What's New for 2008
There are no significant changes for the 2008 Acura RL.
Ever since the Acura RL replaced its Legend forbear, it has been saddled with the sort of anonymous image shared with pan flute artists and Delaware. It's a pity, because this second-generation 2008 RL is a great luxury sedan with athletic handling, premium build quality and high levels of user-friendly technology.
With horsepower ratings in its category soaring higher and higher, though, the RL's 290-horsepower V6 is underwhelming considering smaller sport sedans offer V6s that produce 300 horses or more. Furthermore, although six-cylinders are perfectly adequate in this segment, other cars like the Infiniti M and Lexus GS also offer V8s. The RL's five-speed automatic also stands in contrast to the six-speed units of its competitors. Still, the flagship Acura sets itself apart with its standard Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system that not only aids wet-weather traction, but provides tenacious grip in corners by sending more power to the outside rear wheel to push the car through a turn.
The 2008 Acura RL also offers a tremendous number of high-tech features. Items like Bluetooth and keyless entry/ignition are standard, along with a 10-speaker surround sound system so superb that you'd swear Gladys Knight was riding shotgun with the Pips crammed in back. The Technology package adds adaptive headlights that illuminate where the car is going instead of where it's pointing, and a GPS-linked climate control system that observes where the sun is shining into the car and adjusts the temperature in those areas. That package also includes Acura's excellent navigation system with real-time traffic, which can be programmed easily using voice commands. Another package adds adaptive cruise control and accident-sensing emergency braking technology.
If you can survive with rather anonymous styling and average acceleration, the 2008 Acura RL is a very smart buy considering its relatively low price. Similarly equipped competitors from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes can cost upwards of $10,000 more than the Acura. The Infiniti M series offers the same type of value, but with more visual excitement and a V8 engine in the M45. Shoppers in this class should make sure to check out both of these excellent Japanese luxury sedans before signing on the dotted line.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Acura RL is a large luxury sedan available in three trim levels: RL, RL with Technology package and the eloquently named RL with Technology package plus CMBS and PAX run-flat tires. The base RL comes very well stocked with 17-inch alloy wheels, power and heated front seats, leather upholstery, real wood trim, a sunroof, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a 10-speaker Bose surround sound system with six-disc CD/DVD-audio changer, satellite radio and auxiliary audio jack. The Technology package adds adaptive headlights, a rearview camera, a GPS-linked and solar-sensing climate control system, and a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice command functionality. The CMBS and PAX run-flat tires adds adaptive cruise control, Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System technology and (obviously) run-flat tires.
Powertrains and Performance
The sole engine available in the RL is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 256 pound-feet of torque. This allows a 0-60 time in the high 6-second range, just above par for six-cylinder large luxury sedans. A five-speed automatic transmission with automanual shift paddles 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 handling and wet-weather traction.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a stability control system. The optional CMBS can help prevent or minimize a frontal accident by providing warnings to the driver or actually applying emergency braking. All RLs gets a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for frontal impact and side impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the RL a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in both its offset frontal collision and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The RL's interior is beautifully crafted and attractive to behold. A swath of real wood trim flows into a neat waterfall center stack that integrates the car's sizable number of electronic functions. With the optional Technology package, major functions like audio, climate and navigation systems can be controlled by voice commands, buttons on the steering wheel and dash, or through a multipurpose control knob and LCD screen. These redundant controls may seem confusing in description, but give the driver choices in how to access commonly used functions. Some may find the power front seats to be a little flat, and although heated, they lack the cooling feature of many competing models.
The SH-AWD system in the 2008 Acura RL works transparently but very effectively to maintain traction under the worst of circumstances. Driving enthusiasts will likely find that the RL's steering is a bit numb and slow, however, and the cushy ride gets downright mushy as the RL approaches its handling limits. Acura's flagship sedan isn't exciting, but it's absolutely competent and makes an excellent everyday luxury sedan.