What's New for 2007
Entering its third year of production, the second generation of Acura's range-topping RL receives a few feature-oriented changes. The navigation system is no longer standard and is now part of the Technology package. There's also a new Technology package combined with Acura's Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS) and Michelin PAX run-flat tires.
Based strictly on the long list of technologies stuffed into it, the 2007 Acura RL should be one of the world's most exciting luxury sedans. This is, after all, a car that has a "Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive" system distributing power to each wheel only when each particular wheel can effectively use it; paddles on the steering wheel that let the driver shift the five-speed automatic transmission manually when the road beckons; a multizone climate control system blowing filtered air; a stability system so sophisticated it should be able to keep tectonic plates from moving; front xenon headlamps that illuminate where the car is headed instead of only where it's pointed; and a rearview camera that means you'll only back over the cat if you really want to back over the cat. But exciting is the one thing the RL isn't.
The main culprit for that lack of thrills is the 290-horsepower 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V6 powering the RL. By any standard this is a sweet-natured engine that builds power seamlessly, with no apparent transition when the VTEC variable valve timing system engages and it operates in virtual silence, but the RL weighs in at just over 2 tons and there's no way 256-pound feet of peak torque is going to shove that much mass around with authority. Also, unlike many direct competitors in this segment that have moved on to six- or even seven-speed automatic transmissions, the RL still makes due with five and the paddle shifters are more a distraction than a performance enhancement. It could use those additional gears even more than its V8-engorged competitors.
That aside, there's a lot to like about the 2007 Acura RL. The overall design is outstanding, the quality of the leather used is exemplary and there's room enough for four full-sized adults (five in a pinch). The Bose sound system is so vivid it sounds like Frank Sinatra is singing while riding shotgun and Nelson Riddle and his orchestra are playing from the backseat. The ride is compliant and controlled, road noise is minimal and the all-wheel-drive system is effective. For luxury sedan buyers self-confident enough to never draw attention to themselves, the RL is a car that matches their personalities perfectly.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Acura RL is a large luxury sedan. There are three trim levels: RL, RL with Technology Package and RL with Technology Package plus CMBS and PAX run-flat tires. The base RL comes with 17-inch wheels, power and heated front seats, leather seating, real wood trim, power operation for virtually all accessories, a moonroof, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, satellite radio and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players integrated into the standard Bose audio system. To this the Technology Package adds 18-inch wheels, a navigation system with real-time traffic and a rearview camera, and adaptive xenon headlights. Obviously, the Technology Package plus CMBS and PAX run-flats is pretty self-explanatory.
Powertrains and Performance
The sole engine available in the RL consists of a 3.5-liter V6 that provides 290 hp and 256 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission sends power to the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system. SH-AWD can send varying degrees of torque to each individual wheel to improve wet-weather traction and handling.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a stability control system. The optional CMBS uses a millimeter-wave radar unit inside the front grille to monitor the distance and closing rate between the RL and any object in front of it. With that information a computer continuously calculates the likelihood of a frontal collision. If the system determines that that likelihood has grown beyond an acceptable level, audible, visual and tactile warnings warn the driver. After that stage two kicks in and applies light braking. If all that fails and the CMBS concludes that a collision is inevitable, it activates its third stage and retracts the driver's and front passenger's seatbelts while braking to reduce the speed of impact. The 2007 Acura RL gets a five-star rating from NHTSA for rollover resistance, frontal impact and side impact safety. The IIHS awarded the RL a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in all its offset frontal collision tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The RL's interior is lavishly equipped, but the heated front seats are too flat and the dramatically designed dash is overrun by a vast number of buttons and controls. If you don't like blue LEDs, you won't like how the dash is lit. However, the perforated leather upholstery is top quality and the rear seat offers generous legroom.
It might not be quick, but the 2007 Acura RL gets better the harder it's driven. The SH-AWD system works transparently but very effectively to maintain traction under the silliest of circumstances, and when the stability control is also engaged it would take a bulldozer to push the RL off course. But with the stability control off, the RL will corner with a touch of understeer and pull hard out of the corners, with no wheelspin whatsoever. The steering is a bit numb and slow, but precise, and the cushy ride gets downright mushy as the RL's independent, double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension approaches its handling limits. It's not exciting, but it's absolutely competent.