What's New for 1999
The suspension has been revised for better handling and a firmer ride, brake rotors have added mass, side airbags are standard, styling is more aggressive, and the Premium features have been incorporated into one trim level.
Acura has decided to take the road more traveled. After suffering at the hands of Lexus for the last several years, Acura has what can truly be described as a flagship sedan. Sporting an extremely solid feel, the 3.5RL carries itself athletically. This year, the suspension has been tuned for a firmer ride and tighter handling. Not quite a sport sedan, the RL is not just a stodgy luxury coach, either.
Which leaves us wondering why the 3.5RL still 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 Corp. fashion, the RL is equipped with a smallish engine that's supposed to feel big. This works fine on cars like the Integra or TL-Series where the lightness of a smaller engine can be a benefit to handling, but most people who are plunking down this kind of cash still prefer the comfort and power 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 effective climate control system even offers rear passengers control over their environment. Seats are not just comfortable; they're feather bed-like. The driver's seat has an eight-way power adjustment that makes finding an exact fit easy. Supple leather and firm but comfortable support make long trips a breeze.
This year, the RL is available in a single level of trim, and compared feature-to-feature with last year's model, the new RL comes in at a considerably lower price. Add to the value equation new safety equipment such as high-intensity headlights, side airbags and bigger brake rotors, and the RL looks even more competent. Then spruce things up with an updated interior and more aerodynamic exterior sheetmetal, tune the suspension for better handling and a more stable ride, and you're looking at the best value in a luxury sedan this side of $45,000.
If all of this doesn't have you reaching for your checkbook, consider Acura's optional 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 allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. We may never get lost again.
While the lack of a V8 engine is a bit disappointing, take heart when inspecting the car's price. 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 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.