2010 Acura RL Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
June 3, 2010

The 2010 Acura RL offers lots of features and strong safety. Performance takes a backseat in the 2010 RL-but technology and durability certainly don't.

We bring you the key facts on the 2010 Acura RL-what expert reviewers liked, disliked, other choices, and buying tips at TheCarConnection.com.

TheCarConnection.com's luxury-car experts drove the Acura RL for this hands-on Bottom Line review. Editors surveyed the rest of the reviews of the 2010 RL to compile this conclusive overview of Acura's biggest sedan. TheCarConnection.com also compares reviews to help you make a better buying decision.

Finding a car loaded with more high-tech gear than the 2010 Acura RL is a tough task. An array of electronics helps it deliver brisk, comfortable transportation for four or five adults. Priced to start at around $47,000, the RL is up against more expensive and more luxurious sedans from BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, but is most fairly pitted against the likes of the Audi A6, Volvo S80, and Infiniti M37x. The Acura isn't the best looker or performer in the bunch, but it's reliable and comfortable according to nearly all sources.

Review continues below

Last year, the large Acura RL received a front and rear fascia restyling, which carries forward for 2010. Unfortunately, the rest of the body remains rather plain in comparison, leading many to note a mismatched appearance. The large grille and wide, metallic trim with LED tail lamps at the rear contrast sharply with the sides and roofline. Inside, the story is much the same, with a blander interior than the updated face and tail would indicate. It's attractive and well-styled, though restrained. An available wood-trim package improves the appearance further.

The 2010 Acura RL's 3.7-liter V-6 engine, 300-horsepower output, and 271 pound-feet of torque put it right on par with the competition on paper. Peaky power delivery, with max power coming above 5,000 rpm, gives the car a high-strung feel, though off-the-line performance is still brisk. The five-speed paddle-shifted automatic is responsive, but lacks a sixth gear found in many competing cars. Overall performance is less than impressive, however, due to the car's 4,000-pound weight, computer-controlled all-wheel drive, and electronic throttle tuning. Imprecise in response to inputs and ponderous in quick driving, the RL doesn't have the zest for speed you'd expect from a luxury sport sedan. Ride quality, however, is smooth and refined, and fuel economy is on par for the class at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

There's no shortage of comfort inside the Acura RL, though it's fit for only four adults. Rear-seat space is unimpressive, considering the 2010 Acura RL's 110.2-inch wheelbase and 72.7-inch width. Up front things are much better, with the 10-way power-adjustable front seats providing soft yet supportive seating. Headroom is good, and the controls are all easily within reach, if somewhat confusing to comprehend at first. Cargo capacity in the trunk is a bit on the small side, offering considerably less trunk space than similarly sized cars, such as the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO. The Acura RL's real strong suit is quietness in the cabin, thanks to thicker glass and more insulation than rivals, while high-quality materials, including glossy, rich wood and solid, pleasant-feeling plastics, provide a relaxed, premium feeling.

Safety is a highlight of the 2010 RL's spec sheet, with five stars across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2009 model won an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award, but the 2010 model doesn't manage to follow up with another, despite carrying forward the same safety features. Those standard safety features include a strong body structure, six standard airbags, all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes with stability and traction control, plus tire pressure monitors, and optional radar-based cruise control and automatic curve-following headlights.

As alluded to earlier, the 2010 Acura RL is a technological bonanza, offering a plethora of features, including a standard navigation system, 10-speaker Bose stereo system with six-disc DVD-Audio changer, AM/FM/XM tuner, MP3 input, USB input, Bluetooth, and keyless entry. A sunroof is also standard equipment, as are xenon headlights. The navigation system features real-time traffic data from XM, but getting the most out of the full-features system is tough due to the knob-based control system. Leather upholstery, power sunshades, and dual-zone climate control further swaddle occupants in luxury.

7

2010 Acura RL

Styling

The 2010 Acura RL offers a polarizing face that sets reviewers on edge, but the interior lives up to Acura's standards in terms of both design and quality.

Inside, the Acura RL is generally well-received, but the exterior frequently draws criticism from reviewers.

Last year, the large Acura RL received a front and rear fascia restyling, which carries forward for 2010. Unfortunately, the rest of the body remains rather plain in comparison, leading many to note a mismatched appearance.

Edmunds pulls no punches when it comes to the RL's exterior looks: "the RL falls on its buck-toothed face. ...the whole big-and-bold grille thing has done the new RL no favors." Autoblog is just as damning, saying the "new front end design...has seemingly gone over with pundits like the proverbial lead balloon." Automobile Magazine tempers criticism of the RL's design, stating, "I'm not crazy on the new corporate face Acura is attaching to the new vehicles, but I think it looks best on the RL."

The large grille and wide, metallic trim with LED tail lamps at the rear contrast sharply with the sides and roofline. MotherProof notes, "It has a strong profile and...The overall effect is elegant, strong and serious-looking, but not somber." From the rear, Automobile Magazine remarks, "The taillights look like something from the Mercury parts bin-but I think they'd look better on a Mercury."

Inside, the story is much the same, with a blander interior than the updated face and tail would indicate. It's attractive and well-styled, though restrained. An available wood-trim package improves the appearance further. MotherProof describes the RL's interior as "a subtle blend of neutral colors and textures that creates a peaceful haven." Edmunds argues, "There's a pleasing symmetry to the 2010 Acura RL's interior. It's plush without being ostentatious and much of it comes off like quality home furnishings." Automobile Magazine agrees, calling the 2010 RL's interior "well appointed, comfortable, and well crafted."

Edmunds provides an overview of the 2010 Acura RL, saying, "The new RL is a Super Accord no more, yet it still lacks style, which is the very thing its competition does best."

7

2010 Acura RL

Performance

The 2010 Acura RL's V-6 engine is eager to please, but the five-speed transmission is one gear short and there's no V-8 engine available.

The 2010 Acura RL's 3.7-liter V-6 engine, 300-horsepower output, and 271 pound-feet of torque put it right on par with the competition on paper. Peaky power delivery, with max power coming above 5,000 rpm, gives the car a high-strung feel, though off-the-line performance is still brisk.

The car is as fast as previous RLs, Car and Driver says: "Acceleration also stays essentially flat, with the 0-to-60-mph run taking 6.5 seconds." "Acceptably eager, but never thrilling," is how ConsumerGuide describes the RL's engine. Edmunds finds the acceleration of the new RL a bit slower than others: "the 2010 Acura RL recorded a 0-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds (6.8 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip), and 15.3 seconds at 92.8 mph for the quarter-mile." However, Edmunds also asserts that the RL's 3.7-liter V6 "does not disappoint." Car and Driver reports the Honda VTEC system delivers "similar power peaks as before but more pull in the lower revs."

Ride quality is smooth and refined, and fuel economy is on par for the class at a middling 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. A reviewer at Automobile Magazine questions the RL's performance-to-fuel economy ratio: "I'd be content with the V-6's power if the fuel economy were better, but 16/22 mpg matches a Ford Flex with four-wheel drive and three rows of seats. How did Acura end up with mediocre fuel economy and mediocre performance from this engine?"

ConsumerGuide reports that the RL requires the more expensive premium-grade gasoline, and in testing, the RL "averaged 15.4 mpg in mostly city driving." Edmunds says, "It would be easy to overlook the lack of a V8 option if the 2010 Acura RL delivered exceptional fuel economy, but with an EPA rating of 16 miles per gallon city and 22 highway, the big Acura is not a fuel sipper."

Overall performance is less than impressive, however, due to the car's 4,000-pound weight, computer-controlled all-wheel drive, and electronic throttle tuning. The Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system wins praise from reviewers, though. "You can easily detect the torque heading to the rear axle and from side to side. The RL also passed my steep, snow-covered driveway test with flying colors, powering its way to the summit with no problems," asserts Automobile Magazine. Car and Driver concurs, saying "the RL's niftiest gizmo is its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, which selectively overspeeds outside wheels to induce yaw and create the impression of livelier steering. It works, keeping the RL near the top of our handling charts."

Imprecise in response to inputs and ponderous in quick driving, the RL doesn't have the zest for speed you'd expect from a luxury sport sedan. All that technology in the drivetrain helps a bit, however, as Edmunds reports the RL's handling is "significantly boosted by the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that transfers power from front to rear and side to side. The result is that even a Sunday-only driver can corner like a Touring Car champ." ConsumerGuide Automotive keeps its impression of the RL's handling short, remarking, "Nimble, despite its size."

The five-speed paddle-shifted automatic is responsive, but lacks a sixth gear as found in many competing cars.
"This five-speed automatic's ratios are well spaced (though five speeds aren't many in an era when luxury cars have seven and even eight speeds), and the engine spins freely as you flick up through the gears using the shift paddles on the steering wheel," says Edmunds. Kelley Blue Book notes the five-speed is "smooth but can be slow to downshift, a trait that's noticeable when attempting to pass another vehicle."

Braking is generally good, especially on the daily commute. ConsumerGuide Automotive finds the RL's brakes to be "strong, fade-free" and notes they deliver "drama-free stops." Edmunds discovers more of a mixed bag, remarking "the brakes had good control with a firm feel and a short stroke, and decent stopping distances" in everyday driving, while on the track, "there was severe fade on the third attempt as the pedal went to the floor without even any ABS pulsing." Kelley Blue Book also points out the lack of enthusiast-rated brakes, saying, "Braking is usually a worry-free endeavor, though we did notice a slight loss in effectiveness after an afternoon of spirited driving."

8

2010 Acura RL

Comfort & Quality

Comfort, quality, and quietness are abundant in the 2010 Acura RL, but it's a four-seater at best.

There's no shortage of comfort inside the Acura RL, though it's fit for only four adults.

"As a flagship model, the 2010 Acura RL's interior disappoints as much as it impresses," says Kelley Blue Book, though they also praise the RL's "spacious accommodations, the Technology Package's triple-setting heated and cooled front seats, padding in all the right places, and a cabin that's both quiet and easy to enter and exit."

Up front, the 10-way power-adjustable front seats provide soft yet supportive seating. Headroom is good, and the controls are all easily within reach, if somewhat confusing to comprehend at first. ConsumerGuide says, "Most adults will find sufficient headroom and legroom," though they add, "Some shorter drivers may feel a bit 'buried,' but ample seat adjustments and a standard tilt and telescopic steering wheel help compensate." Kelley Blue Book isn't impressed with the RL's front seat arrangement: "We were less enamored by the driver seat's lack of lower support during long drives, [and] perforated leather upholstery that felt like it had been borrowed from a Honda." Edmunds, on the other hand, likes the wide door openings that make for convenient entry and exit and "for the driver, 10-way power-adjustable seats make finding just the right position easy."

Rear-seat space is unimpressive, considering the 2010 Acura RL's 110.2-inch wheelbase and 72.7-inch width. MotherProof says the backseat of the RL "is roomier than last year's and fit three kids in booster seats with no problem." ConsumerGuide observes the rear of the RL has "enough headroom for all but the very tall. There's fine knee space behind all but the tallest front occupants, though foot space is limited."

The Acura RL's real strong suit is quietness in the cabin, thanks to thicker glass and more insulation than rivals, while high-quality materials, including glossy, rich wood and solid, pleasant-feeling plastics, provide a relaxed, premium feeling. Edmunds remarks, "Around town and on the highway, the cabin remains as hushed as a public library on a Friday night." MotherProof says, "The interior is quiet, with some noticeable engine noise but very little noise from the road." Car and Driver notes, "A new interior noise-canceling system really does suck up the road rumble."

Automobile Magazine says the RL's interior is well appointed, comfortable, and well made, but "the HMI (human-machine interface) factors definitely need a re-think...none of the functions - ranging from adjusting the temperature to changing a radio station - strike me as intuitive." Edmunds notes, "At first, all the buttons on the center stack can be confusing since there are just so many." ConsumerGuide finds a similar issue, reporting, "Centered on the console is a tilting and rotating knob that acts as the primary control for the navigation system; mastering its use requires time and patience," though they go on to call the RL's interior "an exercise in understated luxury. Most surfaces are padded or richly textured, and assembled quality is top notch."

Cargo capacity in the trunk is a bit on the small side, offering considerably less trunk space than similarly sized cars, such as the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, and "Cabin storage is unexceptional," observes ConsumerGuide.

10

2010 Acura RL

Safety

The 2010 Acura RL is one of the safest sedans on the road.

Safety is a highlight of the 2010 RL's spec sheet, with five stars across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2009 model won an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award, but the 2010 model doesn't manage to follow up with another, despite carrying forward the same safety features.

According to MotherProof, "The 2010 RL is packed with enough safety features to please even the most protective mommies," noting the full array of airbags and active head restraints. Those standard safety features also include a strong body structure, six standard airbags, all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes with stability and traction control, plus tire pressure monitors, and optional radar-based cruise control and automatic curve-following headlights.

High technology also plays a role in safety in the 2010 RL, with Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System. The CMBS detects potential rear-end collisions from its location behind the front grille, warns the driver, then initiates automatic braking, using millimeter-wave radar technology to keep track of vehicles ahead.

CMBS is bundled with adaptive cruise control (ACC), which adapts speed and distance to the vehicle in front.

"When it sees a car bumper approaching fast, it flashes a dash warning, then hits the brakes and yanks in the seatbelt, a surprising jolt to the sternum that can stop a weak heart the first time," says Car and Driver. It's not perfect, however, as Car and Driver further notes: "It false-alarmed a bit too often in slow-moving traffic, so we turned it off."

Edmunds says, "The system will only intervene if the driver fails to act," which could be "especially helpful if the driver has a medical problem while driving or if they fall asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, only chronic tailgaters will find the system intrusive."

10

2010 Acura RL

Features

Unlike the 2010 Acura RL's performance, its technology admits no compromises.

As alluded to earlier, the 2010 Acura RL is a technological bonanza, offering a plethora of features, including a standard navigation system, 10-speaker Bose stereo system with six-disc DVD-Audio changer, AM/FM/XM tuner, MP3 input, USB input, Bluetooth, and keyless entry.

Kelley Blue Book takes note of the 2010 RL's "USB port located in the center console that offers quick and seamless access to tunes on your iPod, and an Active Sound Control system that does a commendable job of muting engine noise." MotherProof finds the Acura RL opts for a broad palette of technology over space: "A two-level center console houses the AUX and USB inputs as well as a charging point, so all your electronics and cords are kept out of sight. Of course, that means you won't have room for a purse or much else but a pack of wipes up front."

Acura's Human-Machine Interface (HMI) system is full-featured, but some reviewers find it difficult to use. "The HMI (human-machine interface) factors definitely need a re-think," says Automobile Magazine, which also notes, "despite the plethora of buttons and dials on the dash, you have to use voice commands to activate Bluetooth. And unlike Chrysler's MyGig, which gives you an audible list of options, I'm quite sure that you have to leaf through the owners' manual to find the proper Acura-ese terms to make it work."

A sunroof is also standard equipment, as are xenon headlights. The navigation system features real-time traffic data from XM, but getting the most out of the full-features system is tough due to the knob-based control system. Leather upholstery, power sunshades, and dual-zone climate control further swaddle occupants in luxury. Edmunds reports, "Even on the base RL, you can opt for the Technology package, which adds features like adaptive xenon headlights and Acura Link, a bundle of navigation-related features that includes real-time traffic and weather conditions displayed right on the main screen."

Another plus for the 2010 Acura RL is that it comes with a four-year, 50,000-mile service package that pays for oil changes and major repairs in that term.

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8.4
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 10.0
Features 10.0
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