The RL is very sedate around town. The suspension soaks up the bumps and the car has a rock solid chassis that stays composed, even over the worst roads. It’s not the quietest mid/large luxury car out there (think Mercedes or Lexus) but overall the in-town driving experience is appropriately composed. Outward visibility is fine except that the large (read wide) C-pillar creates a bit of a blind spot, so checking the right rear view mirror simultaneously is highly recommended prior to switching lanes.
When it comes to performance, think of the RL as a sedan cut from an MDX mold, as the acceleration is almost SUV like. It’s a heavy car and the 3.7L engine’s power seems to come on at higher RPM’s, so unless you have the car in “sport” mode, the performance is a bit lacking compared to the competition. The “drive” mode of the transmission just doesn’t provide the throttle response and acceleration that you would expect in this class. Once in the power band, the acceleration is strong and the 4000 pound Acura can climb any hill at altitude without breathing too hard.
Handling is where the MDX could benefit from the RL’s stance. The RL sits lower and the double wishbone suspension is set up more for carving corners than tackling rough terrain. Combined with the SH-All Wheel Drive system, the RL can slalom around much of the competition, especially in the wet. It’s probably one of the better handling luxury sedans on the road and will bring the driver instant confidence the moment he/she needs to avoid a road hazard or other obstacle.
Braking under normal conditions is excellent, but pick up the pace a little and the brakes start to show their limits, with stopping distances that are a bit longer than Japanese or European counterparts. The RL does feature Acura’s Collision Mitigation Braking System, which flashes “BRAKE” when coming up on traffic too quick. This is a great safety feature that is actually helpful.
After nearly a week of non-stop rain, dry conditions finally prevailed and we took the RL on a 200 mile freeway trek. It was nice to see the average mileage rise to almost 23 highway, as spirited driving can bring mileage well below 17 MPG. The EPA gives the RL a 17/24 rating, which is decent for a larger luxury sedan.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
On the inside, think of the RL as a larger and more luxurious Accord. Unfortunately, when it comes to rear seating and trunk space, the differences are not that large. The RL feels like it has more of a width advantage over the Accord than a length advantage. The front seats are wide and inviting and the rear seats handle three across, but legroom is merely adequate. Driver position with regards to the steering wheel (which is fully adjustable) and seat is excellent. This is to be expected from Honda, a company that has had this figured out for decades.
Order the RL with the Technology package and it comes with heated and cooled front seats, which also affect the lower back area. The dual climate control did such a good job that there was not much of a need for the on body heating/cooling, but it is a nice feature to have. Also kudos to the Bose sound system, which provides excellent sound when paired with XM Satellite Radio.
Unfortunately, the RL features the same i-Drive like user interface for the surround sound and Navigation as other Acura’s we’ve tested, which hasn’t gotten better with age. It’s just not intuitive and compares poorly against the newer systems available from competitors like Audi and BMW.