Acura RL: Is there a point to buying one? No, there is not.

It's just sort of bland compared to the rest of the lineup. A flagship should not be like this.

Acura’s done well for itself over the years, even without a real flagship.  The TL has become a desirable luxury/sport sedan. the TSX, despite its humble origins as the Euro-spec Honda Accord, has become a very, very interesting choice for a premium compact that won’t break the bank.  Meanwhile, the MDX and RDX are popular in their segments because of their intelligent AWD, responsive engines (especially the RDX’s turbocharged plant), and smart packaging.  But what do we all make of their “flagship” RL?  I’m not so sure it’s really as good a car as the rest of the line.

The flagship needs to inspire people and get their attention, which the RL doesn't really accomplish.

The RL has been around for a good amount of time in its current form, and at first, it was different enough from the lesser models to merit a look.  But, Acura hasn’t done anything to make the RL look like a better value than its little brother, the TL.  For one thing, it’s over $50K for a base model, with the Advanced package putting the price to nearly $55K.  For an Acura product, that’s not at all cheap.  To make matters worse, it’s really not a full-size car, which I find unbefitting for a company that has a desire to compete with the likes of BMW, Lexus, and the like.

The TL offers quite nearly everything the RL has, for 10 grand less than the list price. This makes the RL look redundant.

There’s other problems within the lineup that make the RL a poor value.  On paper, it’s just a few inches larger in each dimension than the TL, but on the inside, the dimensions for hip, leg, and head room are microscopically different–not enough to make me sway towards it.  The price difference between it and the TL is another problem.  I wouldn’t pay 10K to get an extra inch or two of wheelbase.  The sh-AWD TL shares its engine, automatic transmission, and drivetrain with the RL also.  Because it’s lighter (by about 200lbs) and smaller, it’s more agile and has a tighter turning circle.  To make matters even worse for the RL, the TL is available with a manual transmission, giving it some sporting credentials when equipped with AWD.  It’s also got the Acura “grille tooth” treatment, which has been refined on the TL to give it a more attractive nose.

As Acuras go, the RL's interior may be very well-appointed, but the style is a good number of years out of date.

Meanwhile, the competition isn’t helping its case very much.  The last time I checked, a loaded RL sedan is about 56 thousand bones, no small sum.  For that amount, one buys a cushy, well-sized car with adaptive cruise control, 19-inch rims, all-wheel-drive, nagivation, powerfold mirrors, and a fully decked out interior, with wood, leather, and typical Acura ergonomics.  While that all sounds pretty sweet, consider this:  for a few thousand less, how about a loaded Cadillac CTS sedan with the big V6 (all 312hp of it), AWD, and all the bells and whistles?  It won’t have adaptive cruise, but it’s a more athletic chassis, it’s lighter, and it looks a lot more exciting.  The Volvo S80, despite its age compared to the RL, is cheaper with the same option set, and offers only slightly less power, while having a more attractive and understated style.  Even a new 9-5 Turbo6 Aero XWD is about the same price (I know, SAAB is on the rocks, but the 9-5 is at least semi-interesting and a potential collector car if Saab does go under).

For a few grand less than a loaded RL, you could get a loaded CTS, which is roughly the same size and drives better. It's also more tasteful in its styling and interior. Get the picture?

Overall, there’s no real reason for anyone to actually go buy the RL unless all that person wants is a slightly bigger TL.  The TL is cheaper by about 10 grand, and other manufacturers can make a better car than the RL (in a similar size) for about the same pricetag.  If Acura is really serious about their flagship, I’ve got a few suggestions.  First off, why is it still FWD-based?  Honda’s got a real problem when it comes to RWD platforms, as they don’t have one as of now.  This hurts their ability to market the RL as a true flag waver for the Acura (and therefore Honda) brand.  They also aren’t (as of right now) investing in high-performance, large-displacement engines due to the current geopolitical climate (I can understand that it might be a bit bad for image right now); this is a mistake, as a flagship should at least have a worthy engine.  The big 3.5L V6 is quite a nice motor, but it would be better off with a V8, something Honda hasn’t designed for their passenger cars.  In any event, the RL is lacking a lot as a flagship–if Acura wants to be taken more seriously in the higher end of the luxury market, they must do something.

-Al

3 thoughts on “Acura RL: Is there a point to buying one? No, there is not.”

    1. I know what you’re saying, it’s a nice car. The RLs I have driven have all been great, but it has market placement problems. It is too close in price and package with the TL, which is a better car in its class. The RL should be a larger sedan competing with the Lexus LS, Hyundai Equus, Audi A8, etc, but in that realm 300hp from a puny V6 is not even close to adequate. On its own the RL isn’t bad, but why would you actually buy one over a TL at that price range, or even consider it if you are looking at the bigger sedans mentioned? The answer is you wouldn’t. Acura should be doing better than this.

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  1. you also forget to mention the Features found on the RL can be found on a way cheaper Maxima! The TL even the TSX have surpassed the features found on the RL. Like the DVD-A system with nav and weather! the RL still has the bose system. The styling was a disappointment since it first came out. Now the TL became a big disappointment i see a trend here. Acura needs to make some obvious changes and i say obvious because the public is not shy to say what they want in a car. V8 engine making at least over 350 HP or better over 400HP. Because if you are spending over 50K on a car i’m sure gas mileage is not that much of an issue for that type of buyer. RWD i personally think can be lived with out since it has SH- AWD. Needs rear Heated and Cooled seats. and extended cab maybe can even be possible. I am not sure but if gas mileage is a huge factor cant Acura put a VCM in the RL engine? I think thats something to maybe consider. Even the V6 engine on it now has bad fuel economy. But the sadist part is i find used RL’s with under 30,000 miles selling for cheaper then a TL with More miles. This needs to change.

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