||Registration Required, RL, Legend
||September 01, 2004 00:21
||October 05, 2004 14:10
|Updated September 7, 2004: Our sources have indicated to us the price of the new '05 RL will be below $50,000 US, or to be more precise, about $48,000. This is a little over 5% increase on the previous car's MSRP. However, most RLs were going well below MSRP, so the price difference will be more like 10-18%; still very much worth it in our opinion given the many advancements with the new RL.
This article is intended to satiate those who need to know how the long-awaited 2005 Acura RL drives and behaves. The views expressed here are my initial impressions formed through a day of driving the car. For our normal road tests, we live with the car for at least a full week. While this article sets forth a number of opinions on various features, my judgment on them will not be final until I've spent a longer time with the car.
Replacing the aptly named Legend in MY1996, the 3.5RL seemed to be always behind the curve in the luxury sedan market. Many were put off by the sterility of the 3.5RL - in one fell swoop it had seemingly lost the mystique of the Legend. Far from successful, this model languished in showrooms for a full eight years before it was mercifully supplanted by the 2005 model you see yere. It wasn't necessarily planned this way - there was actually an aborted step where an entire design was scrapped, leaving the hapless 3.5RL to soldier on for several more years while another all-new design was developed. All is forgiven with the new 2005 RL.
The RL may invariably get criticized for its lack of certain gee-whiz (I call them coddled-person) features. There is no front or rear parking assist (by radar or camera), no radar cruise control, no headlight washer sprayer, no heated steering wheel, no split folding rear seat, and no rain-sensing wipers. Of these features, I only find the split folding rear seat a big oversight. Many luxury sedans have this and can still have comfortable rear seat designs, so I don't buy the argument to the contrary. Mentioning this to the Honda engineers and hearing their feedback, they clearly have considered all these features, but it comes down to choosing a feature set and target price range. I believe they are leaving some measure of room for the RL to mature.
On the other hand, the new RL bears quite a few new features. My initial impressions follow.
- Active Front Lighting System - It wasn't dark enough during our ride and drive for me to fully take advantage of this system, but I feel it's a valuable safety feature.
- Manual side and rear power sunshade - This is a nice feature which cuts down on interior heat when you park your car outside. Acura has been a little slow to add this to their luxury sedans.
- Power pop-down rear headrests - This feature retracts the rear headrests to aid rear visibility, but the money would have been better spent on a rear park assist camera.
- Keyless ignition system - I'm still undecided about the keyless ignition system. You can have the key fob in your pocket while you turn the ignition knob to start the car or programmed to automatically unlock the car door when you are in close proximity. There are safeguards which will prevent you from closing the trunk while the key fob is in the ignition. And should the wireless transmitter or battery ever die, there is a real mechanical key hidden inside the key fob. Just for kicks, we even threw the keys many feet away from the car while it was running. After a few seconds, the RL chastised us with a warning buzzer and urgent display on the MID. The car would still run, but if you should drive away without the key and then stop the engine, you will not be able to start it again. Maybe this is where the free first year of your Onstar service will come in handy. We'll hold off final judgement until we spend more time with the car.
- While the XM antennae is embedded in the rear glass, a sleek shark fin antennae is still required for Onstar service.
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System - This is a very convenient feature for those who don't bother checking their tire pressures regularly. Warning indicators appear in the MID if any of the tires are underinflated.
- Paddle shifters - The paddle shifters worked well though I expect few owners will use it. They provide a solid positive feedback
- Active Noise Cancellation - We have a plan on how to test this feature. Stay tuned for our future road test.
- Navigation system with integrated traffic - The ability to recognize more voice commands and the integration of traffic information is an outstanding step for Acura. It was initially a little more difficult for me to use than my TL Navigation system, but once I understood that choices along a curved path required turning the knob rather than using it as a joystick, I got more comfortable with it. The traffic integration is not perfect yet, but it's a courageous step for Acura to offer this service given the hodgepodge of traffic information available in major cities. I can see Honda leading the way in automotive telematics. A deeper analysis of this feature will be done during a future road test.
- Styling - I really like the front end styling of the car, but this is a subjective choice. I will mention that I noticed the RL didn't seem to attract that much attention from other drivers in the Washington, DC area. RL owners will have to feel secure in their purchase of this world class car. It may not have the eye catching styling of the European cars, but I feel it has a sophisticated style that will age very well.
- SH-AWD display in the MID - This is a great feature, but I hope owners don't spend too much time staring at it while they drive! :-)
- DVD Audio System - The audio quality was very high and I couldn't tell any significant differences between my TL's ELS system and the Bose system in the RL. A back to back test would be the only way to tell a difference. Given this, the Honda engineers informed me the sound quality in the RL is optimal for all passengers whereas the TL's system only provides optimal staging for the front passengers.
- Engine - While the engine feels torquey and strong, I must reserve my comments until we do instrumented testing and put the car on Shawn's Dynapack 4-wheel drive dyno. The 300hp Acura V6 easily bests competitors' V6 models.