The RL features the new 3.7-liter V-6 engine powering all 2009 Acura models. The majority of reviewers find the 300 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque to be effective but unexciting.
“Acceptably eager, but never thrilling,” is how ConsumerGuide describes the RL's engine output. Compared to last year's model, Car and Driver says, “Acceleration also stays essentially flat, with the 0-to-60-mph run taking 6.5 seconds.” Edmunds' 0-to-60 times are a bit slower: “The feeling of quick acceleration isn't supported by the test track numbers, where the 2009 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 notes that the new 3.7-liter V6 under the new car's hood “does not disappoint.” Car and Driver says the Honda VTEC system utilized in the new engine has “similar power peaks as before but more pull in the lower revs.”
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 2009 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.”
The Acura RL's all-wheel drive receives kudos for its operation. “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.”
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."
That the RL comes equipped with only a five-speed transmission doesn't go unnoticed. “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 remarks, “The accompanying five-speed transmission is smooth but can be slow to downshift, a trait that's noticeable when attempting to pass another vehicle.”
In the braking department, ConsumerGuide Automotive testers find the RL features “strong, fade-free brakes [that] offer drama-free stops.” Edmunds experiences mixed results when brake testing: “During everyday driving, the brakes had good control with a firm feel and a short stroke, and decent stopping distances.” At the track, however, “there was severe fade on the third attempt as the pedal went to the floor without even any ABS pulsing.” Kelley Blue Book has a similar experience, commenting, “Braking is usually a worry-free endeavor, though we did notice a slight loss in effectiveness after an afternoon of spirited driving.”