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."
Automobile took the RL's fuel economy to task saying that the RL managed similar fuel economy returns as a much bigger Ford Flex, but without the spacious interior and four-wheel drive. The reviewer wondered how the Acura just wasn't faster.
ConsumerGuide noted that the RL requires premium gas, and that their tester managed only 15.4 mpg in city driving. Edmunds noted that the RL could be forgiven if it were V-8 powered, but at 16 mpg city and 22 highway, the Acura isn't 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 was helped by the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system that could maneuver power around all four corners. The net effect is a big sedan that handles like a sports car. Consumer Guide was brief, but precise in saying that the RL was agile for a big car.
That the RL comes equipped with only a five-speed transmission doesn't go unnoticed. Edmunds wrote that the gears were well spaced, and the engine was eager to rev with the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Kelley Blue Book wrote that the 5-speed automatic could be slow to downshift, and was particularly noticeable when passing.
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 their drives, they reported that the brakes had a firm feel and quick stopping distances on the road, but on the track they noticed severe brake fade. Kelley Blue Book reported the same, and said that their tester wasn't as confident in its stoppers after an afternoon of quick driving.