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2006 Acura RL review

December 20, 2005 05:01 PM EST | Acura , Luxury Brands , Sedans | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageRear-drive, V8-equipped competitors offer more performance and prestige, but if you're looking for an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan loaded with amenities, you won't find a better qualified candidate than Acura's RL.

Sophisticated all-wheel-drive system improves handling and straight-line grip, smooth V6, long standard features list, innovative navigation system with real-time traffic information, excellent stereo.

V6 lacks the low-end grunt of a V8, some interior materials seem low-grade for this class.

What's New for 2006
A new Technology package is available on the 2006 Acura RL. The package includes three new features. The first is a collision mitigation braking system. Acura says the system uses a special radar unit mounted inside the grille to monitor for imminent frontal impacts and can help to prevent or lessen their severity by alerting the driver, tightening the seatbelts and slowing the vehicle with the brakes. The second feature is an adaptive cruise control system; it, too, is tied into the radar unit. The final feature of the Technology package is a set of Michelin PAX run-flat tires. Additionally, and as with all 2006 Acuras, the RL's powertrain warranty is now 6 years/70,000 miles. In other news, horsepower drops from 300 to 290 due to new SAE testing procedures.

Acura had been out of the loop for a while when it came to building a full-size luxury/performance car. In recent years, though, the company has revived its fortunes with the midsize TL and compact TSX, both of which are capable premium sedans that offer value, performance and luxury all in one package. Last year, Acura pulled the wraps off its all-new full-size RL flagship and the big sedan is a technological marvel.

In the past, the RL was hampered by its front-wheel-drive configuration, but the new model is all-wheel drive. Acura calls it Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. In the RL it sends varying degrees of power to each individual wheel to help get you around corners faster. And if things get slippery just going in a straight line it will help you there, too.

It sounds like Japanese techno overkill, but it works. Keep your foot in the gas, point it in the right direction and the computer does the rest. In the other cars, all-wheel drive is almost an afterthought. In the Acura, it's as important to its performance as the engine itself. Of course, the 3.5-liter V6 does its part, too. With 290 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque, it gets the car to 60 seconds in all of 7.3 seconds, a good time for a car carrying the weight of AWD mechanicals.

Another innovative feature is Acura's satellite-based real-time traffic information system. This system works through the navigation system to provide drivers with up-to-the-minute traffic and road information, which makes navigating large urban areas a breeze. This technology complements a cabin whose premium materials and exacting build quality meet the standards set by Audi, BMW and Lexus.

The RL integrates performance, luxury and technology into a fresh, good-looking package. The fact that you still can't get a V8 in this large sedan may be a turn-off for buyers who crave low-end torque, but for those who appreciate all the other elements that go into a good luxury sedan and need all-weather capability, the RL is certainly worth consideration.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The RL is a large luxury sedan that seats five. It's available in one fully loaded model that includes leather upholstery, a sunroof, power-adjustable and heated front seats, a memory feature for the driver seat and a 10-speaker Bose surround sound audio system that can play music in both DVD-A and CD formats. The automatic climate control system uses satellite data to help determine time of day and the direction of the sun against the car to appropriately adjust interior comfort levels. Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels; adaptive HID headlights that swivel according to steering input; a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic information; a keyless access and startup system; OnStar telematics; and a Bluetooth interface for cell phone users. Adaptive cruise control and run-flat tires are optional.

Powertrains and Performance:
The RL comes with only one engine and transmission. Under the hood is a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 that uses variable valve timing and a variable flow exhaust system. The transmission is a five-speed automatic with a shift-it-yourself feature. Zero to 60 mph takes 7.3 seconds. All RLs have a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system than can quickly appropriate torque front-to-back or side-to-side, depending on which wheels need it for optimum traction and handling.

Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, seat-mounted side airbags for front occupants, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control are all standard equipment. A collision mitigation braking system is optional. This system monitors for imminent impact and alerts the driver, tightens the seatbelts and slows the vehicle.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The interior of the RL is befitting of a true luxury car. The high-quality ensemble includes LED gauges and a state-of-the-art navigation system that works painlessly with maps that are bright, detailed and easy to read. The center stack is designed for simplicity; one large knob combined with smaller selection buttons makes it easy to access the RL's impressive computing power. However, picking your way through the controls to make simple climate adjustments requires a little more effort than it should. An Active Noise Cancellation system uses the Bose audio system to cancel out sound waves from road and exhaust noise. The audio system not only sounds great, it comes with a year of satellite radio.

Driving Impressions:
The V6 offers plenty of power but lacks the low-end grunt that could be provided by a V8. The engine is nonetheless smooth and very quiet, while the five-speed automatic transmission shifts up and down in an almost invisible fashion. The sophisticated all-wheel-drive system makes the full-size RL more fun to drive hard than you'd expect and virtually ensures that the car will go right where the driver intends. Throw in a little winter weather and the well-rounded RL is hard to beat.

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