By Dan Tsuchiya
- Unflappable SH-AWD system makes for a great poor weather driver
- Smooth power delivery and very controlled in the turns
- Interior features and details
- Uninspired styling
- User interface for radio and satellite not best in class
- Rear seat leg room could be better
The sea of mid/large-sized luxury sedans has grown over the years, primarily because this is still a lucrative class of automobiles for manufacturers. Luxury car brands are fighting for those hard earned consumer dollars in the $45-$70k range and unlike their value oriented cousins, there is still a lot of margin in these vehicles.
The target demographic for this segment is middle-aged, male, relatively high income, a solid corporate job or owner of a business, and maybe a small family. So you probably guessed that style, technology and performance are pretty high on the list of attributes this demographic would be seeking. We drive the 2011 Acura RL to find out how well it delivers on these traits and more.
New for 2011
New to the powertrain is a six-speed Sequential Sportshift automatic transmission. It’s a smooth-shifting unit that allows for the occasional sporty dash courtesy of the wheel-mounted paddles while also improving fuel economy by two miles per gallon on the highway – EPA ratings come in at 17 mpg city and 24 highway. An upgraded gearbox is nice and all, but since this is an Acura we are looking more for new technology. The 2011 RL is fitted with Hemholtz resonators in the wheels (a “world’s first” for a passenger vehicle). These chambers sit in the center portion of the inside of the wheel and help diminish road noise, which results in a quieter cabin. Coupled with increased floorboard insulation, the 2011 Acura RL behaves like a library out on the road.
Our review car came to us right in the middle of one of the heaviest and longest lasting storms to hit Northern California in several years, and our first drive in the RL was in a heavy downpour. Little did we know that this inclement weather was where this 4,000 pound Acura would really shine.
The RL features Acura’s SH-AWD with Torque Vector technology, which puts power to each of the wheels independently utilizing a gyroscope to measure pitch and yaw. The speed in which the system reacts is almost seamless, creating one of the safest sedans on the road.
To test the system we took on-ramps at twice to three times their dry recommended speed limits in pouring rain and the car tracked perfectly, without under or oversteer. We continued to push the RL through waterlogged windy mountain roads and found the car drove as if it were a dry summer day. Amazing. One has to drive it in heavy rain to believe it.
The only real downside we experienced while cruising around in the rain is the RL’s tendency to track rain grooves, causing the car to make small but sudden left to right movements, as these grooves are rarely perfectly straight. This was particularly pronounced between 70-75 miles per hour and was enough to make driving a little tense through those sections.