonymous.” J.D. Power says "regrettably, the Acura RL's looks are forgettable...[it] is a fundamentally good-looking car, but it is bland." Autoblog reports that a major criticism of this year's Acura RL has been its "anonymous face and rather bland overall styling." Nonetheless, Kelley Blue Book notes "from the front and side, the RL is unmistakably Acura,” and Automobile comments, “The exterior appearance clearly signals the RL's great luxury and performance.”

The RL's swoopy interior style puts the emphasis on the driver and the front passenger. Edmunds calls it “beautifully crafted and attractive to behold” and note that it’s "adorned in leather and real wood trim." Kelley Blue Book observes the "wood trim combines with perforated leather to create an interior befitting the car's sport-luxury disposition...'industrial' door handles at first seem out of place, but soon make sense." J.D. Power praises how the "an artful approach to the dashboard and control layout rescues the RL from utter anonymity." Cars.com feels “the RL's rich-looking dashboard sports instruments that are large and easy to read. Some controls, however, are cryptic or hard to find.”

7

2008 Acura RL

Performance

The 2008 Acura RL offers plenty of power and soft, controllable road manners, paired with less than stellar fuel economy.

The 2008 Acura RL uses a high-revving V-6 and sophisticated all-wheel drive to impress reviewers across the Web, including those at TheCarConnection.com.

One engine is offered in the latest RL: “The sole engine available in the RL is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 256 pound-feet of torque,” Edmunds reports. “This allows a 0-60 time in the high 6-second range, just above par for six-cylinder large luxury sedans.” ForbesAutos says the V-6 "packs plenty of punch." Kelley Blue Book feels the specs are "impressive...for a normally-aspirated six-cylinder engine, but with those peak figures waiting at the high-end of the rev range the RL can take a few seconds to gain momentum." Cars.com declares, “A shortage of power is never a concern, and the automatic transmission shifts easily and promptly.”

That five-speed automatic transmission sports “paddle-style shifters on the steering wheel," Cars.com says. ConsumerGuide assures drivers the gearbox "shifts smoothly and responds quickly." Power goes to all four wheels through a high-tech all-wheel-drive system that Edmunds explains thusly: “A five-speed automatic transmission with automanual shift paddles sends power to the Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. SH-AWD can send varying degrees of torque to each individual wheel to improve handling and wet-weather traction.” Cars.com adds, “It can apply as much as 100 percent of rear torque to the outer rear wheel in curves in order to enhance cornering and stability attributes and dry- and wet-weather traction. Up to 70 percent of engine torque goes to the rear wheels under full-throttle acceleration.”

The substantial-feeling RL doesn’t exactly sip fuel. J.D. Power reports "a paltry 14.3 mpg average that fell significantly below the EPA's ratings of 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway." ConsumerGuide testers get mixed results that still fall short of EPA estimates; one test Acura RL "averaged 17.0 mpg in mixed city/highway use that included gas-eating performance tests," while "another example averaged 19.3 mpg with more highway driving."

In terms of overall handling, Cars.com calls the 2008 Acura RL an "excellent road car with a solid, heavy feel." While Edmunds reports Acura RL 2008 steering was "a bit numb and slow, but precise," Autoblog notes "the Super Handling-All Wheel Drive system has also been revised with faster responses to changing conditions at each individual wheel to help improve the handling." ConsumerGuide commends the Acura RL's "firm suspension, strong brakes, and traction-enhancing AWD," adding that "the last behaves like other AWD setups in normal driving but feels a touch more stable in aggressive maneuvers." Edmunds concludes, “Driving enthusiasts will likely find that the RL's steering is a bit numb and slow, however, and the cushy ride gets downright mushy as the RL approaches its handling limits.”

8

2008 Acura RL

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Acura RL has high levels of fit and finish, if not copious interior room.

The 2008 Acura RL sports a refined, high-quality interior, but reviewers are divided on the cabin's roominess.

Cars.com reports this year's Acura RL has a "five-occupant" cabin, although J.D. Power disagrees: "you'll be rightly dismayed by the tight leg space, hip room, and shoulder room...this is a comfortable car for four adults, certainly." ForbesAutos says this Acura RL 2008 "interior feels cramped," but Kelley Blue Book notes a "surprisingly roomy back seat." Nonetheless, ConsumerGuide proclaims that Acura RL 2008 "seats are all-day comfortable and very supportive in spirited cornering," adding that while "shorter drivers may feel a bit 'buried'...ample seat adjustments and a standard tilt and telescopic steering wheel help compensate."

ForbesAutos’ complaints about space are not limited to the cabin; they say "trunk space in particular seem[s] too confining for a flagship luxury car." ConsumerGuide provides the unfortunate details: Acura RL's "wide trunk extends well forward but lacks height for really big cargo, [and] sickle-shape trunklid hinges are covered but eat up space."

ConsumerGuide reports the 2008 Acura RL has a "top-notch cabin decor and assembly quality," while Edmunds positively gushes over the "high-quality materials." This source does notes the "dash is awash in buttons, which may confuse some."

Despite other criticisms, J.D. Powers admits that "the Acura RL is a comfortable car...it is a quiet car." ConsumerGuide says "all noise sources are well controlled in the RL...its stiff body structure provided squeak- and rattle-free driving."

9

2008 Acura RL

Safety

The 2008 Acura RL provides exceptional protection for its occupants.

The 2008 Acura RL is close to perfect in crash-test performance.

While this year's RL earned a solid five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in all crash tests as well as rollover resistance, it doesn’t get the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating of “Top Safety Pick,” due to poorly performing headrests.

Nonetheless, ConsumerGuide reports the RL has plenty of "worthwhile safety and convenience features" that include "side-impact and side curtain airbags and an electronic stability system"--all standard, according to Cars.com. ForbesAutos reports "child-friendly safety measures include 'anti-pinch' power windows" as well.

Among optional safety features is "an optional Collision Mitigation Braking System [that] uses a radar unit to measure distance to objects in front of the RL"; it "alerts the driver and, if necessary, applies brakes" when something is too close. ConsumerGuide also notes this system "tightens the front seatbelts if it determines a collision is unavoidable."

Cars.com reports "visibility is very good." ForbesAutos notes an optional "rear-view camera to help with parking" is available with the Technology Package.

10

2008 Acura RL

Features

The 2008 Acura RL, particularly when fitted with the Technology Package, has it all.

The 2008 Acura RL is a technology flagship that offers many cutting-edge features as standard and optional equipment.

Aside from the usual power features, climate control, and cruise control, standard items on the Acura RL include a keyless access/starting system and a Bose audio system with DVD-Audio. Edmunds reports that the Acura RL's "10-speaker surround-sound stereo with six-CD/DVD audio changer, satellite radio and optional iPod integration is one of the best in the business." In addition to this joy for audiophiles, Cars.com tells us that the 2008 Acura RL's "wealth of standard features includes leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and heated, power-adjustable front seats."

Options include a cutting-edge Technology Package, which features Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System. Active Front Lighting, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a navigation system are bundled with the Technology Package. The RL's satellite navigation system includes a real-time traffic-monitoring function for major U.S. cities that can warn the driver of road delays ahead and suggest alternate routes. Cars.com says the system uses XM NavTraffic data to provide updates: “an 8-inch screen displays current traffic details, including flow, accidents and freeway construction so drivers can then select the least-congested route."

ForbesAutos reports the "Active Front Lighting system, which turns the headlights with the steering wheel," is now an option, instead of a standard feature.

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8.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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