Used 1999 Acura RL
Edmunds' Expert Review
Acura has decided to take the road more traveled. After suffering at the hands of Lexus for the last several years, Acura has what can truly be described as a flagship sedan. Sporting an extremely solid feel, the 3.5RL carries itself athletically. This year, the suspension has been tuned for a firmer ride and tighter handling. Not quite a sport sedan, the RL is not just a stodgy luxury coach, either.
Which leaves us wondering why the 3.5RL still doesn't offer a V8 engine. Every entrant in the luxo-barge segment has V8 power except for the 3.5RL. In typical Honda Motor Corp. fashion, the RL is equipped with a smallish engine that's supposed to feel big. This works fine on cars like the Integra or TL-Series where the lightness of a smaller engine can be a benefit to handling, but most people who are plunking down this kind of cash still prefer the comfort and power of a larger engine.
Acura engineers have worked overtime figuring out how to make this car quiet and vibration-free. Innovations like 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 are just a few of the things the 3.5RL serves up to make you forget that you are in a car. Indeed, the entire purpose of the 3.5RL is to deliver passengers from point A to point B with minimal fuss and intrusion from the outside world.
Of course, to accomplish that goal, Acura had to make things nice on the inside. The instrumentation and controls are first rate, nothing new for Acura. The effective climate control system even offers rear passengers control over their environment. Seats are not just comfortable; they're feather bed-like. The driver's seat has an eight-way power adjustment that makes finding an exact fit easy. Supple leather and firm but comfortable support make long trips a breeze.
This year, the RL is available in a single level of trim, and compared feature-to-feature with last year's model, the new RL comes in at a considerably lower price. Add to the value equation new safety equipment such as high-intensity headlights, side airbags and bigger brake rotors, and the RL looks even more competent. Then spruce things up with an updated interior and more aerodynamic exterior sheetmetal, tune the suspension for better handling and a more stable ride, and you're looking at the best value in a luxury sedan this side of $45,000.
If all of this doesn't have you reaching for your checkbook, consider Acura's optional Navigation System. This system offers drivers a virtual map that they can use as a real-time guide to finding their way around town. Unlike similar designs, the Acura Navigation System offers verbal commands that allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road. We may never get lost again.
While the lack of a V8 engine is a bit disappointing, take heart when inspecting the car's price. Of rivals from Cadillac, Lexus and BMW, only the Cadillac has a lower base price, and that's without any options. The Acura 3.5RL comes fully equipped in a tasteful package at a price that should make those missing two cylinders seem like a moot point. In fact, we've already forgotten about them.
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There is a great book titled "The Good Life" about a couple that rejected modern society, moved to rural Maine and lived off the land. The book chronicled 60 years of self-sufficient living, including the couple's struggle to build their own home, grow their own food and make everything they needed to survive and prosper. Well, survive, at least. Prosper, to many Americans, means something else entirely.
While the couple's radical example of living and working in nature is inspiring, "the good life," to most people today, involves something more like a high-paying and satisfying career, owning a home and a vacation getaway, having a loving family, good health, and plenty of time for their favorite hobbies. Oh, and a luxury vehicle like an Acura 3.5 RL parked in the garage wouldn't hurt, either.
The all-new 1999 Acura 3.5 RL is a symbol of the good life that Americans can have even if they're not looking for an extreme life change. Our spin in the vehicle early this winter proved that the RL is a capable family or professional car that is fun to drive and soothing to behold. The upgraded styling of the 3.5 RL, including its chiseled character lines, lends a more aggressive look to the vehicle while still maintaining a polished and suave appeal. Snuggled somewhere between a sports sedan and a luxury cruiser, the Acura is an excellent choice for people who like variety, or who just can't make up their minds. It offers a chameleon-like presence that seems to change from athletic to poetic in a heartbeat, depending upon your mood.
Last year, the RL could be purchased in either a base model or a premium package. For 1999, Acura dropped the base model and is offering the RL in one trim level only, stacked full with all the goodies from the premium package. These standard features include traction control, heated front seats and a six-disc, trunk-mounted CD changer.
Power for the RL is provided by a 3.5-liter, 210-horsepower V6 engine that is mated to a four-speed electronic automatic transmission. Off the line, the Acura felt sluggish to our editors, and we found ourselves wishing for a bit more low-end torque. Hitting the gas at a stop sign, one editor almost got nailed by a Mustang that was speeding towards him. Luckily, the RL's power kicked in just in time to sprint out of the way. Power on the highway was excellent, and we had no problems sailing past slower-moving vehicles when the need for speed hit us. Though this engine feels bigger than it actually is and moves the RL adequately in most situations, the car is not offered with a V8 engine — even though most of its competitors have them. By offering only a V6, which moves most people as fast as they need to go, Acura is able to keep the price down on their flagship sedan. Coming in at least $8,000 lower than its competitors, the RL is a great deal for people who care more about luxury and prestige than smoking out their tires at a stop sign.
Acura tuned up the RL's double-wishbone suspension for 1999, and the vehicle now provides passengers with a more solid feel, tighter handling and impeccable road manners. Other structural improvements include a wider stance, increased body rigidity and larger brakes. All of these tweaks help to make the Acura a dream to drive, whether on a twisty mountain road or a straight highway.
The driving position itself was comfortable, the footrest was perfectly positioned and the high seats provided crystal-clear visibility for drivers under 5-foot-3-inches tall. Our tallest editor, who sizes in at 6-feet-5-inches tall, was not as comfortable behind the wheel and complained that the steering wheel felt too thin, though he appreciated the super-soft leather padding on the door where he could rest his arm while cruising.
Sitting in the cockpit of this vehicle is a relaxing experience overall; the leather seats are supportive but supple, noise from the outside world does not penetrate the cabin and shiny wood trim is liberally splashed throughout the interior for a sophisticated look. In a vehicle with such a soothing interior, one would think that inserting the key into the dash-mounted slot to turn the vehicle on would be an easy, mind-numbing task. Not so in the Acura: the key must be turned quite far before the engine sparks to life, causing you to either contort your wrist into an unpleasant position or release the key halfway around and grip it from the other side to complete the operation without pain.
We were also disappointed by the lack of dual climate zones in a car of this status and, though the stereo volume knob was large and easy to grip, it was positioned to the far right side of the center console, making it difficult to reach from the driver's seat. The instrument panel, made up of three large, round gauges, was easy to decipher, but the digital displays were washed out in bright sunlight. Cruise control buttons mounted on the steering wheel felt like Fisher Price plastic and the on/off switch was inconveniently located to the far left side of the instrument panel, requiring another unnecessary reach to initiate the system.
Uplifting our impression of the car's interior was the optional Acura Navigation System — the only factory option available — which wowed every one of us with its advanced features. This satellite-linked system allows you to view a map of your current location at several zoom modes, maneuver the map so that you can see what is near your route, see current location details and call up address information for any location on the map display. It also utilizes a key shading feature to assist in choosing street and city names, and can help you find a destination by telephone number. The $2,000 navigation system is located at the top of the center console and faces straight out, which makes it easy for the passenger to fiddle with the system while the driver concentrates on the road. We were delighted to find that the screen could be brightened or dimmed and that we could choose from written, mapped or audio directions. One drawback is that the system cannot be turned off easily; you must first back out of the screens and get to the main menu to push the exit button. Also, the interior digital clock readout can be viewed only when the navigation system is turned on, which makes life difficult on short jaunts for those who don't wear watches.
Acura introduces two new airbag safety systems in its 3.5 RL this time around and, like the navigation system, they are worth noting. One system, the first-ever used in an automobile, automatically adjusts the deployment of the front passenger airbag based on the severity of a frontal impact crash. Here's how it works: if you hit something at a slower speed, the dual-stage inflator either does not deploy the airbag at all or deploys the airbag in a sequence mode and with less force than if you had run into a brick wall at 70 mph. This prevents passengers from being stunned by a full-force airbag in a less serious collision.
Parents will appreciate Acura's second, new side airbag system, which protects children who may be sitting in the front passenger seat. The system uses seven sensors to deactivate the side airbag if a passenger is determined to be too small and out of proper airbag position — such as when leaning against the door taking a nap.
Built with more than 360 modifications from last year's model, the 1999 Acura 3.5 RL is certainly a vehicle to covet, no matter your lifestyle. It seats five comfortably and has a large trunk that holds enough groceries for a family with that many members.
Buyers need not be independently wealthy to enjoy the Acura 3.5 RL, either. With a base price of only $42,355, the RL rivals other higher-priced vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz E430, Lexus GS400 and BMW 540iA. While its competitors offer more power in terms of V8 engines, the Acura stacks up just as well — if not better — in areas like style, nimbleness, value and curbside charm. So, if you have the urge to capture that elusive American dream, don't pass up this sedan — it may just be your first treasure collected in the quest for the good life.
Used 1999 Acura RL Overview
The Used 1999 Acura RL is offered in the following submodels: RL Sedan. Available styles include 3.5 4dr Sedan.
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Should I lease or buy a 1999 Acura RL?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.