Overview & Reviews
As a flagship luxury sedan, the Acura RL was always a bit of an oddity. It was never notably large or roomy, and always offered a V6 as its sole engine choice. Nor was the RL a style or design standout, and it generally received little notice among more prestigious makes or even models within its own family. In recent years, for example, the TL sedan has offered more excitement and the same premium feel for less cost.
Acura hopes the RL's replacement, the RLX, can distinguish itself among the luxury pack in a way the RL never could. From a used-car standpoint, older first-generation Acura RLs are rather ho-hum. The newer generation is a better car for sure, though in general it was still outclassed by other luxury sedans such as the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series.
Most Recent Acura RL
The second-generation Acura RL was produced from 2005-'12. It sported a tighter, more athletic look than the frumpier stance of its predecessor. The new car also introduced a 290-horsepower V6, a five-speed automatic transmission, an advanced all-wheel-drive system and only one trim level.
Although it didn't offer the posh reputation of other luxury vehicles, the Acura RL nevertheless featured a classy, sumptuous interior adorned in high-quality materials, leather and real wood trim. The dash was awash in buttons, but they served as a welcome alternative to the navigation system's iDrive-like control knob and voice commands. The RL's 10-speaker surround-sound stereo with six-CD/DVD audio changer, satellite radio and standard iPod integration was one of the best in the business. An optional Technology package included a voice-activated navigation system.
In road tests, we found that the Acura RL got better the harder it was driven, thanks to its SH-AWD system that tenaciously maintained traction. The ride was tuned on the cushier side of the spectrum, so despite offering notable handling abilities, the RL was principally designed to be a comfortable cruiser. Though the V6 offered impressive peak output, it still couldn't match the refined low and midrange thrust of its competitors' V8s.
The RL changed incrementally through the first few years of this generation. For 2006, the RL gained the Technology package that included adaptive cruise control, run-flat tires and a collision-preventing radar-based active braking system. The next few years brought no significant changes until 2009, when Acura face-lifted the RL with its controversial design language. The front grille in particular was described in rather unflattering terms such as "bagel slicer." Better news was under the skin, where the 3.7-liter V6 gained 10 hp and a six-speed automatic transmission replaced the five-speed unit.
Past Acura RL Models
Buyers looking at used Acura RLs built before 2005 will be dealing with the first-generation Acura RL (known as the 3.5 RL) produced from 1996-2004. The 3.5 RL debuted as a replacement for the popular Acura Legend, but its unimaginative name demonstrated an unfortunate change in Acura's philosophy that saw it move in a more staid, Lexus-like direction. This generation also had a high level of standard equipment and typically cost less than its competition, but it couldn't overcome its anonymous styling, unexciting V6 engine and lax driving dynamics.
While front-wheel drive is beneficial in smaller cars, most luxury car buyers seem to prefer the extra performance and handling that come from rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This wasn't such a big issue during the RL's early years, but as newer competing models debuted with more power and more features, the Acura RL became increasingly outclassed.
Acura didn't change the 3.5 RL much during its first generation. In 2000, it received a standard stability control system and an improved navigation system. The most significant changes were made in 2002, when it gained a bit more power and a more firmly tuned suspension.
The RL's predecessor was the Acura Legend. Available in coupe and sedan body styles, the Legend largely lived up to its name, being praised for its sporty nature, strong performance and impeccable fit and finish. As with most Acura/Honda products, reliability was very good.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 698.00
Best car I've ever owned - 2002 Acura RL
By Rob - December 23 - 7:54 pm
Just bought one - Pleased so far - 2006 Acura RL
By Jim Billingsley - December 19 - 11:27 am
I just bought a 2006 Acura RL. It has all the tech gizmo's except Collision Mitigation Braking System and Michelin Run Flat tires (which you don't want!). I haven't owned the car long enough to give credible Reliability ratings, but I am very impressed with the car's handling, brakes, "solid" feel, quiet interior, sound system and navigation system. A warning I should pass on to potential buyers is to test drive the care and beware of a speed dependent whistling noise (sort of like blowing over a empty coke bottle). It starts about 32 MPH and quits about 38-40 MPH. Being a harmonic, I suspect it would also reappear and disappear at twice those speeds, too. The RL I bought exhibited this noise on the test drive and I insisted it be fixed in order for me to buy the car. It turned out to be a fairly expensive repair. The noise is caused by a bad center carrier bearing on the rear driveshaft. This normally wouldn't be an expensive repair, but Acura only sells this bearing as part of the entire rear driveshaft assembly and that assembly retails for $2,229! (If you are facing this repair, you can get one online for $1,500 or so.) Attention Acura engineers!!! If you read these reviews how about designing a driveshaft assembly that has mechanic-friendly easily replaced components? Your driveshaft is carbon fiber and ought to last for centuries, but bearings do go bad and ought to be easily replaceable. If I hadn't insisted on this fix before purchasing the car, and had to pay for this out of pocket, I would have been very upset.
Amazing car!!! - 2007 Acura RL
By Chris - December 18 - 4:55 pm
Just came from a Lexus GS 430 and the Acura RL wins in almost every way the ride is excellent the interior is perfect I miss the low end power of the Lexus V8 but the all wheel drive system is a plus in the Utah snow Great car highly recommend excellent value for the price.
A hidden gem. - 2005 Acura RL
By D del - November 5 - 2:58 pm
I traded an 05 Lexus GS300 for this car. I found the GS extremely comfortable, quiet, and with solid build quality. But I wouldn't go back to that because it was just a bore to drive. Now to the RL. I could care less that this looks or is often mistaken for a Honda Accord. I'll readily admit Acura doesn't have the prestige factor of a Lexus or Audi, both of which I've owned. It's not why I buy cars. The RL is really a hidden gem, a sleeper of sorts. It might not look special, it might not be the fastest, most luxurious nor the best driving car. It ccomplishes what I both need and desire in a car - AWD (sh-awd is no gimic, this system should be the AWD standard. I've owned a few Audi's and while Quattro is great in its own right especially in snow, Honda has something great in SH-AWD), reliability, sportier driving dynamics, luxury features, decent style in/out (nothing flashy, not overstyled, something that will age well, which conservative styling typically achieves) And honestly, I think it's a great looking car. There are a couple things I'd change which I know Acura has in newer models. The 5 speed tranny is slow to shift in manual mode. It also seems more geared toward fuel economy over sport, which I'd get but the fuel economy isn't the greatest. There are bigger cars with V8's that get better mileage. I don't like that I have to switch to a different menu to control the climate. The voice commands are helpful but not always practical (like if a passenger is trying to sleep)
best car for it's value.. ever - 2012 Acura RL
By mung27 - November 2 - 11:10 am
It's Nov 2015. Which means this review is as about as update as it gets (so far). Car is a decade old and its still amazing. Its like a great marriage. Reliable, dependable and know what to expect. I had Subaru's prior to this car. Living in the great NW, its a must to have AWD. To list its "perks" will take up so much space. Its pretty much clicking "option all".. Standard. Its a tank in the snow, literally. Brakes are amazing, but because of the weight, braking takes some getting used to. Stereo is amazing, couple with the quiet, smooth ride. This car went for roughly 47k 10yrs ago, I can see why. Only have her oil changed. Not to mention the awd is amazing so this car only needs all seasons. As for"performance". Its sports "luxury", not a race car. The power is there when its needed, but this car is at its most fun in corners. The balance on this car is incredible. For those that may get a lemon, I'm sorry. For those that have found one that has been appreciated.. Finders keepers. Keep it !!
I love my 1996 Acura rl butt.... - 1996 Acura RL
By Lisha - July 30 - 4:58 pm
I've only had my used Acura for almost 2 months now. Great car but the motor to adjust the steering wheel stopped working. My review mirror keeps falling off. On top of that my transmission is starting to make a weird noise. I'm scared to see what else is going to happen in another 2 months. On a better note it is good on gas, quiet, comfortable, beautiful interior, lots of space, great speakers, and handles country roads beautifully. I really wish it wasn't falling apart on me i love car.
Good basic reliable luxury car - 2004 Acura RL
By Harriet Voloso - February 25 - 4:46 pm
recently bought a 2004 acura rl sedan. paid 9990.00 before tax and lic. Blue book on this car is about 7500.00. So i paid more than i should have at the dealership. But 2004 acura rl are scarce in southern california at this time. So i sense that many people that have accords and older RLs are grabbing these 2004 one owner acura rl up. this RL is a one owner 18 service record car. Had all major service done on it. Including timing and water pump. if you are familar with hondas and acuras you will be right at home with this car. California car with no accidents on the carfax. very nice driving car very smooth. Not a lot of power but can hold its own. grab one if you can find one.
Fun car to drive packed with luxury (04 RL) - 2004 Acura RL
By mike900 - June 5 - 2:24 pm
I bought this car more than two years ago with 78000 miles on it. I've put more than 13000 miles on my 04 RL and there's absolutely zero issue! So you can see the reliability of this car. I only changed the air filter myself, one of the headlight hit its lifetime I did it myself too. It is easy to DIY with these common consumables. This generation of RL is the last of the honda legend. It kinds of combines the luxury and sporty driving experience. The horsepower of the engine is not really impressive giving the weight of the car is like an mid size SUV. But the acceleration is pretty good. I live in midwest and the front wheel drive has good traction in the winter too. mpg is crappy..
Outstanding, Reliable Luxury - 1999 Acura RL
By collincolbym - November 27 - 5:16 pm
I have owned my 1999 Acura RL for 6 years. I bought it used at 158,000 miles. It now has 212,000 miles. It has been very reliable, very comfortable, and is a solid vehicle. Honda engineering with Acura comfort. Definitely worth every penny!
Nice but nothing special. - 2000 Acura RL
By albee213 - February 3 - 10:19 am
I purchased it with 174k and everythign works and over all car is in good shape. Leather has greyed from tan color from sun bleaching but really for a car that is 14 years old its a looker. I really only have thee complaints about this car. Its the "TOP of the Line" Acura from 2000 and it lacks real power from its engine dos not have any cool gadgets that most cars in its class has, My Deville has mileage computer and many other options this car does not and it gets TERRIBLE GAS MILEAGE. My wife drives it 10 miles per day and it averages about 13 miles per gallon driving back streets. I get 17 in Cadi with a much larger and powerful engine.