What's New for 2010
The Acura RL gains a standard USB/iPod interface for 2010. Models with the Technology package also receive a new solar-sensing temperature control feature.
The 2010 Acura RL just doesn't get much respect. It's luxuriously appointed and generously equipped, but many midsize luxury sedan shoppers overlook it. It boasts surprisingly capable handling and all-weather traction, yet it's forgotten as a contender among sport sedans. The RL's also the flagship of Acura's model lineup, but it's overshadowed by the similarly sized and cheaper TL. If Rodney Dangerfield were still with us, he'd probably drive one.
The lack of consumer interest toward the current RL stems from years of previous RL mediocrity, though Acura has been trying as of late to reverse the trend. Last year, it gave the RL a significant refresh that included new styling, a more powerful engine, revised suspension tuning, additional high-tech features and an update for its all-wheel-drive system. For 2010, the RL pretty much stands pat, though a standard iPod interface and optional solar-sensing climate control system have been added to the features roster.
What hasn't changed is that the latest RL is still a very sensible choice for a midsize luxury sedan. Notably, its lengthy list of available luxury and electronic features comes at a price that's thousands less than a similarly equipped European luxury sedan. The RL's all-wheel-drive system also lives up to its "Super-Handling" moniker, serving up additional traction in inclement weather and improving the car's cornering abilities. Top-notch safety scores and build quality further the RL's case.
All told, we think the 2010 Acura RL is a fine choice for a midsize luxury sedan, and only the Hyundai Genesis and Infiniti M35 can match or better the Acura's value proposition. But whether it's for prestige, image or ultimate V8 performance, many people are still going to be happier with cars like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And if the RL's attributes truly do appeal to you, the cheaper Acura TL SH-AWD offers virtually everything its big brother does save for wood trim and a couple extra features.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Acura RL is a midsize luxury sedan technically available in three trim levels, although the two upper trims really consist of a pair of technology packages. Standard equipment on the RL includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, heated eight-way power front seats with driver memory functions, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear seat climate controls, an auto-dimming mirror, a power rear sunshade and manual rear side sunshades.
Also standard are Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice commands for the audio and climate systems and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod audio interface.
The RL with Technology package adds adaptive headlights, a back-up camera, heated and ventilated front seats, wood-grain steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded Bluetooth phone connectivity, GPS-linked solar-sensing climate control, and a navigation system with real-time traffic, real-time weather and Zagat restaurant ratings. The RL with Technology and CMBS packages adds radar-guided adaptive cruise control and the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS).
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2010 Acura RL comes with Acura's "Super-Handling" all-wheel-drive system that automatically proportions power to the optimum wheels for the best handling and wet-weather traction. The only engine available is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles is standard. In performance testing, the RL went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front head restraints 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 if a collision seems unavoidable.
All RLs get a top five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for front-impact and side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the RL a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in its frontal-offset and side-collision tests. In our own brake testing, the RL delivered a lackluster 131-foot stop from 60 mph. Most competitors are at least 10 feet shorter.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Acura RL's interior is beautifully crafted and attractively designed. A swath of convincing or real (depending on trim level) wood trim flows into a neat waterfall center stack that integrates the car's sizable number of electronic functions. The standard 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system is so superb that you'd swear Gladys Knight was riding shotgun, with the Pips crammed in back. Unfortunately, they'd find just as much space in the less expensive Acura TL – which has a pretty good stereo, too.
Even without the optional Technology package, major functions like audio and climate systems can be controlled by voice commands, buttons on the steering wheel and dash or a multipurpose control knob and LCD screen. These redundant controls may seem confusing in description, but they let the driver choose how to access commonly used functions. The trunk measures 13.1 cubic feet in capacity, a somewhat smallish figure for this class.
The SH-AWD system in the 2010 Acura RL works transparently but very effectively to maintain traction under the worst of circumstances. Along with the newly firmed-up suspension, it also provides cornering abilities that are more "sports car" than "luxury sedan." Overall, Acura's flagship offers a nice balance between a cushy ride and competent handling and is indeed a lot more fun to drive than its staid exterior would indicate.