What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Acura RL is unchanged.
The luxury sedan arena is fiercely competitive, so much so that having a powerful engine, all the latest luxury gadgets and a handsome cabin chock full of high-end features may not be enough. Case in point: the 2012 Acura RL. While it has a 300-horsepower V6, standard all-wheel drive, a classy interior, top-notch build quality and plenty of features, the Acura flagship sadly remains off the radar of discerning shoppers.
The RL's invisibility in this segment probably has something to do with its rather dated styling. The RL's bland lines just don't catch eyes like its more fashionable, more recently styled rivals. Furthermore, while its engine's output is certainly adequate, most rivals offer the option of V8 power. In its favor, the RL is unexpectedly athletic thanks to its advanced Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which automatically and seamlessly apportions power to individual wheels to improve both traction and handling.
In the end, though, the 2012 Acura RL struggles to get noticed amid more tempting competitors. The Hyundai Genesis is fully competitive in terms of luxury, yet even the 4.6-liter V8 version significantly undercuts the RL on price. Meanwhile, more traditional (and newer) choices like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M37 and Mercedes E-Class are either sportier, more prestigious or even both. Acura's own TL is much the same size as the RL, offers a similar drivetrain and yet is more than $8,000 cheaper. With so many other cars to choose from, it's really not too surprising that the RL gets lost in the mix.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Acura RL is a midsize luxury sedan that is available in three trim levels (though the two upper "trims" are really just a pair of packages).
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, heated 10-way power front seats with driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-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 a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod audio interface.
The RL with the Technology package adds adaptive headlights, a back-up camera, rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, a 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, Zagat restaurant ratings and voice activation.
The RL with the Advance package adds adaptive cruise control and the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), along with power-folding side mirrors and real wood cabin accents.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Acura RL comes with Acura's "Super-Handling" all-wheel-drive system that automatically apportions power to the optimum wheels for the best traction and handling, reacting to road conditions to deliver a superior all-weather automobile.
Powering the RL is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 300 hp and 271 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
Standard safety features for the Acura RL include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The available collision warning system can help prevent or minimize a frontal accident by providing warnings to the driver or actually applying emergency braking if a collision seems unavoidable.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the RL its highest rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-collision tests. It scored the second-worst rating of "Marginal," however, in roof-strength tests. In Edmunds brake testing, the RL delivered a lackluster 131-foot stop from 60 mph. Most competitors record results that are 10 feet shorter.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Acura RL features an attractive and well-built interior that is comparable to most other luxury sedans. The wood trim -- simulated or authentic depending on the model's trim level -- frames the waterfall-style center stack, adding warmth to the overall interior design.
There are quite a few buttons and knobs in the cockpit, but the voice-activated system and controls on the steering wheel deliver easier operation. We found the standard 10-speaker Bose audio system particularly notable for its clarity and power. On the downside, the navigation system's graphics seem outdated when compared to competing luxury sedans. The trunk space also leaves a bit to be desired, accommodating a slightly below-average 13.1 cubic feet.
The 2012 Acura RL's rather conservative appearance might lead some to assume that the ride quality and driving dynamics may be more akin to an overly softened luxury car, but they'd be wrong. The ride quality is balanced between luxurious compliance and sporty agility. Thanks to the SH-AWD system, the RL is one of the more entertaining choices in the segment. The RL's V6 engine revs smoothly and provides respectably quick acceleration.