What's New for 1998
Slight suspension enhancements provide sportier handling without sacrificing ride.
Acura has decided to take the road more traveled. After suffering at the hands of Lexus for the last several years, the new Acura flagship is introduced. Sporting an extremely solid feel, the 3.5RL has dropped the sport-sedan pose of its predecessor in favor of a very restrained luxury orientation. Acura feels that those who want a sporting sedan can step into their TL-Series of cars. The RL is here to be the big kahuna, on the order of the Infiniti Q45, Lexus LS 400 and BMW 750iL.
Which leaves us wondering why the 3.5RL doesn't offer a V8 engine. Every entrant in the luxo-barge segment has V8 power except for the 3.5RL. In typical Honda Motor Corporation fashion, the RL is equipped with a small engine that is supposed to feel big. This works fine on cars like the Integra or TL where the lightness of a smaller engine can be a benefit to handling, but we think that people who are plunking down between $40,000 and $50,000 will want the comfort and feel of a larger engine.
Acura engineers have worked overtime figuring out how to make this car quiet and vibration-free. Innovations like low-friction ball joints in the suspension, Teflon seals on the valves, a liquid-filled rear-trailing arm, foam-filled B- and C-pillars, honeycomb floor panels and vibration absorbing seats are just a few of the things the 3.5RL serves up to make you forget that you are in a car. Indeed, the entire purpose of the 3.5RL is to deliver passengers from Point A to Point B with minimal fuss and intrusion from the outside world.
Of course, to accomplish that goal Acura had to make things nice on the inside. The instrumentation and controls are first rate, nothing new for Acura. The very effective climate control system even offers rear passengers control over their environment. Seats are not just comfortable, they're like a feather bed. The driver's seat has an eight-way power adjustment that makes finding an exact fit easy. Supple leather and firm but comfortable support makes long trips a breeze. Rear-seat passengers won't suffer either. The RL has more foot and knee room than the Legend and the undersides of the front seats are carpeted to prevent scuffing the shoes of rear seat passengers. Of course the new Acura has all of the goodies standard on most luxury sedans, but it would be nice to see the CD-changer added to the standard equipment roster of the base model.
If all of this doesn't have you reaching for your checkbook, consider Acura's Navigation System. This system offers drivers a virtual map that they can use as a real-time guide to finding their way around town. Unlike similar designs, the Acura Navigation System offers verbal commands that will allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Wow, we may never get lost again.
While we are a little disappointed by the lack of a V8 engine, we are overjoyed with the car's price. Standard 3.5RLs have an MSRP of just over $41,000; premium models just under $45,000. Of rivals from Cadillac, Lexus and BMW, only the Cadillac has a lower base price, and that's without any options. The Acura 3.5RL comes fully equipped in a very tasteful package at a price that should make those missing two cylinders seem like a moot point. In fact, we've already forgotten about them.