Without a true full-size luxury sedan in its lineup, Acura has had to ask its largest sedan, the RL, to perform double-duty by taking on both the mid-size and full-size cars from rivaling corporations such as BMW and Lexus. While past RLs could never outmatch their full-size competitors in size or horsepower, the largest Acura sedans were attractive nonetheless due to their comparatively low price, comprehensive standard features lists, and fuel mileage advantages. For 2009, Acura has decided to attack the competition on the horsepower front as well with a newly designed, more powerful, RL.
Although the exterior redesign is more of a facelift than a complete reinvention, the minor alterations were enough to give the RL a more aggressive attitude and bring it in line design-wise with its updated siblings the MDX and TSX. The front fascia receives Acura’s new signature "Power Plenum" grill along with revised projector beam headlights. At the rear are new LED taillights. Reverse lights have been relocated to the trunk lid. Standard wheels now measure 18” in diameter rather than 17”.
Cabin updates include revised front seats that can now be cooled as well as heated, a 10-way power passenger seat, and slightly more rear leg room, to name a few. The most interesting new feature is what Acura calls Active Noise CancellationTM. While larger luxury liners from Lexus and Audi use extensive amounts of bulky sound deadening materials within their structures to create quiet cabins, Acura has chosen a more technological approach to make the RL a quiet cruiser. The Active Noise Cancellation system uses two microphones mounted in the ceiling to monitor low-frequency noise within the cabin. When unwanted sound is detected, the system passes an inverse waveform to the audio system’s amplifier where it is amplified to an inaudible volume that cancels the original sound. According to Acura spokespeople, the system is capable of reducing unwanted cabin noise by 10 decibels.
The RL’s new power train will no doubt be the most noticeable improvement. Not only has the engine displacement been bumped from 3.5 liters to 3.7 liters, but the VTEC variable valve timing system now applies to exhaust valves as well as intake valves. The result is an increase of 10 horsepower over last year and an increase of 15-foot pounds of torque from last year. To harness this power increase, the RL now features a new five-speed automatic transmission with both sport and fully manual shift modes. As a unit, the new power train enables the new RL to meet the stricter EPA TIER 2”“BIN 5 and CARB ULEV-2 standards.
Overall, the 2009 RL will most likely suffice as a temporary improvement until Acura decides to stuff a more serious V8 under its largest sedan’s hood. Until then, the RL will still have its work cut out for it when going up against Lexus LS 460s and GS 460s. However, the RL is now more than capable of standing toe to toe with six cylinder Lexus and Infiniti sedans. With its impressive standard features list, which includes Acura’s
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