DEL MAR, Calif. — I'm highly impressed by well thought-out technologies, but even more impressed when the inevitable glitches and shortcomings are quickly resolved. More than any company, Honda has made their reputation through their rapid improvements, not waiting for a major redesign or even a model year change to make something better.
Acura was one of the first companies to move their products upscale with the economy in the booming 1980s, and they did so by applying technology as well as opulent details. They were one of the first with a navigation system. While it worked well, it once placed our car on an access road rather than the freeway, and was cumbersome to program because it always required a complete destination address, plus its touch screen soon looked like a favorite playschool toy.
Improved programming and technical improvements resolved the first two issues, while the fingerprint smudging was addressed with a new screen surface and a cleaning cloth in the glove box. While the original version needed a pile of mapping CDs to drive across the nation, now the addition of a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) database covers the whole country, and has eight times the points of interest.
2000 Acura RL interior
The new DVD-based navigation system (optional on RLs) dominates the center console.
The optional Acura Navigation System has its display screen high up in the center console. The map displays are bright and clear, and the GPS system is forgiving of driver decisions when we deviate from the outlined course.
2000 Acura RL
Another new technology for the 2000 model year includes the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. The VSA enhances driver control by adding lateral control to the RL's standard Traction Control System (TCS) and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). This assists the driver in maintaining control during slick conditions and sudden maneuvers by managing the braking and throttle systems. The VSA can be switched off for some driving environments (however it pays to consult the owners’ manual before doing so).
Unlike some other vehicles with an array of buttons and baubles to confuse the driver, the RL's controls are a model of simplicity. With power seats and a power tilt telescoping steering wheel one can find the ideal driving position quickly. The only quibble is the somewhat difficult to operate power seat controls alongside the seat, hard to manipulate for all but the smallest hands. The RL also has presets for two drivers, making it that much easier to share with a significant other.
The audio controls are found above the climate control system and the audio volume and 'Radio Channel/Track' controls are duplicated on the leather wrapped steering wheel. Both are features every car should have unless the driver never changes the radio settings between parking lots. The Bose audio system provides for both cassette and compact disc operation in addition to the AM and FM radio bands.
The leather-swaddled seats have supportive firmness, much in the manner of old world sedans. With wonderfully tactile padding in the door inserts and a cushy headliner and carpet, this car has an 'old money' air about it. While the seats are firmer than that familiar leather den chair, they still are welcoming. The RL's front seats are also individually heated.
The RL offers advanced side-airbag system and a dual-stage, front passenger airbag system. To help further ensure the safety of a small passenger, a series of seven sensors in the passenger seatback finds the size and position of the occupant to assist the system in determining if it is safe to deploy the passenger side airbag. A dual-stage inflator selects one of two deployment rates for the front airbag.
2000 Acura RL
Complementing all the RL's safety and innovation technology is an all-aluminum, 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 powerplant producing 210 horsepower. Peak torque is achieved at only 2800 rpm – allowing for confident acceleration from a stand still and ample passing power at cruising speeds. The longitudinally mounted engine provides better weight distribution for sure-footed handling. Acura racing developed engine technologies, including direct ignition, Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) and a three-stage Variable Induction System further enhance the RL's spirited performance while meeting strict Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) environmental standards.
The elegantly understated exterior styling exhibits a decidedly Germanic flavor, particularly when covered in silver paint. There are no superfluous scoops or scallops on this car, merely functional, tasteful styling. Ergonomically correct door handles, a simple rub strip, and a touch of chrome trim accent the vehicle's styling.
The RL continues in the tradition of European grand touring sedans with a long, sloping hood and a short rear deck. The prominent chrome pentagram grille identifies it as an Acura.
The RL behaves quite well but will not be mistaken for a sports sedan. Rather, it is a comfortable automobile capable of confident handling when asked, but just as happy to do nothing more than keep its passengers comfortable and secure. The acceleration is more than adequate and the brakes are capable and have a good pedal feel.
The sticker price of the 3.5 RL represents a real bargain when compared to its competition, and the nav system is the only option. Like all Acura models, it is covered by a comprehensive four-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty. Additional benefits include Acura Total Luxury Care (TLC), which provides free 24-hour roadside assistance, concierge service and trip routing.
Hugo Becker contributed to this review.
|2000 Acura RL
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 210 hp
Transmission: electronically controlled four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 114.6 in
Length: 196.6 in
Width: 71.4 in
Height: 56.5 in
Weight: 3858 lb
Fuel economy: 19 city/ 24 hwy
Major standard equipment:
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