Hoping to kick some new life into the brand, Acura rolled intoChicagowith an almost completely new version of its RL flagship, which will hitU.S.showrooms later this year.
The 2009 Acura RL “defines our brand and further refines our engineering credentials,” declared the Honda luxury division’s marketing chief, Dick Colliver.
While some platform fundamentals hold over from the last-generation RL, more than 80 percent of the new model has been revised or completely redesigned, including virtually all of its sheetmetal. Developing a distinctive, rather than derivative look has been critical, Acura officials conceded, to rebuilding what was the very first of the Japanese luxury brands.
Nose on, the RL features a new, wing-shaped chrome crossbar grille. It’s framed by a pair of striking new headlamps. Like seemingly all new luxury sedans, the ’09 Acura enhances aerodynamics through the use of a high trunk lid. Arrow-like, wraparound taillights, ovoid dual exhaust tips and a chrome design strip help the 2009 RL stand out from the rear, as well.
Some potential buyers might be turned off by the lack of a V-8 engine, something offered by many of Acura’s competitors. But with a growing emphasis on fuel economy, the RL’s new 3.7-liter V-6 may not seem like much of a compromise, especially as it’s the most powerful engine ever offered in an Acura sedan. Using the latest version of its VTEC variable valvetrain technology, the engine develops 300 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, more than comparable to many of its competitors’ eight-bangers.
The engine is mated to a manumatic-style five-speed automatic. In turn, it drives all four wheels using the Acura Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, or SH-AWD system. The latest version of that system uses torque vectoring – essentially altering the amount of torque sent to each wheel, not only to handle low-traction road surfaces, but also to improve cornering capabilities.