What's New for 2001
Floor mats become standard, leaving the DVD-based navigation system alone on the factory options list. Also new is an emergency trunk release located on the inside of the cargo area.
The 3.5 RL, Acura's flagship, is athletic, extremely quiet, luxurious and priced right: All of which makes it a serious contender in the luxury sedan market despite its V6, front-drive layout.
We're most impressed by the efforts taken by Acura engineers to make the RL as quiet, smooth and solid as possible. Mission accomplished. The RL rides like a cloud on greased rails. This welcome feat was accomplished by adding 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.
Their efforts, however, would have been for naught if the interior designers had slipped even a little. No fear. Switchgear and controls possess the same Acura quality we've counted on for years, the seats are a utopian dream of comfort and the multi-zone climate-control system allows all passengers, including those in the rear, control over their environment.
And don't worry about the sticker being run up when you select a few options -- the RL is available in one trim level only and includes everything you'd expect in a luxury sedan, including safety equipment such as high-intensity headlights, side airbags and a new, highly advanced handling control system called Vehicle Stability Assist. And, for 2001, Acura decided it was a bad idea to ding its luxury car buyers for floor mats (well, duh!), so they're now standard. The automaker also added an emergency trunk release located on the inside of the cargo area.
The only thing still optional is the navigation system. We loved it when it was redesigned last year and we still think it's one of the best systems out there. It covers the entire continental United States on a single DVD and supplies verbal instructions that allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
Last year we wondered why a V8 engine wasn't included with all the 3.5RL's other advancements, especially considering most of its competitors do offer eight cylinders. We will continue to ask until we are satisfied. It's important to note, though, that we're not complaining about the RL's 210-horsepower V6 - it's an athletic and spirited drive, but we figure a V8, coupled to proper rear-wheel drive, would put the RL over the top.